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One of Orkney's most notable military landmarks celebrates 200th anniversary

29 April 2013

One of Orkney’s most notable military landmarks is celebrating its 200th anniversary.

Work began on Hackness Battery and Martello’s Tower on the island of Hoy in 1813 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars to provide defence against French and American warships who were targeting British merchant ships travelling past the coast of the north east of Scotland.

The battery, which was the first of the buildings to be built, was designed to provide a gun platform and also provided room behind for a barracks, store and powder magazine.

Two towers followed at Hackness and Crockness, the latter now in private ownership, and are two of only three in Scotland, the other being in the Port of Leith in Edinburgh. Taking their name from the round fortress at Mortella Point, in Corsica, their elegant and compact design combines military and domestic functions and are more commonly found in South East England.

The battery was upgraded in 1866 against a perceived threat from the American Fenian Brotherhood during the American Civil War. However neither the battery or the tower saw the action for which they were intended, but each continued to be used for military purposes into the 20th century.

To mark the anniversary, Historic Scotland, who look after the battery and Martello’s Tower and operate it as a seasonal visitor attraction between April and September each year are running special costumed tours each Wednesday throughout the summer which will help bring to life this fascinating site.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet a tour guide in the uniform of a royal artillery gunner, and find out more about the history of the site, which includes the opportunity to see examples of barrack room furniture and other military memorabilia.

Kit Reid, Interpretation Manager for Historic Scotland said;

“Hackness Battery and Martello’s Tower provide a fascinating insight into military history of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

“We hope that visitors enjoy the new tours which are designed to help bring the buildings to life and provide a flavour of what it would have been like to stationed here all those years ago.”

The tours will run each Wednesday at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.  Special tours can also be conducted for school or historical groups by contacting 01856 701 727.

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, inspiring our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, landscapes and biodiversity as Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014 and beyond. Find out more about Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty at

Historic Scotland around the web:

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For further information

Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858