Kirbuster Farm Museum Re-Opens

Kirbuster Farm Museum

Kirbuster Farm Museum nestled in the Birsay countryside

Kirbuster Farm Museum has re-opened but with limitations due to public health measures to limit the spread of Covid19.

Kirbuster Farm

The gardens

Last inhabited in 1963 Kirbuster Farm House covers centuries of Orkney farming history and was gifted to the council by  the family of George Argo.

Kirbuster Farm

The earliest known building on the site is the Firehoose which goes back to at least 1595. To put this in context: James VI was King of Scots and William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet had its first performance.

Kirbuster Farm

The firehoose has a central hearth and no chimney. The smoke from the slow burning peats meanders up into the roof space eventually escaping out a hole in the roof. Inside the room are all the items used by a family at this time including many straw products which The Orkney News has featured.

Kirbuster Farm

Spoon cubbie at Kirbuster Farm Museum

A large recess in the wall exposes a box bed – remember Skara Brae if you have previously visited there. The doorways are low but the roof is high so there is a feeling of space within the room.

Kirbuster Farm

Box Bed

The bedrooms are part of an extension to the firehoose that took place about 1723 and lead into a parlour as it was in the early 20th C.

Kirbuster Farm

In the Parlour

The parlour is where only the best of guests would be allowed into. My granny had a front room at 305 Easter Road, Leith, that was kept like that. Pristine.

Outside are the stables and the byres. At the time of publication access to this part of Kirbuster is limited –  you can look into the stable, but the byre remains closed.

Kirbuster Farm

Implements of the Ages

The outbuildings are full of farm implements that range over several centuries – some now redundant but others still familiar in their shape, form and function.

The kiln which is similar to the one at Skaill Farm Rousay.

Kirbuster Farm

The kiln

The buildings occupy quite a tight space and so visitor numbers are being limited. Only three household groups can be on the site at any one time. Only one household group at a time can use the putting green. You may have to wait in your car until you can go in.

This also means that when before you could take as long as you like now you have a maximum of 15 minutes when inside the house and you will have to wear a face mask.

Kirbuster Farm is full of the most amazing objects but it is when you wander outside that you really see the wonder of it. The gardens have been restored . There is a whale bone archway and paths leading through mature sycamores and flower borders.

Kirbuster Farm

Kirbuster Farm Museum The gardens

The first mention of Kirkbuster (kirkju-boldstadr) is in 1595 when it was worth 1 barrel butter, 9 pultrie (hens).

To me this place is now priceless. It is impossible to place a monetary value on such an important part of Orkney’s social history. Like all the museums run by Orkney Islands Council it is free admission. Certainly one not to be missed by locals and visitors alike.

Related story here: Bernie Bell: Having a Yarn in Kirbuster

The Museum is open until Saturday 31st of October.

Friday to Saturday, 10:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:00.

Sunday, 13:00 to 16:00.

You can watch a video of it here from 2017 when it was still fully open:

or view it on The Orkney News YouTube channel 


Kirbuster Museum, Birsay, Orkney, KW17 2LR.



Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Kirbuster Farm

The firehoose


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2 replies »

  1. The gardens at Kirbuster were never vegetable gardens, and have never had a vegetable grown in them. They were developed in the early 1700’s for the growing of trees, mostly willows, for the making of household utensils and eel traps (eel arks) for the burn.

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