Orkney: The Churchill Barriers Part 2

The sky looked beautiful as we crossed Churchill Barrier 2, off Lamb Holm and onto Glims Holm (aka Glimps Holm).  The rising and setting of the sun this far north was noticeably different from southern England.  The days were shorter and darker.  This produced some beautiful skies.  This picture was taken at 10am.  The sun never got much higher in the sky than this.

The 10am Sun off Glims Holm across to BurrayGlims Holm is of a similar size to Lamb Holm and is also uninhabited.  As we walked across the second barrier we got our first glimpse of a blockship.

Blockship by Barrier 2The origin of the blockships here date back to the First World War.  Scapa Flow was the Royal Navy’s principal port.  It had a number of potential entry points for enemy submarines, and so old steamships were brought in and deliberately sunk, so as to form obstacles to would-be attackers.  By the time of the Second World War many of these blockships had moved or broken up.  After the sinking of the Royal Oak in 1939, additional blockships were brought in and scuppered.  Many of them are still visible today.

Glims Holm did not take long to cross.  At its southern end the third barrier led across to Burray.  More blockships littered the water to either side.  Some were used by cormorants and gulls.

Cormorants on Blockship by Barrier 3Others were used by fishermen.  This is the Reginald, an iron motor schooner built in 1878, and sunk as a blockship in September 1914.  It has had a walkway fixed to it where lobster and crab pots are stored.

Blockship off Barrier 3Once we had crossed to Burray we looked back.  We could see how small Glims Holm was, with both the second and third barriers in view.

Glims Holm with Barriers 2 and 3Burray itself is a larger island than Lamb Holm and Glims Holm, and it is inhabited.  Most of the population reside to the south of the island, close to the fourth barrier which crosses over to South Ronaldsay.  We crossed the barrier, ending the day’s walk which had taken across all four barriers.  We looked back across the water to the small community of Burray as we waited for our taxi.

The view north to Burray from South RonaldsayIn a walk of only five short miles we had set foot on five of the Ornkey Islands.  The weather had been kind to us and had not rained.  The Orkney Islands are truly a place of beauty, as we were reminded again as soon as we stepped out of our taxi back at Kirkwall Harbour.

Kirkwall HarbourAlas, this was the end of our time here.  We picked up our bags from the hotel and jumped back in a taxi to the airport.  By 10pm that evening I was back in London.  I really do hope to return to the Orkney Islands one day and see more of them.

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Churchill Barrier #2:  N 58° 52.975 W 002° 54.095
  • Blockship off Barrier #2:  N 58° 52.889 W 002° 53.991
  • Churchill Barrier #3: N 58° 52.233 W 002° 54.858
  • Blockship The Reginald:  N 58° 52.213 W 002° 54.775
  • Churchill Barrier #4:  N 58° 50.479 W 002° 54.276
  • Kirkwall Harbour:  N 58° 59.122 W 002° 57.580

Walk Statistics (the entire walk, of which this forms the second half):

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3 Responses to Orkney: The Churchill Barriers Part 2

  1. Looks like a haunting, meditative place. And what a sky!

    • Wingclipped says:

      I cannot rate it highly enough! It was a real change from London where I live. Peaceful, quiet and dark at night, and so very friendly. The rain stayed away but could be seen on the hills. The skies were just great.

  2. Jill says:

    Love the harbor shot!!!

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