A sweep through rolling hills into Orkney's capital Kirkwall
On the 14th of October 1939 the German submarine U47 slipped through Kirk Sound and torpedoed the battleship HMS Royal Oak. 834 men died. Sealing the defences became the top priority and work began on the barriers. Italian prisoners of war were used for much of the work but according to the Geneva Convention they could not be used for war work so the barriers were designated causeways providing road links to the southern isles.
Camp 60 on Lamb Holm was for much of the war home for 550 Italian prisoners of war. The Italians were given permission to convert two Nissen Huts into a chapel and this became an extraordinary display of artistry. You should not cycle past without visiting.
The route described here is part of the multi-country North Sea Cycle Route and the National Cycle Network and are being signed as Route 1 with blue cycle signs.
From South Ronaldsay continue north to Burray. An easy cycle of around 3 miles from St Margaret's Hope takes you across Churchill Barrier No.4. The Churchill Barriers were built during the Second World War to protect the fleet at anchor in Scapa Flow and to link the South Isles in a defensive chain.
Just above the Echna Loch in Burray is the Fossil Centre which has a cafe. Up around the corner, head for Barrier No.3 and across Glimps Holm to Barrier No.2 and The Italian Chapel, on Lamb Holm. Construction of the Barriers was completed in 1945 with help from Italian prisoners of war who transformed one of their Nissen huts to a place of worship. The Chapel is a national treasure which is on the right just before Barrier No.1. Crossing the last Barrier takes you on to St Mary's village in the Parish of Holm.
A rolling ride along the Holm and Gaitnip approaches to Scapa Bay and into Kirkwall (A961). A mile out of the village, you start to climb up to Gutterpool and round to the Holm Straights, a straight rolling road about 2.5 miles long. There are fine views of across the island to the west and north, including across the environs of Kirkwall.
Coming down the hill into Kirkwall the Highland Park Distillery and Visitor Centre is first on your right. Follow the road downhill into the town centre (A963), go straight ahead at the roundabout, and you will see a cycling supplies shop on your right.
Carrying on past the new Kirkwall Library on your left, take the next right turn along Castle Street, into the old heart of Kirkwall, where you will see the Tourist Information Centre, close by the red sandstone cathedral of St Magnus, the Earl's and Bishop's Palaces, and the Orkney Museum at Tankerness House. Use the Tourist Information Centre to find a wealth of information on accommodation, attractions and events in Orkney.