Folk Museums

Kirbuster Farm Museum, Birsay, Orkney


The last surviving example of a traditional C16th ‘Firehoose’ with a central open fire and stone neuk bed


This is a typical C16th croft house which was once common in Orkney. It seems incredible that it was still lived in until the 1960s.

Set in West Mainland, the croft is surrounded by trees and a small garden. This was a high status building as can be seen from the date carved in the lintel above the main door. It would not have had animals and family housed under the same roof. There was a pigsty, smithy and a kiln to dry grain - important in the damp Orkney climate.

Kirbuster Farm Museum, Orkney

It was extended in the C18th when a kitchen, parlour and bedrooms were added.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

The visit begins in the C18th extension with the kitchen with washing drying above the fire.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

Kirbuster Farm Museum

Beyond is the Edwardian parlour.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

This leads into the original C16th building, still with its open fireplace and stone neuk bed. All cooking was done over the open peat fire. The large back stone acted a like a radiator.
 
Kirbuster Farm Museum

Kirbuster Farm Museum

Smoke escapes through hole in roof. Above are boards which can be adjusted in response to wind direction and help draw the smoke upwards and out of the house.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

The room is sparsely furnished with wooden table, chairs, cupboard and chest. The winged orkney chairs were designed to give protection from draughts. There is little wood available on Orkney so all the furniture was made from drift wood.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

Kirbuster Farm Museum

The stone neuk bed is similar to those found at Skara Brae. It is set into the thickness of the wall and has two large upright stones stopping draughts. It had a straw mattress.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

There is a small stone peat store, which kept the peat dry and was important in winter when the family would not want to go outside for fuel.

Kirbuster Farm Museum

This is a fascinating place to visit with a knowledgeable custodian. It is open March - October, Monday to Saturday from 10.30-1pm and 2-5pm. It is open Sundays 12-5. The nearest post code is KW17 2LR and the grid reference is HY 283254. There is a map here.

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