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Flotta is an island that has changed much over the years. From its role at the very heart of Orkney's military history to the building of the Flotta Oil Terminal in the 1970s, it has always played an important part in our economy and heritage.
If you want to see Stromness and Kirkwall at the same time you need to head for Flotta in the South Isles. There are fantastic panoramic views around Scapa Flow from the island.
Flotta was at the centre of the Royal Naval anchorage during two world wars and thousands of people swamped the small island. But Flotta’s history goes back much further; the 8th century Flotta Stone is in the National Museum of Scotland. In 1725 the laird of Flotta Sir James Stewart murdered Captain James Moodie of Melsetter, in Kirkwall. A Flotta man, Forbie Sutherland, was a crew member of Captain Cook’s Endeavour expedition and the first European man to be buried in Australia. During World War One 10,000 troops watched a boxing match on Flotta. The battleship HMS Vanguard accidently exploded with the loss of more than 1,000 lives a mile from Flotta in July 1917. In 1915 King George V visited Flotta to inspect the troops and during World War Two, and his son George VI watched a film in the wartime cinema. Popular pipe band tune Flett of Flotta dates from shortly after this time.
All was quiet again until 1976 when the oil terminal became operational. The terminal was opened by energy minister Tony Benn. Other visitors have included Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the late Queen Mother. The flare atop its 223-ft stack is a landmark in Orkney. Flotta also has woodland planted first in the last world war and much added to by the terminal.
There are plenty of fascinating wartime ruins to be seen in Flotta. You can follow the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership's Flotta Trail to see both WW1 and WW2 sites. The Peerie Museum, housed in a WW1 hydrophone hut, has artefacts of wartime and the oil industry. The island is also in the process of completing a brand new heritage centre. Wildlife includes seals and seabirds. There is self catering and a hostel and a post office. The community centre holds social events. There is also the annual Flotta 10k run, which attracts both serious and more relaxed runners to its relatively flat route.
Flotta is served by the ferry from Houton and Lyness. Oil workers mainly commute on special shuttle boats.
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