Skaill house

About Us

Skaill House is a Grade A listed property which dates from 1620.

It is the most intact 17th century mansion in Orkney and has been a private home for almost four centuries. Today the house is open to the public from April to October and features self-catering apartments, falconry, sunken gardens and a seafood shack. Today, the house is under the stewardship of Katie Waugh, daughter of Major Malcolm Macrae.

skaill house


Covering thousands of years of history, Skaill House is renowned for its contribution to Orkney’s diverse and exciting past.

The house was originally built in 1620 by Bishop George Graham (Bishop of Orkney 1615-1638) and has been added to by successive generations over the centuries. Skaill comes from the Norse word for Hall and indicates that there would have been a feasting hall here in the Bay of Skaill during the Viking period. Skaill House has played host to many important guests over the years from Jane Franklin, the wife of Sir John Franklin and the late King Olav the 5th of Norway to the Queen Mother and Seamus Heaney.

skaill house


In Scotland, a Laird is the Scots for Lord or large landowner and the Breckness Estate today is the largest private estate in Orkney.

From the first son of Bishop George Graham to today, all 12 Lairds have been related, contributing to the history and collections in the house. Skaill House was the home of William Graham Watt, the 7th Laird of Breckness, who unearthed the World famous neolithic village of Skara Brae in 1850 and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current Laird, Major Malcolm Macrae opened the house to the public in 1997 to preserve the house and its Nationally and Internationally significant collection.

skaill house

Skara Brae

Situated in the grounds of Skaill House is Western Europe’s best preserved Neolithic settlement, the world famous Skara Brae. 

Skaill House and Skara Brae’s history became intertwined when, in the winter of 1850, a wild storm hit Orkney and uncovered the remains of an ancient dwelling by the coastline of the Bay of Skaill.

Skaill House entrance is free for HHA, ASVA and Historic Scotland members, but not National Trust for Scotland.

Skaill House remains privately owned by Katie Waugh, but there is a joint admission agreement in place with Historic Scotland. The main house is no longer lived in, but has two self-catering holiday apartments available to let.

Photographyis permitted for non-commercial and personal use. Photo shoots must be arranged in advance through the manager

We recommend between 45 minutes and an hour and a half to fully appreciate everything the house has to offer. For a combined visit to both Skara Brae and the house, please allow between an hour and two hours.