In Scapa Flow below the cliffs of Gaitnip in the Parish of Holm (pronounced 'Ham'), lies a green marker buoy. This is the marker for the site of HMS Royal Oak sunk by the German U-boat U47 on the 13th of October 1939 with the loss of 833 lives. The site is an official war grave, and diving is strictly forbidden here. There is a memorial to the men who lost their lives in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

The village of St Mary's was an important fishing station during the herring fishing years. St. Mary's loch is visited by many migrant birds, and is home to mute swans. Near to the northern end of the loch is a low mound, the site of a broch.

Graemeshall is home to the Norwood Collection, a remarkable collection of antiques gathered over fifty years by Norris Wood. The collection is spread over five rooms of the house, and contains furniture, clocks, watches, and fine china. The house is open certain weekdays between May and September.

The parish of Holm is connected to the southern islands of Lambholm, Glimsholm, Burray, and South Ronaldsay by the Churchill Barriers. The causeways were built on the order of Winston Churchill after the sinking of the Royal Oak, in order to close the channels between the islands. A large proportion of the labour involved in building the barriers was provided by Italian prisoners of war, and across the first barrier, on the island of Lambholm stands the Italian Chapel. This remarkable and beautiful monument was built from two nissen huts joined together, with the inside lined with plasterboard and hand painted to resemble brick and carved marble. A beautiful painting of the Madonna and Child is painted on the wall behind the altar. It is a place of great tranquillity. No trip to Orkney is complete without a visit to the Italian Chapel.

The Italian Chapel
(C) Richard Welsby

Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby

Copyright Orknet 1996