Fortress Orkney – Multi Day Wartime Tour

Orkney Uncovered – Sample Private Tour Itinerary – April 2016

Driver and Tour Guide: – Kinlay Francis – Orkney Uncovered

Day 1 – Wartime Airfields and Orkney’s Coast Defence Batteries

  • RAF Grimsetter WWII
    Overview of RAF Grimsetter during WWII. Learn about the Spitfire MKI Squadrons based here. Now home to Kirkwall airport see the runways and the surrounding defensive Anti-Invasion line positions.
  • Lamb Holm Aerodrome and Coast Defence Battery – Lamb Holm
    Visit the privately owned island of Lamb Holm where a WWII airfield is still used as a private aerodrome; see the runways and aircraft hangar. See inside the coast defence batteries on Lamb Holm and the main quarry used as a construction yard for building the barriers in WWII. Exclusively for clients of Orkney Uncovered only.
  • Scapa Seaplane Station WWI
    During WWI Scapa Beach was home to a Seaplane Station. Overview of types of seaplanes based there and the many problems they station encountered due to the fierce Orkney weather.
  • Caldale Airship Station WWI
    See where Sea Scout Airships were based; learn about the role these airships played in protecting Scapa Flow from submarine attack. See the remains of the camp that housed 200 personnel.
  • Lunch at the Ferry Inn
    Superb seafood on the harbour front of Stromness.
  • RAF Skeabrae WWII
    Here you will see the remnants RAF Skeabrae a very important airfield built in the summer of 1940. There were a number of squadrons to fly here including the 611 Squadron who flew the Supermarine Spitfire MKIV. Learn about runway camouflaging.
  • HMS Tern WWII
    This airfield was first commissioned as a Royal Naval Station on 1st April 1941. RNAS Twatt was considered to be one of the largest airbases in Orkney with 1872 personnel including 432 Wrens. See the remaining sites and structures of this impressive air base including the Control Tower, runways and air raid shelters.
  • Ness Battery and Port War Signal Station
    Private tour of Ness Battery. This impressive 6 “ coast defence battery was the main battery for defence in and out of the Western Approaches to Hoy Sound and Scapa Flow. Andrew Hollinrake will guide us on this unique and powerful gun battery. (Accessible and easy walking).

This tour covers Orkney’s air defence during the First and Second World War in the Orkney Islands. Visits to gun batteries will be via vehicle with a short walk on easy terrain to see them. I recommend the Ferry Inn for its delicious seafood and fish dishes.

Day 2 – Wartime Hoy and HMS Proserpine


Hoy played a major role in the defence of the British Fleets in WWI and WWII. We will journey over to Hoy on the ‘Hoy Head’ ferry and spend the day exploring this beautiful island which is rich in wartime history and scenic beauty. HMS Proserpine was the name given by the British Admiralty to Lyness base during WWII. We will guide you around the former HMS Proserpine and show you why Hoy was strategic in the World Wars.

  • Scapa Flow
    Overview of Scapa Flow during WWI and WWII
  • WWII Munitions Depot Lyness
    Visit what remains of a WWII Munitions depot. Very interesting site, gives you a real feel of how important Lyness was in Orkney’s Defences in WWII.
  • Rinnigill Hydrogen Gas Plant Base
    Visit what remains of RAF Rinnigill a hydrogen gas plant base and various training facilities for personnel from Lyness base. See what remains of the Torpedo Attack Trainer.
  • Martello Tower & Hackness Battery
    Guided tour of Napoleonic Fort which also played a vital defence role in WWI and WWII. Learn about the defensive strategy of Crockness and Hackness Martello Towers.
  • Longhope Fishing village
    Overview of Longhope village and the important part it played during WWI and WWII. See Longhope Sound and hear about the protection it provided for merchant ships during the Napoleonic Era.
  • Wee Fea Hill and Scenic views
    Overview of WWII Naval Headquarters and Communication Centre. See where 230 WRNS were based by mid-1944 and the vital communication role they played. Visit the site of the WWII underground oil installation base. Learn about its construction, oil capacity, purpose and the Golden Wharf. Beautiful views overlooking Scapa Flow and surrounding Hoy hillsides.
  • 1940’s styled Café and Ice Cream Parlour
    Stop for lunch at the newly built (opening 2016) 1940’s styled Lyness ice cream parlour and café. My friend Emily has just been awarded lottery funding for this and it will be a great place to stop and have a selection of delicious light lunches and ice creams with a Lyness 1940’s twist.
  • Lyrawa Hill
    Visit Lyrawa Hill viewpoint and see spectacular views out over the Western Approaches to Scapa Flow.
  • CASL
    Short walk to the heavily defended WWII Coastal Artillery Searchlight on Lyrawa Hill.
  • Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery
    Visit the Lyness Naval Cemetery where heroes lie from both World Wars including those from HMS Hampshire sunk by a mine off the Birsay coast in 1916. HMS Vanguard which exploded off Flotta in 1917 and HMS Royal Oak which was torpedoed in 1939. There are a number of German Sailors buried here from the scuttling of the German fleet in 1919.
  • Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum
    Fantastic!! A must for WWI and WWII enthusiasts or anyone interested in Orkney’s wartime history. Visit the Oil Tank display and see actual WWI and WWII transport including the Universal Carrier. See the Romney Hut and a full size torpedo, or go on a hunt for smaller Anderson Air Raid Shelters.
  • Arctic Convoys Memorial
    Visit this newly erected Arctic Memorial, unveiled by Russian and British WWII Veterans in May 2013. Remember those who fought and served in the dangerous Arctic convoys.
  • Air Raid Shelter
    Take a step back in time and see inside and walk through the main Air Raid Shelter for Lyness Naval Base in WWII. Learn about the construction and its defence against Luftwaffe aerial attacks. This is an amazing part of WWII history in Orkney.

