Scapa Flow can seem like a long way from home but the travel is worth it. The most popular option is to drive to Scrabster and catch the Hamnavoe to Stromness. This puts you a stones throw from the Clasina on arrival and shows you a taste of Orkney as the ferry goes past the Old Man of Hoy. However, there are quite a few options as to how is best to get here so they are listed too.
The Usual Weeks Itinerary…
Saturdays are non-diving, change over days. Outbound groups leave the boat by 08.30 and the inbound groups arrive around 13.30 leaving a brief interlude to clean and tidy. Please confirm your arrival time so I can meet you at the boat.
Sunday to Friday
Ropes off is typically around 08.30 with a 09.30 first dive. Lunch and then back in the water for around 14.00 completes the diving and a return to Stromness (or other port) by around 17.00. Most of the wrecks are an hour south of Stromness and in close proximity to each other. There are no tidal constraints on the German Fleet, however Burra Sound and the James Barrie do require slack.
Travel to Orkney
The main way to travel to Orkney is Northlink Ferries
▸ look for “Operation News” which lets you know of any last minute changes due to weather etc.
Northlink have a number of policies and procedures in place to do with traveling with dive equipment. They are reasonably straightforward and easy to follow but can be summarised as follows.
Fill out a dangerous goods form to bring full cylinders. There is a guide and a form on their website:
They will supply a container (which has been free historically) to load dive kit so you can leave cars in Scrabster. You are best to ring in advance to secure the container, especially in busy summer months.
There are two Northlink Ferry routes:
1. Scrabster to Stromness
The Hamnavoe ferry takes an 1 1/2 hours to cross the Pentland Firth between Scrabster and Stromness. There are two return ferries daily, with three in peak summer weeks.
2. Aberdeen to Kirkwall
The ferry leaves Aberdeen around 17.00 and berths at Kirkwall (Hatston) around 23.00. At the end of the week, it departs Kirkwall on the Friday night at 23.00 and arrives in Aberdeen 07.00 Saturday morning. This route is less popular but the advantage of being in Aberdeen at 07.00 on Saturday morning means that the drive home is more comfortable.
Both routes work in terms of the boat schedule though if you are late on the Saturday night let me know so I can leave cabin instructions for your arrival.
Northlink are very good. The ferries are modern, clean, punctual and well stocked with bars and restaurants. Cabins are recommended on the Aberdeen route (though not obligatory if you want to save a £) and come in a range of sizes to suit your wallet. My normal recommendation is to leave your car in Aberdeen/Scrabster to save money and because they are not really needed during the week. The ferries are pretty weather robust, certainly in the summer months.
There is a second ferry crossing between Gills Bay on the mainland and St Margarets Hope on Orkney. The crossing takes and hour but leaves a 40min car drive on arrival in Orkney.
▸ See “Operation News” which lets you know of any last minute changes due to weather etc.
Pentland Ferries offer a shorter crossing, a cheaper fare and more crossings. However many of these advantages are offset by the arrival in St Margarets Hope at the other side of Orkney. You will need to bring a car on this route.
The Northlink Ferry Hamnavoe berths about 100m away from the Clasina berth. You will see the Clasina as you pull into Stromness. Dive containers can easily be wheeled round to the boat.
The Kirkwall (Hatston) ferry requires a transfer through to Stromness. The journey takes about 20min, there is a bus service (about £5) or taxi (about £30) to meet the ferry.
You will need a car on the Pentland Ferries route.
▸ Craigies Taxis: 01856 878787
Flybe operate a regular schedule to Kirkwall Airport at the east end of the island. They operate from all the main Scottish airports and some English airports such as Birmingham. Note, you need to book well in advance as the seats go quickly and baggage allowances are not that generous.
A transfer from the airport to Stromness takes about 40min and costs around £40.
This service was previously with Flybe but they no longer operate these routes.
Phone signal: Orkney is pretty well served by the mobile phone network though data can be limited (don’t expect 4G on every network)
Pubs: there is the Ferry in and the Royal Hotel!
Decompression incident: There is a chamber in Stromness.
Parking: There is a free long stay car park within a 2min walk of the Clasina.