New future for old wartime base

One of Orkney's most unique visitor attractions could be set for a new lease of life as redevelopment plans continue.

Proposals for the redevelopment of the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum in Orkney have gone on display in the islands.

The museum, at the former Naval Base at Lyness in Hoy, is centred on a former oil pumping station and is one of Orkney’s most fascinating attractions.

Proposals for the redevelopment of the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum have gone on display

It’s full of wartime artefacts, photographs and films as well as a large collection of military vehicles, cranes and artillery and tells the story of how two world wars impacted on the local population.

Lyness became the Naval Headquarters in Orkney during 1919, having previously been used as an oil depot. By 1940 the based housed 12,000 military and civilian personnel.

An aerial view of the former Lyness Naval Base in Hoy - image by Colin Keldie

Unfortunately the buildings at the site have been deteriorating for some time and a number of important artefacts have been removed from exhibition to preserve them. Now a number of organisations have backed plans to restore the museum and improve the visitor experience.

Orkney Islands Council, Historic Environment Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are all committed to supporting the project, subject to securing grant approvals following the current development phase.

The proposals include new display areas, a shop and a café. It’s also hoped work to improve the environmental conditions within the current buildings will be carried out.

The Council is asking for views on the initial plans

On top of this, Museums Galleries Scotland has provided support for the conservation of a number of key, fragile artefacts, which are not currently on display, but will be on show as part of the new exhibitions.

The Council has published the proposed plans for members of the public to comment on – they can be seen at the Council buildings in Kirkwall and Stromness as well as at the museum itself.

‘Following on from this summer’s special World War One commemoration events, it’s more important than ever that our collection of wartime artefacts is well-looked after,’ said Clare Gee, the Council’s Arts, Museums and Heritage Service Manager. ‘This project will enable us to positively commemorate the unique role of Scapa Flow in the world wars, leaving us a lasting legacy for future generations.’

The museum hosts military equipment and oil tanks left over from the World War Two - image by Mary Harris

The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum closes for the season on the 31st of October. Find out more about the attraction with our dedicated listing. You can also find out more about the island of Hoy.

If you want to visit Orkney take a look at your accommodation options.

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