Orkney – Churchill Barriers and the Southeast

One of the main reasons my friend wanted to visit Orkney was Scapa Flow and Günther Prien. If you don’t know what and who that is, you are not alone. I had to look it up as well. In short, Scapa Flow is a natural harbor sheltered by five islands of Orkney. The place is such a prime spot that already the vikings used it as harbor. In later years it was the British Navy who guarded here the German warships after WWI. The Germans though, not really happy to deliver their ships, sank them on the spot rather than delivering them to the former enemy. Driving past scenic wrecks is therefore quite the highlight in this area.

wrecks within Scapa Flow @Orkney

Günther Prien, a German U-boat captain, managed to penetrate this haven and destroyed the HMS Royal Oak in October 1939. Despite a huge loss of life, 833 people died, one has to mention that objectively it was an extraordinary feat to sneak into Scapa Flow and fire out two shots.

The car on the left in the picture above is driving on the Churchill Barriers. Prisoners of war created these huge causeways to block the entrance into Scapa Flow after the debacle with the HMS Royal Oak. Since the end of WWII the barriers serve as roads to connect the islands.

Churchill Barrier at Scapa Flow @Orkney

These prisoners of war, all of them Italians captured in North Africa, started to built a church while in captivity. Constructed with the simplest of materials, its body was a Nissen hut, and the bell on top was made of cardboard. What’s remarkable about the church is that the guy who painted the interior (no tiles in there), stayed on after his fellow comrades got released to finish the church. Furthermore he returned twice in the 60’s to restore the chapel. What a symbol of faith and reconciliation!

Italian Chapel @Orkney

inside the Italian Chapel @Orkney

As it is often in Scotland, once we came to the southernmost island, connected through the Churchill Barriers with the Mainland, the sun came out. Suddenly Scapa Flow looked a lot less gloomy.

sunshine on South Ronaldsay @Orkney

Stopping at the easternmost part of Mainland Orkney for ‘The Gloup’, a collapsed sea cave, the weather had changed once again.

gloomy weather while walking to ‘The Gloup’ @Orkney

‘The Gloup’ with a small waterfall in the back @Orkney

The coast was amazing along the Mull Head Nature Reserve. Very rugged and wild. There is also a historical landmark on the way to Mull Head, the Brough of Deerness, which must be amazing. There was just too much wind and it was already rather late, so we skipped that. Yours, Pollybert

rugged coast @Mull Head Nature Reserve Orkney

wish we had walked a bit further @Mull Head Nature Reserve Orkney

Let me know what you think

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