Getting to Orkney

Getting to Scapa itself is dependant on where you are coming from. There are two basic ways of doing it if you chose to drive here.

Gareth Lock about to dive Scapa Flow

Gareth Lock about to dive Scapa Flow


The Scrabster – Stromness Ferry is the most popular and probably the most straight forward way of doing this trip. Scrabster is the port itself, Thurso is the town just up the hill from it. Thurso has a good selection of shops, pubs, bars and a nightclub.

There are a plethora of places to stay.

The Ferry from Scrabster to Stromness.

The route is operated by Northlink Ferries, and you can book on as a group. You can leave your cars on the mainland, there is a pay and display car park, or a few free spaces on the roadside if you are quick! Cost is around £42 per person return. If you book on as a group you can book two containers (one per 6 divers) container for all your equipment. These are delivered to the ferry terminal and will be full of kit belonging to divers who are returning from Orkney.

As you approach the terminal itself you will see to the right an area for cars to wait to board the ferry. To the left is a weigh bridge and large open tarmac area. This is where the containers are dropped off. Please allow the other divers to unload their kit. The ferry is hardly going to leave without you since you have a load of their containers, there is no hurry! The long stay car park is opposite the Ferry Inn, and costs around £25 per week per vehicle. However, there are a few free spaces along the roadside, but these are totally at your own risk. Once you have your kit loaded, go and park your car and head back to the ferry terminal.

The ferry is large and comfortable, with onboard bar and café. Dependant on the weather, the ferry will either head to the west of Hoy, where you can see the Old Man Of Hoy, or if it is rough, will head East and actually sail up through the flow.

Once in Stromness, the ferry terminal is close to the harbour where all the dive boats reside. The containers with your kit will be unloaded and left in the car park next to the ferry terminal, but again, there is no massive hurry. The containers have wheels on them, so you can wheel them around the harbour to the boat and stow all your stuff. Please return the empty containers to the terminal.

Ash following a scallop hunt!

Ash following a scallop hunt!

The ferry from Gills Bay to St Margret’s Hope

This route is operated by Pentland Ferries with their new vessel, the MV Pentalina, a fast catamaran. The journey is far shorter than the Northlink crossing, therefore taking under an hour to do.

However, St Margaret’s Hope is around 45 mins drive from Stromness, so be aware that you will not be able to simply walk to the boat from the ferry terminal!

The ferry from Aberdeen to Kirkwall.

This is a much longer crossing time as you have to sail up the side of the mainland first. You will arrive into Kirkwall and you need to get all your kit etc over to Stromness – around a 20 minute drive. Taxi’s and mini busses are easily available, but I would recommend booking well ahead. The main advantage to doing the trip this way is that it can be done by public transport – train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, and then Ferry.

Be aware that from early 2008 Northlink require photo-ID as a security precaution for each person travelling.

Getting here – Shetland

Northlink run the only ferry service to Shetland. The MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland run from Aberdeen via Kirkwall to Lerwick during the summer months. Secure parking is available in Aberdeen for a reasonable amount. You will need to contact Northlink and tell them you are a party of divers and require a baggage container for your equipment – they can be a little bit funny about this, but insist that it is a regular thing and you will get somewhere eventually! The ferry is very large for this journey, with several decks, a cinema, restaurant and shop. You can book a cabin aboard for the overnight journey to Lerwick. All cabins are en-suite. You will arrive in Lerwick at around 0730hrs the next day and load your equipment into a taxi (they have small minibus ones which are very handy) and it’s a 10 minute ride to where the boat is tied up – usually in the Albert Dock or Victoria Pier – they are both next to each other and the taxi guys will usually know where we are – there are seldom more than two dive boats in Lerwick at once.

Leaving on the Friday evening ferry, you book a cabin and wake up at 0730hrs in Aberdeen, early enough to miss the rush hour!

Be aware that from early 2008 Northlink require photo-ID as a security precaution for each person travelling.


    Looking for more adventure?  During the summer months of 2018 & 2022 our itinerary took us to the stunning fjords of Norway.  Based in Bergen for changeovers, our Norway trips travelled North through the myriad of islands and narrow fjords, to Sonnefjord and beyond… We will be going to Norway again in 2025.  We have limited spaces left for June and July 2025.  Get in touch for more information.

    Picture by Guilhem Duprat.