One of the best sites in the islands to explore Orkney's wartime heritage.
Orkney has a rich wartime history. The islands were the home of the Royal Navy during both World Wars with thousands of men and women stationed here, helping service the fleet, defend Scapa Flow from air and sea attacks and providing vital communications services.
To this day there are still a number of examples of 'Fortress Orkney' to be found throughout the islands. One of the most impressive is the gun battery camp at Rerwick Head in the east mainland. The base housed two large guns, in place as part of the protection of the eastern approaches to Kirkwall Bay. Perched on the coast looking towards the island of Shapinsay, you can see why Rerwick was the perfect place to build a battery, with panoramic views east and west.
Many of the original buildings are still in place today, although some are in varying states of repair. Leave your car at the small car park and walk along the grassy path and you'll soon come upon searchlight positions and the remains of camps and barracks. Further on you'll find a network of imposing grey buildings. There are lookout posts, ammunition bunkers and the huge gun batteries themselves.
You can still see the compass markings on the concrete floor used to provide bearings to the battery crews. You can even walk through a number of the adjoining structures to get an idea of what life would have been like at the site more than seventy years ago.
The military connection isn't the only reason to take a trip to Rerwick. It's a great place to spot sea and birdlife, and the coastline is full of geos, cliffs and sea stacks. Off the beaten track, yes, but definitely worth a visit.