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History of Skaill

Skaill House was originally a simple mansion house, built by Bishop George Graham in the 1620’s. This has been added to by successive Laird’s over the centuries culminating in extensive internal alterations, and the addition of the north tower and wing which gives the house its characteristic profile and admirably finished look which you see today.

Last occupied in 1991, after 6 years of careful restoration work the house was opened to the public in 1997 and is very much presented as the family home it was in the 1950s.

Skaill House may have been built in 1620, but earlier inhabitants have left their mark on the area. The name ‘Skaill’ is the Old Norse word for hall and most of the farmsteads north and south of the Bay of Skaill have Norse names, suggesting that the area has been continuously farmed for at least a thousand years. However, the Norse were not the first settlers of the area. The southern wing of the house stands on a pre- Norse burial ground. The remains of a broch and another Iron Age building can still be seen on the shoreline of the Bay, and several Bronze Age burial mounds have been found closer to Skaill House. Just a short distance from the house lies the world famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae, older than the great pyramids in Europe.

Records suggest that in more recent times there was a modest farmstead on the site which was part of the estate of Earl Robert Stewart during the late sixteenth century. After the trial of his notorious son, Patrick Stewart in 1614, the Earldom was broken up and the estate passed to the bishopric, and so came under the control of Bishop Graham in 1615.


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