Orkney is one of the best places in the UK to visit for wartime heritage.

Old anti-aircraft batteries are dotted around the coast, with other sites like the Churchill Barriers and the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum in Lyness more obvious reminders of our military past.

HMS Tern is another often-overlooked part of our wartime history. It was one of four airfields in the islands during WWII and was part of the Royal Navy’s presence here during the conflict. Found near the village of Dounby, you can just see a cluster of old buildings from the road. From above, though, you can quite clearly identify the remains of the airfield's runways.

The majority of the buildings are relatively derelict but thanks to the hard work of the Birsay Heritage Trust and the Aviation Reseach Group Orkney & Shetland (ARGOS), the site has been cleaned up and some of the remaining structures have been opened to the public for official guided tours.

During tours visitors can see the former cinema and fire station, as well as getting exclusive access to the iconic control tower on the site. Stories about the airfield and the men stationed there also form a large part of the tour, which are a great way to get a feel for life in Orkney during the conflict.

Other details

Guided tours are available - check the official website for the latest times. There is no need to book, you can just turn up and join the scheduled tour. Tours last for approximately one hour.

For details or booking a tour outwith advertised times please email info@hmstern.co.uk

Although the site is open to the public, we recommend taking a guided tour – not just to get the whole story and exclusive access to the Control Tower, but also for your safety. You should not enter any of the buildings unaccompanied – many are unsafe and there are dangerous drops, holes in the ground etc.