£300,000 is to be spent at the Stones of Stenness, in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney to upgrade car parking facilities and improve the pathways network. This is the first phase of a collaboration between Historic Environment Scotland (who maintain the site), Orkney Islands Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed:
to conserve the Heart of Neolithic Orkney site and enhance the visitor experience for tourists and local people
The ‘lay by’ which serves as a parking area at The Stones of Stenness has come in for widespread criticism from locals, tour bus operators and visitors for the extremely poor condition it has been in for several years.
Memorandum of Understanding
Designed to work alongside the existing World Heritage Site Management Plan, the Partnership, in consultation with industry and other stakeholders will look at areas including visitor flow management, infrastructure and connectivity.
The project will also see further investment in the island’s visitor offer to create a destination-led approach, whilst championing opportunities for sustainable tourism.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland said:
“Orkney’s rich heritage is world renowned and we are continuing to welcome increasing visitor numbers who are keen to experience its story.
“This brings a number of benefits for those who live and work in the islands, however this needs to be balanced against the ongoing management of the island’s tourism assets by looking at existing connectivity, infrastructure and opportunities to encourage sustainable tourism.
“The MOU sets out a framework for how we will work together to champion the Orkney Islands heritage and tourism offer, with tangible outputs agreed and identified as part of Phase One. I look forward to working with partners to bring our ambitions to reality.”
James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council, said:
“This is a significant day in the long history of our World Heritage site and the internationally important monuments it contains.
“I now look forward to the development of a number of shared and ambitious projects that will greatly enhance the visitor experience for tourists and local people – taking it to a level that truly reflects the quality of these remarkable reminders of Orkney’s Neolithic past.
“The agreement signed commits us to working side by side to care for the site – and ensure the best possible arrangements are in place to manage visitor numbers in the best interests of the site, the monuments and our community as a whole.”
The area is also undergoing a public consultation process where many concerns were expressed about the significant increase in traffic – pedestrian and vehicle – in recent years. Stenness and World Heritage Site Active Travel Public Consultation
Carroll Buxton, Interim Chief Executive at HIE, said:
“Tourism is one of Orkney’s key sectors and a source of valuable employment that is underpinned by World Heritage Site status. We look forward to working alongside HES and OIC to support proposals that spread the economic benefits from sustainable tourism throughout the county.
“As well as enhancing the visitor experience, this approach demonstrates a commitment to protecting Orkney’s culture, heritage and exceptional landscapes while developing its tourism offering.”
The Stones of Stenness are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Heart of Neolithic Orkney which also includes, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and Maeshowe.
The visitor centre for Maeshowe had to be moved to Stenness village due to road safety concerns and now involves a short bus journey to the Tormiston Mill car park as part of the visit. The inner section of the Ring of Brodgar is rarely open due to drainage problems and increased footfall. Skara Brae, perched on the coastline and protected by a sea wall, is under threat from rising sea levels and has restricted access due to visitor numbers.
These iconic sites are over 5,000 years old and Orkney’s huge boom in tourism has meant they require increased measures to protect them and to allow tourists and locals to still enjoy visiting them.