Castlehill Heritage Centre. Public access is via the gate in the centre of the wall to the right of the 'Flower of Olrig' boat feature. The grey double doors lead to the Castlehill Archaeological Facility

Castlehill Heritage Centre,

Harbour Road, Castletown, Caithness, KW14 8TG.

Open all year except Christmas Day & New Year Day

Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, 2-4pm

Other times by arrangement - EMAIL

Groups and educational visits most welcome.

A variety of themed exhibitions are presented throughout the year

Castlehill Heritage Centre is operated by Castletown Heritage Society as a visitor experience and educational resource. Themed exhibitions are held throughout the year featuring the history, heritage, biodiversity and social history of Castletown and the parish of Olrig.

The Society also runs workshop and training days featuring local and vernacular skills such as rope making, wood chip carving, drystone dyking, croft crafts, limestone pointing and sea shore based crafts such as drift wood sculpture.

Programme of events

Guided village walk

Castlehill Heritage Centre is located within renovated farm buildings immediately adjacent to the cutting yard and quarry of the now defunct flagstone workings. The workings were the first in the country to exploit the commercial possibilities of flagstone and in doing so put Castletown on the global map.

The Castlehill Heritage Centre builds on our earlier achievements - visitors can walk round the Heritage Trail which outlines the stages of the production of the stone, while an adjoining Sculpture Trail within the community woodland, demonstrates some artistic uses of the material.


Castlehill Heritage Centre

Castlehill Heritage Centre

The buildings started life as a farm steading and dairy, dating back to the seventeenth century. Work to convert and bring them into service as a Heritage Centre has been undertaken in a staged manner as funding become available.

The first phase was to convert the old dairy at the north end of the building into a flexible 75mē exhibition area. Work started in earnest late 2006 with the commissioning of the building water supply, the closing off of redundant windows and doors and installation of a security system. In January 2007 work got underway to install a new ceiling, stud partitions, fire doors, plasterboard, insulation, exhibition lighting, power, data network, a basic galley kitchen and an underfloor heating system. The office and toilet facilities were also completed at this time.

The floor finish in the exhibition area is traditional Caithness flagstone. The exhibition space has been configured as a sustainable venue for the development and delivery of events and training workshops featuring local and vernacular skills. The work was completed on target by April 2007 in readiness for a programme of activities as part of the Highland 2007 Community Programme.

All the work on phase one was undertaken by Society volunteers and reports on progress during the works can be seen on the NEWS pages.

We are deeply indebted to UKAEA Dounreay who donated some materials which were salvaged from buildings demolished as part of the site decommissioning programme, including light fittings, fire doors, a fire alarm panel and an old conservatory.

The second phase of development which kicked off at the end of February 2008 has been the creation of the Archeological Research Facility at the south end of the long building, including an artefacts store, a new multipurpose training/workshop area, and a plant room and log store for the biomass log boiler (see the renewable energy pages). This work was also completed on schedule in April 08.

The Archeological Research Facility comprises a receipt area where artefacts undergo wet sieving prior to being dried in the drying room and passing into the sorting, analysis and cataloguing area. The analysis room has a public viewing gallery and will also be linked to the website via a web cam in due course.

In parallel with the internal works, a new access gate and footpath through the Heritage Garden has been created, linking visitors to the new main access door at the north end of the courtyard.

The most recent phase of development has been the establishment of the Heritage Garden within the courtyard. This was completed during 2010. Here there are references to the heritage of the area in plant and stone, featuring early trees and shrubs that originally covered the north, agriculture, the wartime arrival of the RAF and tributes to the Traill family of Castletown who founded the flagstone industry in the area.

 

Castletown Heritage is working closely with other agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage who assisted us with the development of a heritage garden in the courtyard area, with local eco-culture themed beds featuring local crops, flora and artefacts, and the Scottish Community and Household Renewables Initiative (SCHRI) who assisted us to minimise our impact on the local environment through the use of renewable energy sources for space heating, domestic hot water and lighting as part of an environmentally sustainable facility. Click on the 'Renewable Energy' link above for further details.

Right: The Flower of Olrig - This is a drystone raised flower bed created by CHS members as part of their drystone dyking training. We felt we wanted to create something more than just a flower bed and the link to the sea/Castlehill harbour by creating a boat seemed obvious.


From farm steading to Heritage Centre

Electricity and lights are go! Apr 06

Kitchen installation underway - Apr 07

The old coach house. Archive store and east end of exhibition building visible on right

Work underway to create central features in the courtyard garden August 09

Entrance border beds in full bloom July 09

Lining and insulation of exhibition space underway - Jan 07

Operational! May 07

Feb 08 - The coach shed is now secure

Clearing and levelling the ground to create safe and accessible walking areas

Tidying of the courtyard heritage garden July 2010

Office nearing completion

Courtyard in the raw - May 06

Doors Open Day, August 04

Finished entrance and disabled parking area August 09

Heritage Garden as viewed from the patio area at the west end Aug 10

Lining complete, lighting installed, floor down - Apr 07

New access path through the courtyard - October 07

Approach to Castlehill Heritage Centre - April 08

Raised bed featuring local herbs and vernacular plants

HRH The Duke of Rothesay visits Castlehiull Heritage Centre August 10