This tour covers the Home Fleet base in WWII and includes stories of the men and women based on Hoy during the Second World War. Walking will be easy on some light to medium terrain. I will drive to most of the places. 2016 on Hoy will be great for its military sites, particularly for the gearing up to 100 years since Jutland.

Day 3 – Shapinsay and the Defence of Orkney’s Northern Approaches

  • Overview of the Northern Approaches to Kirkwall
    Our ferry journey takes 25 minutes from Kirkwall Harbour. While on deck we shall try and spot a variety of sea birds and other marine life. I will show you on maps and from the deck, the area in which the German Kriegsmarine attempted to access the Orkney waters.
  • Galtness Coast Defence Battery
    Drive out across privately owned Balfour Castle farmland to visit this impressive and very rarely visited TWIN 6pdr battery from WWII. This is one of my favourite batteries to visit as it has been heavily reinforced with surround blast walls and underground magazines,
  • Castle Coast Defence Battery
    See what remains of this powerful twin 12pdr battery including the original holdfasts and gauge mountings still in position. This battery was ‘open canopy’ and Royal Artillery men used to draw straws to see who would unluckily enough to be based here.
  • Burroughston Broch
    An archaeological site excavated in the 1860’s. Short walk out to the Iron Age Broch.
  • Odin’s Stone
    Large black stone lying on the beach below tide line. This large stone is noticeably different to the other stones on the beach. Believed to have been left by Odin, the Viking War God.
  • Smiddy Café
    Stop for lunch at the Smiddy Café. The fresh crab sandwiches here are amazing as are the delicious home bakes.
  • Visit to Balfour Castle
    Once the home to Thomas Balfour the Commander of the Northern Fenicibles in 1792.  Explore the fabulous grounds and gardens of this Victorian castle.

This tour covers the island of Shapinsay and the Defences employed by the British Admiralty to protect the Northern Approaches to Orkney during the World Wars. I have added in a couple of ancient sites as well as these might of some interest to you. They are optional however. Balfour Castle owns the private land around the coast batteries, so Orkney Uncovered will seek special permission to access.

Day 4 – The Defence of Flotta during the World Wars


Flotta was at the centre of the Royal Naval anchorage during two world wars and thousands of people swamped the small island. During World War One 10,000 troops watched a boxing match on Flotta. Battleship HMS Vanguard accidently exploded with the loss of more than 800 lives, a mile from Flotta in July 1917. In 1915 King George V visited Flotta to inspect the troops and during World War II, his son George VI watched a film in the wartime cinema. Popular pipe band tune Flett of Flotta dates from shortly after this time.

