Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Visit the Scapa Flow naval base in Orkney Islands

For those interested in WWII Orkney has the most important naval base in England during the World Wars: Scapa Flow . Churchill had sent blocking sinking ships to create an impenetrable barrier against possible submarine attacks. Despite this, in 1939 the German submarine U-47 with Günther Prien in charge entered the base and sank the Royal Oak with a torpedo hit. This battleship hadn't been achieved in the previous war. It killed 833 crewmen. Three days after the attack, four bombers Junkers Ju 88 of the Luftwaffe bombed the base reaching the battleship HMS Iron Duke . After the attack, some roads were built to block the oriental entrances, known as " Churchill Barriers ".


Scapa Flow is in Lyness , in the east of the island of Hoy in the archipelago of the Orkney Islands , north of Scotland. View location map here .
  • By plane: There are flights from Edinburgh or Aberdeen to Kirkwall Airport , the capital of the islands, operated by Loganair through http://www.flybe.com . You can book tickets here from 80 pounds the rounf  trip . Keep in mind that Kirkwall airport is on the island of Mainland so then we will have to take a ferry to Lyness on the island of Hoy . The ferry leaves from Houton and to get there from the airport, you have to go to West Castle Street where you can catch the bus number 2 (for details and schedules VISIT this page ). A better way (especially since you will visit many more places like the Italian Chapel ) is to rent a car at the airport. To view the route to the ferry click here . Once in Houton you can park your car there or pass it to Lyness on the ferry but the base is very close to the terminal so it's no needed. The price of the ferry is 4.5 pounds the normal ticket and 13.20 pounds if you go with the car. It takes 35 minutes to arrive. You can check schedules here .
  • By ferry: It's a bit complicated because there isn't a direct ferry from Scotland to the base. Ferries depart from Aberdeen , Scrabster , Gills Bay .NorthLink Ferries connects three days a week Aberdeen to Kirkwall (Mainland). The journey takes just over seven hours and the ticket price is 17.30 pounds . From Scrabster we can get to Stromness (Mainland). There are up to three trips a day from Monday to Friday and two on Saturday and Sunday. The crossing time is approximately 90 minutes and the ticket of 14.10 pounds round trip. From Kirkwall, Stromness can be reached by bus. With Pentland Ferries can reach St Margaret's Hope (South Ronaldsay) in about 1 hour out from Gills Bay . There are three daily departures (four in summer) and the ticket costs 12 pounds . Once there to move between islands you can rent a car and move through Orkney's Ferry .

To plan routes, check timetables and Orkney's public transport this page will provide all the information: http://www.travelinescotland.com/journeyplanner/enterJourneyPlan.do?hss=0tokn105870488


If you want to stay in the islands is important to keep the hotel booked well in advance since there are just few accomodations. You can stay in Kirkwall or Houton and move by ferry to other islands. Here you have some options.
  • In Houton: Houton Bay Lodge . To book click here .
  • In Kirkwall  Ayre Hotel (click here ). If you look for a cheaper option: Youth Hostel (click here ).
  • In the other islands : main cities are Kirkwall, Stromness and St. Margaret's Hope. Therefore it will be easier to find accommodation in these places.
For all hotels and bed & breakfasts:


  • Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum
Location here .
Opening hours:
March 1 to April 30 -> Monday-Friday: 9:00 to 16:30
May 1 to September 30 -> Monday-Saturday: 9:00 to 16:30, Sundays: from the arrival of the first ferry to the last departure.
October 1 to October 31 -> Monday -Saturday: 9:00 to 16:30
November 1 to February 28 -> closed museum
Official website : http://www.scapaflow.co.uk/sfvc.htm

This museum tells the story of British naval fleet world wars in a compreensive manner. We can find photos, videos and exhibits. It is a two minute walk from the ferry terminal.


  • Lyness Naval Cemetery (Lyness ROYAL NAVAL CEMETERY)
Location here .
Opening hours: 
Monday to Friday: 9:00 to 16:30, Saturday: 10:30 to 15:30, Sundays open from 3rd May to 27th September: 10:30 to 15:30.

It was built and is maintained by the War Graves Commission of the Commonweath. There are tombs belonging to the First and Second World Wars, Commonwealth mostly. Including 26 graves of men who died in the sinking of the Royal Oak . You can find pictures of all the graves in this blog: http://lyness-cemetery.blogspot.com . I leave a map of the cemetery:

  • The Italian Chapel
Location here .

Located in Lamb Holm and can be reached by car via the "Churchill barriers" from Mainland and South Ronaldsay .

It is a Catholic chapel built by Italian prisoners of " Field 60 "during World War II. These Italians were captured during the North African campaign and sent to Orkney to build the "Churchill Barriers". It was mostly designed by Domenico Chiocchetti , and together they created this place of worship from a store. It contains decorated windows and frescoes. Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

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