Visitor centre

The land acquired by the Ministry of Works for the UK Atomic Energy Authority in the mid-1950s included a disused air traffic control tower overlooking the proposed nuclear site.

The building had been used during the war when Dounreay was a Royal Navy aerodrome providing air protection to the fleet at Scapa Flow.

During the early construction of Dounreay, the control tower served as the construction site office.

Once the site was complete, a small part of the building was retained to serve the landing strip and the rest of the building converted to a visitor centre.

The air traffic control function ceased in the late 1980s with the closure of the landing strip.

By the start of the 21st century, the structure of the building was deteriorating and Dounreay was facing expensive upgrading cost to comply with new disability access regulations.

Dounreay decided to review its need for a visitor centre. At the same time, the Highland Council faced similar problems with Thurso Town Hall and was considering ways to modernise it.

Following talks, it was agreed that UKAEA would support the council to redevelop the town hall as a new visitor attraction and community facility, to be known as Caithness Horizons, which would include an area to tell the story of Dounreay.

Dounreay decided to keep open its decaying visitor centre beside the site until the new facility in Thurso was ready.

But storm damage in 2006 resulted in extensive water penetration and early in 2007 the site took a decision to close down the visitor centre early. It was demolished a short while afterwards.

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Image: The facility in the 1950s when it served as the site construction office

The facility in the 1950s when it served as the site construction office

Image: The visitor centre

The visitor centre

Image: Flashback to the staff of 2005

Flashback to the staff of 2005

Image: The visitor centre is pulled down

The visitor centre is pulled down

Image: The centre is demolished

The centre is demolished