Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum
Telling the story of Britain's wartime naval base
Visitor centre ©Doug Houghton Gun ©Doug Houghton Gun ©Doug Houghton Pump House ©Doug Houghton

Click here for Scapa Flow music
(Realplayer format)

The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum houses an important record of the role the Royal Navy played in Orkney during both World Wars. Situated at Lyness on the island of Hoy, the centre is run by Orkney Islands Council Museums Service, who have converted the former pump house to provide a comprehensive series of interpretative displays, as well as being home to a fascinating outside collection of military equipment such as vehicles and guns. World War I displays include a propeller and other artifacts from HMS Hampshire, mined off Orkney in 1916 with the lost of Lord Kitchener. Guns salvaged from the German High Seas Fleet which was scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919 form part of the display along with railway engines on tracks. There is a large photographic collection as well as objects on display inside, where you can see one of the pumps in action.

WWII TorpedoOriginally built to supply fuel to the British Fleet much of the naval base's vast original infrastructure has been cleared, although one oil storage tank has been retained and restored. Inside the tank are larger exhibits, including a searchlight, bren-gun carrier and a boat that sailed to Orkney from occupied Norway. The tank has a most incredible acoustic, which you can hear in a sound clip of the tune 'Scapa Flow' played by Amy Cameron, Chloe McIssaac and Daisy Bateman from North Walls Community School, and their instrumental teacher Ian McKune. Click here to hear the clip which is in Real Player format - (click here to get the free player application).

Lyness was briefly the Navy's wartime base in 1919, but the Longhope Hotel, further along the island, was preferred - with most of the larger vessels situated north of the island of Flotta, today home to a major oil terminal. It was after WW1 that Lyness became the base for the salvage of the scuttled German High Seas Fleet. The firm of Cox and Danks were responsible for the massive salvage operation which attracted employment to a great many incomers.

RAF TruckIn 1939 Orkney's population swelled massively once again as Lyness became the Navy's base in World War Two - the base was known as HMS Prosperine. A frantic rush of activity swept the area as camps and buildings were hurriedly constructed The surrounding areas were also used and a Barrage Balloon Centre was built and Lyness became the centre of Boom Defences. A massive pier was erected, with its complexity and cost earning it the name 'Golden Wharf'. Due to the vulnerability of the surface oil storage tanks it was decided, in 1939, to construct underground storage tanks, and highly skilled Norwegian miners from Spitzbergen were employed to work on this massive excavation. The size and extent of this storage network is truly one of the wonders of the Second World War, and there are plans to open them eventually up as a visitor attraction.

Lyness Naval CemeterySadly, Orkney has seen more than its share of wartime tragedy and the nearby Lyness Naval Cemetery is the final place of rest for many brave personnel. It houses the graves of people who died at the Battle of Jutland, on HMS Hampshire, HMS Vanguard, Germans who died during the scuttling of the German Fleet and of crew from HMS Royal Oak. It also has graves of German aircrew from World War Two.

The Visitor Centre is reached by a short ferry trip across Scapa Flow from the Orkney Mainland and is only a five minute walk from the ferry terminal. There is a also a small cafe and shop where books, videos, gifts and souvenirs are available.



Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum Opening Hours 2014

Spring Opening (24th March to 18th April)
Monday - Friday, from 09.00 -16.30

Late Spring Opening (19th April (Easter Saturday) to 30th April NB Closed Easter Sunday)
Monday - Saturday, from 09.00 -16.30

Summer Opening (1st May to 30th September)
Monday - Saturday, from 09.00 -16.30
Sunday - from arrival of first ferry to 16.00.

Autumn Opening (1st October - 31st October)
Monday - Saturday, from 09.00 -16.30

Winter Opening (1st November to the end of March)
Museum is closed.

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum, Lyness, Hoy, Orkney
Telephone: (01856) 791300

© 1999