Flotta .. Key to Scapa Flow
The island of Flotta took a pounding during World War II air raids on Scapa Flow because when the ground and ship-based defences put up an incredible curtain of metal the Germans turned for home dumping their cargo of bombs on the nearest island.
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 Moodie 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. In 1910, the island had two blacksmiths, four carpenters, three dressmakers, a teacher, doctor, minister and postmaster, all serving a population of 431. 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.