Don’t let the sight of the sprawling Flotta Oil Terminal put you off – there’s more to this quiet island than this hive of industry.
Although the ferry from Houton on the Orkney mainland arrives in front of the terminal, there’s plenty of history, nature and island vibes to enjoy elsewhere.
Flotta played a major role two World Wars, becoming home to thousands of servicemen and women, and an important base for the Royal Navy. It’s hard to imagine it now, with quiet roads and a tiny population of islanders, but one famous photo shows 10,000 people watching a boxing match in the island during the First World War.
You can still see remnants of wartime across Flotta, and perhaps the best way to take them in is on the island’s excellent trail. Stretching for eight miles anti-clockwise around much of the southern end of Flotta, the signposted route includes stops at the ruins of an old naval cinema, various gun batteries (the Buchanan Battery on the east coast is particularly worth a visit) and the looming Signal Station buildings at Stanger Head. Interpretation boards provide historical information en-route.
An added bonus is the nature and wildlife you can see on the trail. There are beautiful views over the Pentland Firth towards Scotland and the island’s moorland is a haven for birdlife. Don’t miss the Cletts either, a pair of small sea stacks at Stanger Head.
Inland close to the island’s main centre of population you’ll find the excellent Flotta Heritage Centre, housed in a restored croft. It’s full of period furniture and memorabilia from the island’s history.
Perfect for a day trip, and with a regular ferry service connecting with Hoy and the Orkney mainland, Flotta is possibly an overlooked, but certainly an underestimated, island.
Flotta was once a hub for Royal Navy vessels, but even though things are quieter here now, there are still regular links between the island and the Orkney mainland.
Flotta's ferry service links it with neighbouring Hoy too, so island-hopping is very much an option.