  • Flotta and Scapa Flow
    Head over to the island of Flotta, meaning Flat Island in Old Norse. We will take the ferry straight over Scapa Flow. As we approach Flotta we will give you an overview of the old WWI King George V pier on the Golta peninsula.
  • Golta and Talisman Energy
    Drive under the gas flare at the Talisman oil terminal on Flotta. Orkney Uncovered will gain special and exclusive access to this side of the island through the oil terminal.
  • Z-Battery at Golta
    Visit the remains of one of the most rarely visited and what would have been the most powerful rocket battery in Britain during WWII. Known as the Scapa Barrage. 25 Heavy Anti-Aircraft batteries, supported by numerous Light Anti-Aircraft posts and rocket sites, all manned by the Army. The three inch rockets or ‘unrotated projectiles’ (Ups) as they were known, were fired up to a height of 22,000 ft from single or multiple launcher sites, the latter being known as Z batteries.
  • YMCA building and St Vincent Pier
    Visit the remains of the YMCA recreation building from 1917. This building would have been enormous and made from sandstone and used by Officers. Large fireplaces and chimneys remain today. Visit St Vincent pier, built primarily for a landing point for the YMCA building.
  • Bomb Craters
    Short walk away from the south of YMCA building lie 5 craters filled with water. These were made by German carpet bombing of the defences of Golta during WWII. Impressive to say the least.
  • Boom Defence and the Calf of Flotta
    See what remains of the anti-submarine boom net defence network, protecting Weddel Sound between Flotta, Calf of Flotta and Fara. The area of water is still inaccessible for most vessels.
  • Scapa Flow Viewpoint
    Drive up to scenic viewing point to see aerial view of Scapa Flow. I will point out the islands associated to the defences of Scapa Flow during WWI and WWII. Panoramic views over this small island. This location also has the biggest wind turbine in the Orkney Islands.
  • Buchannan Battery
    Superb Coast Defence battery. Guided tour of one of the best examples of a TWIN 6pdr still left today in Northern Scotland. (Easily accessible).
  • Stanger Head Port War Signal Station
    All vessels coming in and out of the Southern Approaches to Hoxa Sound would signal this position. Truly impressive site with mainly buildings still visible including the 6” gun battery which commands outstanding views Hoxa Sound.
  • Flotta Kirk and War Memorial
    Charming Kirk nestled on the Flotta South shores.
  • NEB Battery
    Visit the site of the powerful Neb WWII battery. Home to a TWIN 6pdr for defence against Motor Torpedo Boats and two 12pdr position for heavier defence against large vessels. Superb location overlooking the island of Hoy and the Hackness Battery and Martello Tower.
  • Flotta Airfield
    Drive around the perimeter of Flotta passing by Flotta Airstrip used in the 1970’s for construction of the Oil Terminal.
  • Naval Cinema
    Visit what remains of the WWII Flotta Naval Cinema. Impressive structure. You can still see the projection ports and what was once the main entrance.

This tour covers the island of Flotta during WWI and WWII in detail. Most of the sites are accessible by vehicle and a short walk over light to medium terrain. This is an island that is vastly under explored and is a fascinating island to visit.

Day 5 – Scapa Flow Private Charter

  • Scapa Flow and the Battle of Jutland
    Overview of Scapa Flow from Viking times to WWI and the largest naval engagement in history – The Battle of Jutland. Overview of the British Grand Fleet during WWI and the Home Fleet in WWII.
  • Churchill Barriers
    Overview of the construction of the Churchill Barriers from the Western Approaches to the Churchill Barriers. Great photography of the blocks and barriers.
  • U-47
    Follow the course of U-boat 47 from entry at Kirk Sound to the 2 mile firing position outside Scapa Bay.
  • HMS Royal Oak
    Visit the final resting place of Revenge class battleship HMS Royal Oak torpedoed by U-boat U-47 on the early morning of 14th October 1939. 834 Officers, men and boys were killed. The battleships can still be seen through sonar survey and on a clear day you can see the hull.
  • Wildlife and Sea Birds
    Great opportunity to spot nesting Peregrine Falcons, Kittiwakes and other sea birds.
  • Houton Head and the Western Approaches of Scapa Flow
    Overview of the Defences of the Western Approaches to Scapa Flow. See the amazing Fighting Searchlight positions of Houton Head battery.
  • HMS Vanguard
    Visit the final resting place of Dreadnought class battleship HMS Vanguard. Late on the night of 9th July 1917 HMS Vanguard detonated at anchor. One of the worst accidents in British Naval history. Detonations were in either “P” magazine, “Q” magazine, or both. Over 800 Officers and men were lost.
  • Boom Defence
    See the remains of the Boom Defence at the Calf of Flotta.

This tour covers some of Scapa Flow and includes visiting the war graves of HMS Royal Oak and HMS Vanguard. We will see a variety of Defences from WWI and WWII around Scapa Flow and the Orkney Mainland. Tour can be tailored to suit. Weather and sea condition, dependent. If unable to go out then an alternative date will be offered.

Transport will be a comfortable fast charter vessel, toilet facilities, warm drinks and snacks will be provided.

Stanger Head Signal Station from SeaStanger Head Signal Station on Flotta

Tour Notes:

  1. Prices on request.
  2. Orkney Uncovered includes bottled water and snacks.
  3. Tour does not include lunch.
  4. Places to eat: Hoxa Café, Sands Hotel, Standing Stones Hotel.
  5. Our transport accommodates up to 7 guests.
  6. Visual aids, commentary and aerial cartography, where appropriate, accompany this tour.
  7. Walking – moderate.
  8. Toilet and refreshment stops en route.
  9. Recommend warm and waterproof clothing and comfortable walking shoes.
  10. Tour may be subject to change due to adverse weather conditions.