The Neolithic tomb at Maeshowe is one of Orkney's most popular tourist attractions. It sits proudly in our UNESCO World Heritage Site and, last year alone, welcomed nearly twenty five thousand visitors.
They're all captivated by the long, low entrance passage and Maeshowe's beautifully constructed interior - not to mention the Viking graffiti etched into the walls by Norse intruders hundreds of years ago!
But access to the chambered cairn has always proved problematic. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) manages the site and the nearby Tormiston Mill, which houses the Maeshowe Visitor Centre. Outside is a small car park, which can be overflowing with vehicles during the busy summer months, and tourists are also required to cross a busy road to gain access to the tomb itself.
Now, though, unique plans have been brought forward that could see current restrictions lifted, and visitor numbers at the site doubled.
Orkney Islands Council has approved a planning application from HES that will see a new car park as well as an underpass built to provide safe, convenient access to Maeshowe.
The larger car park will see an increase in vehicle spaces and extra coach parking facilities. The connecting underpass and a new admissions building will also help improve the experience for those visiting.
A spokesman for HES said 'Our plans, which were well received by local residents and stakeholders alike, will be a significant step forward in successfully addressing and improving the infrastructure issues that this location currently faces'.
It's hoped work on site will get underway in Spring next year, although the project planning process is still being developed.
There is still a chance to experience Maeshowe at the moment from the comfort of your own home, too. The tomb is famous for its relationship with the winter solstice - every year, on the shortest day (21st December), the setting sun shines down the entrance passage of the tomb and illuminates the back wall of the main chamber with beautiful, bright light.
Webcams hosted by local photographer Charles Tait are online now and you can see the sight for yourself every day up to, and after, the solstice. Find out more and see the phenomenon for yourself via this blog on our sister site, Orkney.com.
For more information on Maeshowe, visit our dedicated page.
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