About Birsay Heritage Trust
Who runs the mill?
Birsay Heritage Trust leases the mill from Orkney Islands Council. The BHT trustees run the mill. They are all volunteers. The trust employs a small number of staff, such as the miller and seasonal staff during our visitor opening times.
How can I support the mill?
Information about how to support the mill coming soon on this website.
What else does BHT do?
The trust looks after HMS Tern, a World War Two Naval Airfield. The trust is also active in a number of other community projects with an overall aim of conserving and promoting Birsay’s heritage.
About visiting the mill
When can I visit the mill?
Why isn’t the mill open at other times of the year?
From October to April the mill is a working building, grinding bere into beremeal (bere flour). It isn’t safe to have visitors whilst we are at work.
How accessible is the mill?
The mill sits in a roughly gravelled area, it is possible to park a vehicle very close to the door. Inside, the ground floor is level with flagged floors. To get to the two upper floors, there are good wooden staircases with a handrail on one side. The upper floors are old wooden boards, but generally level. There is no lift.
Are there toilet facilities?
The mill has a rather basic toilet with hand washing. It isn’t a public toilet but folk in need visiting the mill can use it.
Is there a charge to visit the mill?
Yes, there is a small charge for a visit – which includes a comprehensive tour. We also very much welcome donations where visitors wish to give us further support. See the ‘visit‘ page for this season’s charge and seasonal offers. Residents of Orkney can get a free seasonal pass after one visit.
Is the mill a good place for children to visit?
Yes, older children are usually very interested in seeing the machinery working and can start the wheel under supervision. There is also a game for children to take part in.
What is Bere?
Bere is a very ancient grain that has been grown in Orkney for thousands of years. It is an ancient type of barley.
What is the difference between bere and barley?
Bere has 4-6 rows of grain and long stalks. Modern barley has only 2 rows of grain and shorter stalks. Bere has more protein than modern barley, but less starch, and the yield from bere is lower.
Where is the bere grown?
All our bere is grown very close to the mill. We rent about 90 acres from local farmers and it is all cultivated by a contractor.
Is beremeal gluten free?
NO. It is low in gluten but not gluten free.
But is it a healthy option?
YES. It is low in saturated fats, high in soluble fibre such as beta glucans which help to lower cholesterol and a source of many minerals and vitamins, particularly folic acid.
What can I use beremeal for?
Traditionally it is used to make bere bannocks, round, flat scone-type cakes. It can be added to bread mixtures or other cakes and biscuits, as well as pastry and pizza bases. A raising agent such as baking powder is usually needed. Our recipe book, on sale at the mill, will give you lots of ideas or alternatively view some recipes in our blog on this website.