The north coast of Scotland, delineated by the headland at Cape Wrath in the west, and the similar headland of Duncansby in the east provides one of the most challenging sea routes anywhere in the world. Through the narrow Pentland Firth in the east between Orkney and the Mainland tidal flows have been recorded which are among the fastest in the world. In certain areas under specific conditions flows of up to 16 knots have been recorded. The flow is particularly dangerous as it sweeps round the islands of Stroma and Swona and the outcrops of the Pentland Skerries. When the tidal flows combine or clash with storms and the resultant sea swells make the area one of the most dangerous seascapes in the world.
Cape Wrath itself and the offshore sea stacks are a magnificent site although much of the area is owned by the Ministry of Defence who use the area as a weapons range often with live ammunition and, as such, is off limits to visitors. Heading east the coast line is flatter with less cliffs until the shoreline begins to rear up again at Dunnet Head and Dunscansby Head. Lying two miles north west of John O’Groats, the uninhabited island of Stroma has been the location of dozens of shipwrecks lying as it does at right angles to the strong tidal flows sweeping through the Pentland Firth. Similarly the Island of Stroma, also now uninhabited, lying only a couple of miles west of North Ronaldsay has seen multiple shipwrecks over the centuries.
North of the Pentland Firth lie the Orkney Islands. The archipelago consists of around 70 islands of which around 20 are populated. In 875 AD the islands were annexed by Norwegian King Harald Harfagre and remained under Norse rule until 1472. In historical times the principle economy of the islands was fishing and agriculture. However, in the early 20th century, as British concern over the rising military power of Germany rose, a decision was made to make use of Scapa Flow as a base for the British Home Fleet – a decision hat would change the history of the islands for the next century. The Flow was fortified and throughout both World Wars became the centre of operations for the huge battleships and cruisers of the Royal Navy. The interment and subsequent scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in the flow resulted in the largest loss of shipping in a single incident anywhere in the world. The loss of HMS Royal Oak in the early says of World War Two added another sad chapter to the history of the famous anchorage. This naval history has made Scapa Flow one of the most important scuba diving destinations in the world. Elsewhere the coasts of Orkney are surrounded by more than 1200 recorded shipwrecks of fishing vessels lost in the often stormy weather, sailing vessels attempting to navigate a route round the north of Scotland and merchant ships which became the victims of German U-boats and minefields deployed during both World Wars.
Area Wreck Map
Ashbury – HMS Bullen – Copeland – Croma – Dinnington – Duke of Albany – Edenmore – HMS Gaillardia – German High Seas Fleet Wrecks – Scapa Flow – HMS Hampshire – Inverlane – John Rudolph – HMS King Edward VII – Linkmoor – Loch Maddy – HMS Nessus – Pennsylvania – HMS Pheasant – HMS Royal Oak – Svecia – HMS Vanguard – UB-116