Walls and Flotta

   WALLS and FLOTTA, a parish, mostly in the island of Hoy, South Isles of the county of Orkney, 9 miles (W. by S.) from South Ronaldshay, and 16 (S. S. W.) from Kirkwall; containing 1558 inhabitants. This parish, of which the name, anciently Valis or Waes, is of doubtful origin, consists of the southern or Walls part of the island of Hoy, the islands of Flotta and Pharay, and the uninhabited isles of Little Rysay, Flotta-Calf, and Switha; it is bounded on the north by the parish of Hoy, on the east by Scalpa Flow, and on the south and west by the Pentland Frith. The southern portion of Walls is nearly separated from the rest by the inland bay of Longhope, which intersects the district for almost five miles in a direction from east to west; it is connected with the northern portion only by an isthmus 200 feet in breadth at low-water, and at high-water of spring-tides is completely insulated. The eastern coast of Walls is indented by several small bays, of which the principal are, Ore Hope to the north, and Kirkhope to the south, of the bay of Longhope. The western coast is distinguished by the lofty promontory of the Berry rock, projecting into the Atlantic, and forming, with Dunnet head on the Caithness coast, with which it corresponds in feature and in character, the two majestic columns that guard the entrance into the Pentland Frith. The extent of coast bounded by the Frith is about twelve miles, the whole of which is elevated, abruptly steep, and in many parts worn into fanciful caverns by the action of the waves, which rush with resistless violence from the Atlantic. The island of Flotta is situated to the east of Longhope bay, and is bounded on the north by Scalpa Flow, and on the south by the Pentland Frith; it is nearly three miles in length and in some parts about two miles in breadth, and is solely the property of the Earl of Zetland. The coast is less precipitous than that of Walls, and on the east side is an excellent harbour, called Panhope, from some salt-pans formerly established there. Pharay is situated to the north-west of Flotta, and surrounded by Scalpa Flow; it is about two miles in length, and nearly one mile in breadth, and entirely the property of Mr. Heddle. The islands which are uninhabited afford only pasture for sheep and cattle: Little Rysay is to the east of Walls, between the main land and the island of Pharay; Flotta-Calf is to the north-east of Flotta, and Switha to the south of Flotta, and east of Longhope bay.
   The number of acres cannot with any degree of precision be ascertained; there are supposed to be about 2000 acres of arable land, and about 1000 in pasture, the remainder being principally undivided common and waste. The surface in Walls is diversified with hills, though in Flotta comparatively level; the scenery is generally of a bold and romantic character, and the view from the higher grounds extensive, embracing features of grandeur and sublimity. The system of agriculture, though far from being perfect, has been much improved by Mr. Heddle, on his lands at Melsetter; and considerable tracts of waste have been reclaimed and brought into profitable cultivation. The principal crops are oats and bear, with potatoes; little more is raised than is necessary for home consumption, but the quality is quite equal, and in many instances superior, to that of the produce of other lands in the county. The commons afford tolerable pasture to flocks of sheep, which graze at large upon the hills; and the cattle, which are of the black Highland breed, are also numerous, and thrive well: the horses, though larger than those of Shetland, are small, but hardy and active. The rocks are principally of the sandstone formation, and intersected by amygdaloid interspersed with whindykes, and by argillaceous schist: the extensive tracts of peat-moss furnish fuel for exportation. There is little or no timber, though in some parts are small plantations and shrubberies, and the gardens produce apples, pears, plums, currants, gooseberries, and strawberries, which ripen well. Melsetter is an ancient mansion, beautifully situated at the western extremity of Longhope bay, and commanding a fine view of the entrance of the Pentland Frith, and of the Caithness coast, with the lofty mountains of Sutherland in the distance. The Frith affords an ample supply of excellent fish of various kinds. The cod found here are in high estimation; and several fishing-smacks, with wells for preserving them on the voyage, are employed for the supply of the London markets, whither, also, most of the lobsters taken here are forwarded. The herring-fishery is likewise carried on to a large extent by the fishermen of this place, who at the proper season repair to the principal stations; and the fish called sillocks are generally plentiful, affording when young a nutritious food, and of which the liver produces a considerable quantity of oil. The platting of straw is pursued by part of the female population at their own dwellings; but there is no other manufacture, the inhabitants being mostly employed either in agriculture or in the fisheries. There is no village. The post is regular, and the mail is conveyed by a boat to St. Margaret's Hope, in the parish of South Ronaldshay.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Cairston and synod of Orkney. The minister's stipend, including £8. 6. 8. for communion elements, is £158. 6. 8., part of which is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £8 per annum: the patronage is claimed by the Earl of Zetland, and also by Mr. Heddle. Divine service, for some time after the union of the two parishes, was performed by one minister both at Walls and Flotta; but owing to the difficulty of communication between them, from the insular situation of the latter, an ordained missionary has been stationed in Flotta, who is supported by the General Assembly, the people of Flotta, the Earl of Zetland, and the minister of Walls. The church of Walls was erected in 1832, and contains 500 sittings; that of Flotta, of much earlier date, contains only 180 sittings, which are inadequate to the accommodation of the inhabitants of that place, and of those of the island of Pharay, who attend divine service there. There are two parochial schools in Walls; the masters have each a salary of £25. A third school is partly endowed; and a school in the island of Flotta is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. There are some remains of ancient fortifications, thrown up most probably during the hostilities between the inhabitants of Caithness and the people of Orkney, while the latter were subject to the kings of Denmark; the principal are on a rock near the house of Snelsetter, anciently called the House of Walls. There are also some remain of what appear to have been chapels, and several tumuli, none of which, however, have been explored.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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