This is an almost land locked area of deep water, up to 10 m. wide, which the British Government decided in 1912 should be adapted as the main base of the Grand Fleet in case of a European War, and substantial Royal Navy establishments were for many years subsequently an important aspect of Orkney‘s economy.
But the defences were penetrated by a German submarine in 1914, and they did not become virtually impregnable until, after another German U-boat had sunk H.M.S. Royal Oak on 14 October 1939, only ﬁve Weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, Winston Churchill ordered the construction of the Churchill Barriers Here also, at the end of the First World War, the German Navy having surrendered to the Allies, sailed in their ﬂeet and scuttled or beached the ships before they could be taken over. Now the main traffic on this beautiful stretch of sheltered water consists of ships and ferries plying between Kirkwall, Stromness and the other islands and Scotland, and the variegated ﬂeet engaged on oil business.
- Scapa Flow Latitude Geolocation 58.9000° N Longitude -3.0500° W
- Scapa Flow Postcode KW16
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Scapa Flow is a large protected sea area that has earned its name in British history as an important naval base in both world wars.
It contains Flotta, now an oil tanker terminal and landfall for undersea pipelines from the oilfields of the North Sea to the east. Scapa saw some 74 warships, the greater part of the German fleet, brought here and either beached by their crews or scuttled in June 1919 on the orders of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.
Many of the ships have since been salvaged. Others remain as an attractive underwater prey for divers on the hunt for souvenirs or just to satisfy curiosity. In the Second world war, huge convoys of ships gathered here before being escorted across the seas to Russia and to America.
In an attempt to close off the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow, the massive Churchill Barriers were erected in the 1940s, mainly by Italian prisoners of war. A reminder of their stay in Orkney is seen on the little island of Lamb Holm where, inside two Nissen huts, the Italians constructed a beautiful chapel, using scrap materials with a high degree of ingenuity. The chapel was rededicated in 1960 when the designer, Domenico Chiocchcui, a gifted artist, returned to restore some of his paintings.
Scapa Flow and Loch of Ayre, St Mary's Walk in the Orkney Islands, Starting From the car park area near to Loch of Ayre, Stromness.
This is a circular route over a coastal path and overgrown, minor roads, this is an ideal walking country for people of all abilities and ages, moderate walking around sites of significant historic interest, walk along the shores of Scapa Flow, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy.
The sheltered waters are a natural harbour which has been used over many centuries, from the Viking fleet of King Haokon in the 13th Century, to the present day.
The same geographical features that provide sheltered anchorage and habitable shores also support a distinctive range of wildlife, with dramatic coast, the scatter of islands and the sloping farmland with lush grass land.
This landscape is framed by the ever-present high Hills of Hoy, and the heather covered slopes of the hills of the West Mainland, near where HMS Royal Oak was sunk in 1939 and other wrecks, along with the fascinating stories behind them, make Scapa Flow a world-renowned location for all those interested in maritime history.
Orkney has a unique underwater environment, from vast battleships resting in the heart of Scapa Flow, to smaller blockships dotted along the rugged coastline.
The area from Stromness to the heights of Hoy is designated as a National Scenic Area in recognition of its dramatic beauty, but a diversity of wonderful views are found throughout the area.
The walk then passes Howequoy Head, a Coastal Headland here you will find a single light anti-aircraft gun-emplacement probably for a light calibre gun.
Ready-use ammunition lockers survive in turf banks, a more challenging trek among dramatic coastal features.
Past the Loch Of Ayre, you then continuing inland to return and finish at the car park.
St Mary’s about two thirds of the way up Church Road in the centre of Stromness.
Access is straight off the street and there are very few steps in the church.
Coffee and refreshments follow the Sunday morning service and visitors are always especially made welcome.