Sssh, don’t tell – Flotta is our secret!

Flotta: A hidden gem among the Orkney Islands!

Coming to Orkney on holiday and want to go island hopping, but not quite sure which island to go to?

Here’s somewhere out of the ordinary: Try Flotta! It is a seriously underrated Orkney island, but has a lot to offer. Many people wouldn’t think of going there, because it is best known for its oil terminal – Think of the film “Local Hero”, which was inspired by Flotta’s oil story. For a hilarious insider’s view of the building of the oil terminal, though, I would recommend Davie Sinclair’s comedy novel “Willick o Pirliebraes“. However, there is much more to Flotta than oil!

I often go to Flotta to visit family there, and I always have a great time. One time we were out there, we ran into another family from the Orkney Mainland, who had come for the weekend. Their comment was: “Sssh, don’t tell anyone! Flotta is our secret!” Sorry, mate – The secret is out now!

Pictish altar front from Flotta, Orkney.
Pictish altar front from Flotta, Orkney.

How to get to Flotta and where to stay

Flotta is very easy to get to. Drive, cycle or take the bus to Houton ferry terminal in Orphir on the Orkney Mainland, and from there catch the ferry that goes in a triangle to Lyness and Flotta.

Ferry timetables here

Map here

Why not cycle? Flotta is just the right size for cycling around, with almost no car traffic!

Once in Flotta, you can stay in self-catering accommodation in the small village. It costs from as little as £10 a night – Unbelievable!

Call Phyllis Gee on 01856 701 215 to arrange your stay.

Flotta's rich history

What I love most about Flotta is its rich history, and of course the lovely people there!

The right name for a person from Flotta is a “Flottarian”! Flottarians are very proud of their island, and great people. Make sure you visit the shop! Davie and Marina Sinclair’s shop is something else – A real old-time country shop, with a counter and all. Marina and daughter Phyllis love to have a chat with their customers.

Davie and his son-in-law Kenny have built a heritage centre next to the shop, where you can see all sorts of interesting things from the early days of the oil terminal and Flotta’s wartime history.

Next to the heritage centre, they have also lovingly restored an old but-n-ben: a traditional cottage, that you can go inside. Check out this family’s amazing website!

“Flotta” means “flat island” in Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. However, there were people living there long before the Vikings! An extraordinary piece of art is the Pictish altarfront that was found by the church in Flotta. Now displayed in the National Museum in Edinburgh, it is known as the “Flotta Stone”. Exquisite!

If you are a bit of a geek on wartime history, Flotta is the place for you. It lies in Scapa Flow, the natural harbour used by the British fleet duing both World War 1 and World War 2. The people of Flotta would have had a good view of major wartime events, such as the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet, which happened on their doorstep. There is also a local legend that a safe of gold is hiding in the heather somewhere on the island, having been flung into the air by the explosion on board the HMS Vanguard.

At Stanger Head you can visit a lookout tower and other buildings from World War 2.

Or simply enjoy a peaceful walk along the shore or on the island’s quiet roads, watch the seals, sheep and birds and let the inner peace fill you.

Detail of the exquisite carved cross decoration on the Flotta Stone Pictish altar front.
Detail of the exquisite carved cross decoration on the Flotta Stone Pictish altar front.
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