The Hoy & Walls Wartime Trail

By Bernie Bell

Being by inclination something of a Pacifist, I don’t have an inherent interest in the sites in Orkney which include relics of wartime.  I do, however, have an interest in and appreciate the ways in which – particularly the  WW2  structures – develop – or should that be – un-develop?

It’s not just the structures though, it’s the bits & pieces associated with them and to be found around them.  Just along the coast from where we live there are some WW2 concrete structures, and down from them, on the shore, we find all sorts.  The spout of an old metal teapot – you can imagine how much a ‘brew’ would matter to those on watch in these grim, cold, bare structures.  Also some bits of marble – what were they part of or used for?

These bits & pieces are part of past lives lived in these places – all part of the puzzle which is the past.

I also very much appreciate the photographs of these sites by Ian Collins, as previously featured in ‘The Orkney News’ .

Ian has now worked with Gavin Lindsay and Iain Ashman to produce a leaflet of the Wartime Trail of Hoy and Walls. The leaflet is a companion to the Lyness Wartime Trail and presents some of the many wartime archaeological sites of Hoy and Walls.

It’s a handy little leaflet to have if you have an interest in the sites and/or the war years in Orkney, and, along with the Lyness leaflet, is available from the Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall – email: .

These leaflets might not only appeal to those who can walk the Trails, but also to folk who have some memory or connection with Orkney in the war years, but who might not get the chance to actually visit.

A few years ago, I was waiting in the departure lounge for the Ullapool/Stornoway ferry, and I got talking with two ladies who were going over to Lewis for a visit.  They were originally from Glasgow, and had been evacuated to Lewis in the war, loved it, and now visit when they can. 

They asked where was I travelling from, and when I said Orkney, the memories came flooding back.  Their father had been stationed on Orkney during the Second World War, at Scapa.  His job was to organize the payment of wages.  During the war, there was strict rationing in Glasgow, so he used to send the family food parcels from Orkney, including eggs. He used well-padded and insulated ‘special’ boxes, which the ladies think must have been meant for something else – possibly ammunition! 

I asked had they come across ‘Bloody Orkney’ – composed by soldiers stationed here during the war but, of course, they were small children then and wouldn’t have been allowed to hear such a thing!  The elder of the two sisters said she’d look it up on the Internet. This was their Orkney story, but they have never been here – their war-time memories are of Lewis.

Then it was time to board the ferry – memories having been shared and so, preserved – as they are in literature such as these two leaflets.

Publications such as these can be seen as not only works of military history, but also as an indirect memorial to what happened during wartime…the way in which conflict scars a landscape……..’Lest we forget’.

And I share Ian’s difficulty in imagining the open moorland around Lyness being home to so many people, suddenly uprooted from their usual lives, separated from loved ones – living the uncertainty of war. An uncertainty which we can share in these uncertain times.


See also:

A valley of voices tell the ‘Tales o Hoy’ in new podcast series

New Exhibition on Hoy Looks at the Lives of the Men of HMS Pheasant

Hoy Heritage Centre, Hoy Kirk

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