John Rae Society
Virtual Open House
The Future?
Click on the  windows and door that are framed in red to explore the future Hall of Clestrain in Orkney. What does the Future hold for Clestrain ? We believe that the Hall of Clestrain has a really exciting and vibrant future as an internationally renowned visitor centre. Towards achieving this, Project Officer, Sandra Deans has been working closely with the Trustees despite all the issues caused by COVID-19. As a result we are now able to publicise the initial proposals and ideas for the future of the Hall. The designs you see are not final of course, but ideas based on what we would like and hope to achieve should we get the funding we need – and I am sure you will see from these proposals that this is not going to be insignificant. Which means we need all the help we can get and if you can offer support believe me it will be very gratefully received. We all feel privileged to be part of this project and hope that you will too. We would love to feel that John Rae would himself be proud of what we are doing, so please – please – if you can help and support us, we would love to hear from you. Here is what Sandra our very hard working Project Officer says: The Hall of Clestrain Vision    “By 2025 The Hall of Clestrain will be an internationally renowned visitor centre sharing the true story and ethos of John Rae and Orkney’s key role in Scotland’s past, present and future connection with Arctic exploration and discovery.”  Project Manager Sandra Deans tells us the inside story… With several failed attempts at sourcing funding to save the Hall of Clestrain,  I am the first to admit this project was never going to be easy however with the unprecedented events over the last 6 months, where we have been engulfed by uncertainties surrounding the  COVID19 virus and its associated restrictions, its proven to be even more challenging. I must congratulate the Trustees on taking such a proactive approach, which has not only allowed the project to maintain full momentum but has ensured major advances in design and use, even during this extremely difficult period. Thank goodness for online technology. Microsoft TEAMS has been embraced by the board, allowing trustees to hold meetings online and remain actively involved in project development through regular online collaboration with the consultants, as well as myself. Over recent years the JRS has demonstrated a dynamic and successful track record with 2018 seeing the purchase of the Hall of Clestrain, following a phenomenally successful fund-raising campaign, and latterly making the building wind and watertight. The employment of the project manager followed by the purchase and installation of a temporary visitor centre in 2019. All of which has been successfully interspersed by numerous events, activities, outreach with schools’ educational resources (John Rae boxes), culminating in the development of an online consultation survey earlier this year. This along with the extraordinary commitment shown by JRS volunteers, extremely generous JRS donations, and lastly the financial and peer support of the Architectural Heritage Fund, Co-op Big Pay-out, Cuminga Trust and the Orkney Islands Council with their Community Development Fund, has enabled the Board to take truly ‘giant strides’ in progressing the planned Hall development.  We were extremely fortunate to have been able to commission John Sanders of Simpson & Brown – Heritage consultants and architects (Edinburgh), a true Hall of Clestrain enthusiast, to produce a conservation management report.  Luckily, John was able to travel to Orkney to assess the Hall and speak directly with the trustees before the lock down commenced in March 2020. Then in April, from a small but powerful group of tenders, Rob Robinson of Heritage Consulting (Edinburgh) was contracted to carry out a full options appraisal and summary feasibility report, working in association with Simpson & Brown who were employed to produce the architectural aspects of the options appraisal along with associate costings by Angus Simpson of Ralf Ogg surveyors (Perth). All the consultants work was closely interlinked, and they have worked well together, resulting in the considered and detailed information provided to date. With the production of a robust business plan, fundamental to most funding applications, the JRS is well positioned to apply for both Historic Environment Scotland’s Repair Grant and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, once they open their doors to applications later this year.   It is with your support and financial commitment that these advances have been possible. We hope you find the content of the attached reports consistent with the perceived aims of the John Rae Society and would welcome your constructive feedback. Join us…embrace the past to shape the future! Sandra If you would like to help us restore this fine building and turn it into an award winning Events Venue either contact us on or visit our web site at  If you would like to donate to our project then you can use our JustGiving page at Or raise money by taking part in the John Rae Callenge