For a thousand years Flotta, the 'flat' isle of the Norsemen at the gateway to Scapa Flow, slumbered. During those long years perhaps the most sensational event came in 1725 when the Laird of Flotta Sir James Stewart an 'irascible and belligerent Jacobite' murdered Captain James Moore of Melsetter in Hoy, in Kirkwall's Broad Street.
Then within the past century the island has suddenly found itself in the spotlight, firstly as a strategic military base in two World Wars and latterly as the location for an oil terminal which has helped keep Orkney's economy afloat.
Like most of the island fringe Flotta's population has been in decline since the turn of this century, despite the sensationally busy War years (the Imperial War Museum holds a remarkable photograph of a World War I boxing match on Flotta with an audience of 10,000!) and the arrival of the terminal.
Flotta has one of the most spectacular 360 degree panoramas in the United Kingdom - the sweep of the Hills of Hoy. the great expanse of Scapa Flow and the hills of Mainland Orkney beyond, to the east Burray and South Ronaldsay, completing the circle by looking out across the Pentland Firth to the Scottish mainland. Interestingly Flotta is thought to be perhaps the only place in Orkney where you can see Kirkwall and Stromness at the same time.
Flotta Oil Terminal - The terminal became operational
in December 1976 when crude oil arrived from the Piper platform. Approximately
10°/o of Britain's oil production passes through the Flotta terminal.
Cinema - Constructed around 1940 this building
was designed to hold an audience of 1500. The roof now covers a garage
in Kirkwall and after the end wall was removed in the 70s, the building
was used as a sand store.
Memorial Seat - In memory of an islander this bench
has proved a welcome resting point on one of the flat island's 'steep
Rocket Batteries - This WWII rocket firing battery
at Golta was designed to protect important targets from low flying
enemy aircraft. The 132 now crumbling shelters form a perfect grid
and were used to protect the gun crews and store ammunition for the
66 rocket projectors.
Golta - The Golta peninsula saw much wartime activity.
For access please contact Flotta Terminal security on arrival.
Y.M.C.A. - This once magnificent stone-built construction
was erected in the early years of WWI. Only part of the wall and the
huge fireplace now remain. A post-war plan to reopen the building as
a hotel fell through.
St. Vincent Pier - This landing pier was erected
by men from H.M.S. St. Vincent and as the foundation stone indicates
was finished in 1915. It was used by the navy to land personnel at
the Y.M.C.A., where they could enjoy a game of golf.
Boom Net and the Calf of Flotta - The objects sticking
out of the water between Golta and the Calf may look like rocks but
are in fact hundreds of tons of antisubmarine cable dumped here after
World War II: a narrow channel allows boats to pass between the two
Community Centre - There are sporting or social
activities in the centre on most evenings. The licensed bar is open
on Tuesday and Friday evenings.
Buchanan Battery - The well-preserved coastal defence
battery was built to guard the navy's main entrance to Scapa Flow.
Feel free to explore the many shelters, but remember that extreme care
Magnificent Lane - This steep winding road was
built by the men from H.M.S Magnificent and leads to Stanger Head.
Kings Hard - Remains of a stone jetty where on
July 9, 1915 King George V landed to inspect troops at Stanger Head
Signal Station - Built for the Royal Navy this
large complex was used as a communication centre and connected with
other stations around the Flow.
Quarry - Most of the stone used in the construction
of the oil terminal came from Stanger Head. Much of the army camp which
once stood here has been removed.
Cletts - The name given to the stone stacks which
can be viewed from the cliff. This part of Stanger Head can be dangerous
because there are also gloups or blow-holes in the vicinity which are
extremely dangerous. Keep a close eye on children and pets!
Flotta Kirk and War Memorial - The kirk is open
to visitors with access through the vestry, there are also many interesting
gravestones surrounding the kirk. Across Kirk Bay is the uninhabited
island of Switha.
NEB Battery - Along both sides of the road are
to be found the remains of many buildings and huts which once stood
here. The pump house that once supplied water from the burn stands
at the edge of the road. There are two dams. the lower was built in
World War 2 and the higher dam in World War I. The battery and ammunition
stores are well worth a visit.
Airstrip - The airstrip is 2000 feet long and was
built to transport workers during the construction of the oil terminal
which has meant so much to the prosperity of Orkney.
Sutherland Pier - This pier was built during WWII
Gibraltar Pier - Constructed during WWII, this
pier was modified in 1983 to accommodate the linkspan for Orkney's
first inter-island ro-ro ferry.
Visit the Orkney Ferries website for a comprehensive list of the latest published island ferry timetables. Alternatively you can call the free Orkney Ferries travel hotline on +44 (0)800 011 3648 for up-to-date sailing information.
Download the Flotta island guide here - 354kb