The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Glimps Holm

The small island of Glimps Holm lies between Burray and Lambholm and is connected to them by the second and third of the Churchill Barriers.

Looking over Glimps Holm. (c) SFLPS.

The first known mention of the island is in a book, Descripto Insularum Orchadiarum, written around 1529.

Author Jo Ben tells us: "Robert, Bishop of Orkney with consent of the provost and canons of the chapter, grants a nineteen years tack of the lands and isles of Burray, Flattay, Swinnay with the holms of Swethey, Glumholm, Hunday and Calf of Flatty together with their teind sheaves, all lying in the lordship of Orkney, to an honourable woman Dame Barbara Stewart, Lady of Lewis, Margaret Sinclair, her daughter, and James Tulloch, future spouse to the said Margaret, the heirs to be procreated between them, and their assignees and subtenants to be admitted with the Bishop’s express consent. The lands with their pertinents are to be held as freely, quietly etc as the said Dame Barbara presently and formerly possesses or possessed them, with the liberty of holding courts and administering justice in lesser courses between the tenants and occupants of the said lands.

"The granters here to pay £60 scots yearly, 24 straw baskets each containing 100 little fishes or 500 bigger fishes, and 80 pairs of rabbits if they can be found, or if not, fourpence for each pair: together with the furing and flitting usual and customery."

There are many rabbits on the island today so it may not have been difficult to find 80 pairs.

The pier is falling into decay. (c) SFLPS.

During World War II the island was a hive of activity when work began building the Churchill Barriers.

After HMS Royal Oak was sunk, Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided that all entrances to Scapa Flow should be permanently sealed. Barrier No 1 was to block the sound between Holm and Lambs Holm. Barrier No 2 was to run between Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm, and No 3 was to run between Glimps Holm and Burray. Barrier No 4 was to block Water Sound, connecting Burray to South Ronaldsay.

Piers had to be built in a hurry so crowbars were used to prize rocks from the shore. These piers had to be well built as machinery, equipment, men and goods were to be landed. A stone and wooden pier was built on the island of Glimps Holm and a camp was built just above it to house the workers. The pier was a busy place with lots of activity. Air raid shelters, the roofs are wonderfully constructed. (c) SFLPS.Above the pier are the foundations and remains of the accommodation huts. There are also two air-raid shelters which are still in good condition. The floors of the shelters were flagged and the ceilings made from red brick - to some, reminiscent of St Magnus Cathedral. There were openings on either side for a hasty entry and exit.

A short railway track was laid to transport the equipment and materials needed for building the barriers. Today it is possible to see an artificial mound and a flat area where some of the tracks were laid. Artificial mound with line of former railway track through the middle. (c) SFLPS.

 Engine shed in foreground with second barrier and Lambholm in background

The Locomotive Shed, pictured above, lies close to the line of the former track. It is thought this housed the machinery that drove the wagons, although an expert in this period may say otherwise.

Near Barrier No 3 are the remains of some of the supports for a mast which was used in the building of the barriers.

Today, Glimpsholm is easily taken for granted as residents and tourists drive through on their way to the next barrier. However, it is worth remembering what an important part it played while the barriers were being built.