Rousay Heritage Trust

Rousay Heritage Trust

About the Trust

Rousay heritage Trust became a charity in 2001 and its main objectives are the advancement of the education of the public in the history, culture, natural history and any other features of life in the island of Rousay, Orkney and the preservation for the public benefit of the historical, cultural and natural heritage of the island.

From June 2017 The Rousay Heritage Trust is to incorporate the Wyre Heritage Society and to take over responsibility for looking after the Wyre Heritage Centre and its archive of heritage material.


Contact between Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre and the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme [NILPS] regarding proposed initiatives across our three islands is also being co-ordinated by the Rousay Heritage Trust.


Because of the above developments, the Rousay Heritage Trust has now become the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Heritage Society or, locally, simply the Heritage Society.

[The use of the word “Society” rather than “Trust” is to reduce the possibility of its being confused with the Development Trust.]


The proposed initiatives, for which discussions are on-going and the NILPS is currently preparing the second stage of its application for Lottery Heritage funding, include:

  • Improving the signage and way-marking of “Heritage Trail” sites and footpaths on all three islands;
  • Making the Wyre Heritage Centre fully weather-tight, including re-roofing, to ensure that it remains structurally sound for the foreseeable future;
  • Significantly updating and enhancing the Heritage Centre  Waiting Room on Rousay;

[Voluntary labour on the part a number of Heritage Society trustees has already smartened up the inside of the building somewhat to make it more friendly and attractive for visitors and local people alike.]

  • Providing safe car parking, plus a picnic table and an information board, at the viewpoint and sculpture site, at highest point of the public road between the Leann and the Sourin Brae.
  • Employing a part-time research assistant to work with local residents to develop and enhance the heritage archive of written, spoken and visual material.
  • Securing an indoor area in which to house domestic and agricultural heritage artefacts.


Should the ongoing discussions and the NILPS bid for funding be successful, these initiatives will commence in the spring of 2018.


Bryan Milner  [Chair, REW Heritage Society]


If further information is needed please contact the Heritage Society via

For the latest accounts please click here

Current project

2017 Summer of History programme.

Stories, Stones and Bones: Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Land and Sea – Exploring Island Heritage, Past and Present.

Rousay Heritage Trust celebrates £7800.00 Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

The project's first part was an Archaeological Building Recording at Skaill Farmstead – 14 to 16 June 2017.

Work at Skaill Farmstead, Westness, got underway last week with some building recording, walkover survey and a workshop with the Rousay Community School.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute were joined by the Historic Environment Scotland (HES) survey team to record the remains of the buildings at Skaill farmstead and The Wirk (Norse tower). The HES team produced accurate scaled drawings of the buildings (plans and sections) using a plane table and alidade – a basic but very effective survey method which results in highly accurate scale drawings. At Skaill farmstead, these include features such as the fireplaces, doorways, blocking, alcoves and shelves allowing the different phases of construction to be identified. The house was extended four times to the north as the farm expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the barn, the beautiful corn drying kiln was recorded along with a flue, a grain store, winnowing doors and vents. A dairy was identified at the northern end of the house.

Walkover survey was started around the farmstead with the help of volunteers. Features such as the stone walled enclosures, and earthworks such as banks and terraces were recorded. These sites were mapped with a handheld GPS and help to place the farm buildings into a wider context. An earlier phase of enclosure, perhaps and early hill dyke, was walked on the steep slope above the road.

Ten pupils from the Rousay Community School had a day of activities during the week. This started with a class-based workshop about what archaeologists do, how we know where to look, what we find and what this can tell us. They looked at finds and thought about what you might expect to find below the ground, especially in a farm mound such as that at Skaill, and above the ground in terms of built heritage. The class then visited Skaill farmstead and after a picnic lunch found out about building recording and photography from the HES team. Pupils traced from the geophysics plot of the farm and we looked at what we could see on the ground. They finished by drawing their own plans of the farm buildings. The weather was kind and a good day was had by all.

We look forward to starting the excavations at Skaill and Swandro next month!

The project has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant and additional funding form the OIC Archaeology Fund. 

Photos are on our Gallery - please click on REW DT above and Gallery.

Lots more information to come over the next few weeks, see the Events section under REW DT for details.