SKAILL HOUSE

Landscape (UK) - - In The Home -

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.

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