Overlooking Skara Brae is Skaill House, a reputedly haunted manor house. This imposing building was erected in the 1620s for Bishop George Graham of Orkney. He resigned in 1638 after he was accused of being too lenient to witches and adulterers. He managed to retain his properties, which went to his youngest son. Building work, some by his descendants, in the 1770s, 1880s and 1950s culminated in the addition of the north tower and wing. After a period of standing empty and neglected, the house was restored and opened to the public in 1997. “By opening the house to the public we stopped it falling into disrepair,” says Major Malcolm Macrae. He is the 12th Laird of the Breckness Estate and owner of Skaill House. “It took seven years of renovation work before it was ready for its first visitors. I take particular delight in seeing other people enjoying their visits. It is great to be the custodian of such a fantastic house.” Today, one of the attractions is a dinner service (pictured), which belonged to Captain Cook. His two ships, Resolution and Discovery, were returning home after Cook’s death in 1779 on his third expedition to the South Seas. A fierce gale drove them north to make landfall at Stromness. To finance the purchase of stores, the ships sold off some artefacts. The dinner service was acquired by the Watt family, who lived in Skaill House at the time. Ghostly phenomena at Skaill House include unexplained footsteps late at night. Cleaners have seen a woman with a shawl over her head standing in the doorway of an empty flat. Fresh cigarette smoke has been smelled but there is nobody there. Just who these spectral visitors are remains a mystery.