Hall of Clestrain, Orphir

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Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved. © Copyright and database right 2019.

General Details and Location

Name of Building
Hall of Clestrain
Other Name(s)
Planning Authority
Divisional Area
Reference No
Listing Category
OS Grid Ref
HY 29553 07530
Location Type
HS Reference No


Gabled Georgian laird's house of one and a half storeys and 3x3 bays in harl and ashlar with dressed facework. The house sits on a basement which projects slightly to form a plinth, and the attic is articulated by a bandcourse. The low moulded doorway is approached by a stair, and sits under a lugged architrave and corniced rectangular fanlight. The steeply-pitched roof is in modern asbestos sheeting and sits above a cavetto cornice. The side elevation features rectangular windows at basement and ground floor level, with a single window above in the gable surmounted by chimney stacks. It has been suggested that the slightly advanced central bay may have originally been topped by a shallow pediment. A single storey outbuilding sits to the rear.

John Rae (1813-1893) was born in the Hall. He was a famous Orcadian explorer employed by the Hudson Bay Trading Company. He covered hundreds of miles of previously uncharted territory, such as the 600 miles of the Arctic coast west from the Fury and Hecla Straits to the Boothia Isthmus.
Building Dates

Category of Risk and Development History

Category of Risk
Exemptions to State of Risk
Field Visits
01/11/1990, 01/01/2000, 01/07/2004, 05/08/2008, 17/03/2010, 9/9/2013
Development History
November 1990: External inspection reveals the house to have been deserted for many decades and in a fairly derelict condition. The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland reports that the owner wishes to restore but cannot presently afford to do so. Many of the internal features have been lost and holes have appeared in the asbestos roofing, although the structure remains sound. SCT understands that Orkney Heritage Society had hoped to raise funds towards restoration, but this has not proved possible. 1993: The house is upgraded to an A-listing. 1999: The Annual Report of the Architectural Heritage Fund reports that £2,865 has been offered in grant aid for feasibility studies. January 2000: External inspection reveals the house to remain at risk. It appears that no works have been carried out. 24 May 2001: The Orcadian reports on the building's inclusion in the Buildings at Risk Bulletin. 27 June 2001: The Scotsman reports that the owner is willing to sell the house to purchasers who express an interest. March 2002: The owners intimate that they intend to restore the house and are applying for grant aid. October 2002: SCT receives details of a scheme to restore the building as the offices of Orkney based company Fairwind. December 2002: The Architectural Heritage Fund Annual Report notes that the house was last in use as a pigsty. Orkney Historic Buildings Trust is now working with the owners to renovate it for residential use with a small holiday flat, or as a museum to the explorer John Rae who once lived in the hall. 29 April 2004: the Orcadian reports that the house is to form a Boat Museum, with a room dedicated to John Rae and another space housing 40 historic boats. A Friends of Orkney Boat Museum group has been established. 30 April 2004: The Scotsman reports that the building is to feature in the second series of BBC's Restoration programme. Orkney Today and the Aberdeen Press and Journal repeat the story. July 2004: External inspection reveals the hall to remain in critical condition. 22 July 2004: the Orcadian reports that the building has been unsuccessful in its bid to win Restoration. However, supporters are confident that restoration will still take place.
September 2008: External inspection reveals that the building remains in a poor condition. However, the door and window openings have now been covered with mesh to prevent pigeons entering. The corrogated asbestos roof also appears to have been recently patched.
March 2010: External inspection finds the building appears to be in a similar condition to the previous site visit. The roof has been patched and the unblocked windows are covered with green mesh.
April 2010: SCT is contacted by a member of the public who advises whilst proposals for a Boat Museum at Clestrain failed to obtain major funding in 2009, Orkney Boat Museum is still actively seeking to refurbish the Hall for an alternative use.
9 September 2013: External inspection finds the building remains in much the same condition as seen previously. The mesh installed at windows has now failed and the building in now roosted by pigeons. The Friends of Orkney Boat Museum, who aimed to build a boat museum at the Hall of Clestrain, was wound-up during 2013 as the proposal was considered to no longer be achieveable. A proposal for a successor organisation, The John Rae Society, to continue to raise the profile of Rae, restoring the Hall as his birthplace, was noted as part of the Friends winding-up and thought to be in process.
2 October 2018: The Press and Journal reported (29/09/2018) on the achievement of a £79,000 fund-raising target by the John Rae Society, towards the purchase the Hall of Clestrain. The society is progressing plans for the establishment of an an Artic centre at the property, highlighting Rae's discovery of the final section of Northwest passage in 1854, and his work alongside indigenous people, including the Inuit and Cree, during his explorations.
13 September 2021: Listed building consent (20/265/PP) is being sought to upgrade an access, construct an access road, relocate ditch and associated landscaping.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number
01856 873535


Current Availability
Not Available
Appointed Agents
Occupancy Type
Present/Former Uses
Name of Owners
Type of Ownership

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Burgher (1991), p54; Dean and Miers (1990), p98; Gifford (1992), p306.
Online Resources
Middle-sized Houses
Original Entry Date
Date of Last Edit