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Skara Brae meets the Water of Life
A new tasting room inspired by our World Heritage Site Neolithic village
The Whisky World has been full of the news of Scapa Distillery’s new tasting room near Kirkwall, here on Orkney. Some might think that I am a little late to the party by not telling you about it until now, two months after the opening. The thing is that, even a Whisky Woman like myself has to admit the Glorious Dram isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So how am I to tell you all about this incredible new visitor attraction without turning you off if you prefer a glass of red or a G&T? I have it! Let’s talk Skara Brae and the Scapa tasting room here, and leave the whisky tasted at the opening preview to my Substack sister page, Rosemary Moon - a Whisky Woman.
Skara Brae is almost always top of the Wish List for visitors arriving to stay with us. It’s synonymous with Orkney. The incredibly preserved Neolithic village is at the Bay of Skaill on the coast of West Mainland. Skaill House, perhaps the grandest house in Orkney, is now part of the joint entry ticket to Skara Brae. The Laird at the time - and of course those before him - was completely unaware of the Neolithic village at the bottom of his garden - well, a bit beyond that, a couple of fields away - until it was partially exposed during a violent storm in 1850 which ripped away sand dunes and some of the grasses covering the ancient site. The Teletubbies-like ‘village’ - I hope that is not too disrespectful of the soft green tussocks - shows incredible skills in working with stone, as do all of Orkney’s World Heritage Neolithic sites. My nephew, a trained mason, said that no modern work could be any better.
What is so exciting about Skara Brae is seeing the layout of the houses and the basic furniture that they include. The beds and dressers are all pretty much the same - there’s almost a hint of IKEA about it. I always love the little water tanks for keeping fresh fish in by the side of the hearth, although I get cross that the lobster is pink (cooked) and not blue (raw). The passageways between the houses were filled with midden or rubbish, which helped with insulation.
To visit Skara Brae please do try to pick a time to visit when there is not a cruise ship in Kirkwall harbour. The passengers being bussed around the Island rather overwhelm the site.
I hope you can see the likeness between Scapa’s new tasting room - The Noust - and Skara Brae? The Noust is an incredible building and Scapa are having bumper season with people wanting to see and experience a tasting looking out over Scapa Flow. The room is full of memorabilia from WWII, including a diving suit and a morse code station. And the incredible wooden table that you sit round to enjoy the drams, echoes a very calm sea or ripples in the sand. I cannot recommend a visit, to either Skara Brae or Scapa Distillery, highly enough.