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World | UK | Scotland | Diving Scapa:

Scapa Flow overview



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Scapa Flow dive site map

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Scuba Diving in Scapa Flow, Scotland, UK, Europe

Water temperature:

4°C (39°F) in April to 14°C (57°F) in September


A drysuit is highly recommended


10 - 30 metres (30 - 100 feet)

Type of diving:

Mostly wreck dives

Marine life:

Seals, wrasse, conger eels, jellysfish, crabs, sea urchins, brittle stars, starfish, sponges

When to go:

June to September if you don't like cold water!

How to get there:

By Air - British Airways and Loganair fly scheduled services to Kirkwall Airport Monday to Saturday from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick

By Ferry - P&O Ferries operate a daily car ferry from Scrabster near Thurso and weekly from Aberdeen and Shetland to Stromness

By Car - Head North through Scotland to the A9. There is a car ferry from John O' Groats to St Margarets Hope or Kirkwall

Standing stone on the Orkneys, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Scapa FLow, the Orkneys, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Lighthouse at scapa flow, the Orkneys, Scotland - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

Scapa Flow lies in the beautiful and remote Orkney Islands just across from the most northerly point of mainland Scotland. It is famous for the wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet that were scuttled here at the end of World War I. There are seven wrecks from the fleet, plus a number of other smaller wrecks that sank under different circumstances. Together these definitely put Scapa in the top ten dive sites of the world. The sheer size of the German wrecks makes for awesome diving. The biggest of the fleet are the three battleships: the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the Markgraf and the Konig, all 177 metres long and weighing 26,000 tons. Because most of the weight of the battleships is on the deck, these have turned over whilst sinking, leaving the hull exposed and most of the deck buried. On these and all the rest of the fleet, huge guns protrude from the wreckage, sometimes with a conger lurking in the barrel. Other life includes wrasse, brittle stars, large jellysfish, sea urchins, sponges and starfish, which are often seen on the wrecks and in the kelp forests nearby. You will also find seals on the surface, although these are timid around divers.

A weeks diving in Scapa Flow will allow you to dive the entire fleet at least once as well as dive other gems such as the James Barrie. The visibility is exquisite for UK waters although it can be gloomy at depth so a torch is essential. The wrecks mostly lie over 30 metres, so Scapa is not ideal for novice divers. It may also be advisable to use twin cylinders and nitrox as long bottom times are needed in order to traverse the length of these giants. A reminder to the potential danger of diving these wrecks is also present in the form of a plaque devoted to a diver who died on the Coln in 1999. Don't let this put you off however, as the Coln is Clare Slightam's (dive site directory) favourite dive of all time.

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