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Churchill Barriers, Orkney

constructed 1940-44 - connecting communities today, the four barriers were originally built to defend the vital naval base in Scapa Flow

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KW17 2RU
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About Churchill Barriers, Orkney

Churchill Barriers

The Churchill Barriers were built during WW2 as a result of U-Boat 47 entering Scapa Flow and sinking HMS Royal Oak on 14th October 1939, with the loss of over 830 of her crew. 

The plan was to protect the strategic naval base by blocking the eastern approaches between four of the South Isles – Lambholm, Glimpsholm, Burray and South Ronaldsay. 

The Barriers were built by Balfour Beatty with the initial work carried out by civilian labour, later joined by Italian Prisoners of War when the definition changed so that the Barriers would form a roadway connecting these islands. The concrete blocks used to stabilise the causeway were cast locally from aggregate produced in the quarry to the south of the island transported on a two foot gauge diesel operated tramway. The main 3' steam operated line connected the quarry and the south end of the causeway. Steam cranes did the heavy lifting. An aerial ropeway delivered materials to the work site.


The Churchill Barriers were officially opened on 12th May 1945 by the First Sea Lord A.V. Alexander, creating a road link with the Orkney Mainland. The huge cost of the project meant that it is unlikely to have ever been carried out in peacetime. The Barriers permanently changed life in Burray and South Ronaldsay both socially and economically and have over the years preserved a steady and solid population which would have been unlikely with only a ferry link.

The Red Wheel Plaque is mounted near the entrance of  Barrier View Cafe - with grateful thanks to Celina Rupp. It was formally unveiled by John Cameron CBE and Celina Rupp on 12th May 2023 - the 78th Anniversary of the opening in 1945 .



On the A961 about 300 metres west of the Churchill Barriers.

The plaque is mounted in the entrance of  the Barrier View Cafe which overlooks  No. 1 Churchill Barrier and Lambs Holm, as well as Scapa Flow.

Photo attribution barriets 1,2,3,4: By BillC - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Panorama photo attribution: By Robinson3048 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR