Tormiston Mill

The 19th century Tormiston Mill, Stenness is located on the main Kirkwall – Stromness Road and was once the visitor centre for the Neolithic tomb of Maeshowe which stands in the field across the road.

Many readers will recall when visitor numbers were not what they are today and the Mill contained a wee shop and an excellent cafe. Today, road safety issues, a rise in visitor numbers and other factors has meant that the visitor centre for Maeshowe is now located in Stenness village in what was once the school. Visits to Maeshowe are booked and a minibus takes the ticket holders to the Tormiston Mill car park where the tour guide accompanies them across the road to the Tomb.

Built in 1884/5 by Colonel Balfour of Shapinsay, the 3 storeys of Tormiston Mill are still impressive. The mill has an 8-spoke iron overshot wheel, 4ft (1.22m) wide by 14ft (4.27m) diameter. It had  wooden buckets and a stone aqueduct carried the water over the wheel. The wheel drove three pairs of millstones on the first floor, and the grain was stored in the top floor after having been dried in a kiln at the far end of the building.

The water wheel and most of the machinery survives.

In 1925/6 Thomas Linklater, ‘Jock o’ the Mill’, owned the Mill but by the middle of the 1960s it was no longer in use. A new venture saw the Mill converted into a restaurant and shop. The conversion won a European Architectural Heritage Award in 1975.

The Mill is a B listed building and was taken into state care by Historic Scotland (now called Historic Environment Scotland) in 1989.

A ‘trout` house’ used to exist near the mill. It was used for catching trout during the spawning season. The water in the Heddle burn was diverted to run through the trout house and a grating at the outlet prevented the fish from escaping. When a good catch was collected the water at the sluice was turned off and the stranded fish gathered up.

Maeshowe Neolithic Tomb which stands in the field adjacent to Tormiston Mill credit: Martin Laird

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