Westray and Papa Westray

Westray, the ‘Queen O The Isles’ and it’s neighbour, Papa Westray, though remote are both extremely rewarding islands to visit, because of the wealth of sites to visit. Westray is an island rich with farmland, and has beautiful beaches and seabird cliffs to the North.

One boat goes out in a storm
And the sea
Brims it with silver.

Another boat, another day
And the old mother
Bruises it with denial and rage.

George Mackay Brown, Orkney Pictures and Poems
Grobust beach in Westray, Orkney

The Castle o’ Burrian is also known as the best place in Orkney to get close to a puffin (from April to July) or to see the rare flower Primula Scotica.

Papa Westray is a smaller island which can be reached by boat or plane (the flight from Westray is the shortest scheduled flight in the world – taking only two minutes from take-off to landing).

The Knap of Howar in Papa Westray, Orkney

Here you will find remote and beautiful beaches, superb walks and at the Knap of Howar, the oldest surviving houses in Northern Europe.

Noup Head in Westray, Orkney

Sites in Westray worth a visit include:

  1. Noup Head – an impressive cliff in the north west of Westray, Noup Head teams with seabirds. It is also a good location for seal spotting and has an impressive lighthouse.
  2. The Castle O’ Burrian – a short walk from the car park to the rock stack at the Castle of Burrian will put you merely metres from Orkney and Shetland’s most famous birds – puffins. These live in grassy burrows, but only stay in the islands for a short period of time – between April and July.
  3. Pierowall – the main village in Westray curves round Pierowall bay and has plenty to occupy the visitor, from a swimming pool to craft shops to superb (fresh) fish and chips!
  4. Noltland Castle – a 16th Century castle built (but not finished) by Gilbert Balfour. Noltland Castle is found close to Pierowall and is a great building to explore.
Noltland Castle in Westray in the Orkney islands

Then, whoever had bruised or blinded eye
Walked round the shore of Tredwell loch
Seven times, sunward,

And, for the gift of sight
left a small coin on the chapel step.

George Mackay Brown, Orkney Pictures and Poems

Sites in Papa Westray worth a visit include:

  1. The Knap of Howar – two oblong houses, which are the oldest in Northern Europe, outdating even Skara Brae. Unlike Skara Brae, the visitor can enter the buildings and get a feel for life between 3700 and 2800BC.
  2. St Boniface Kirk – a recently refurbished church from the 12th Century, St Boniface Church is a short walk from the Knap of Howar.
  3. Fowl Craig – low seabird cliffs in the north of Papa Westray, which are the site of the killing of the last Great Auk in Britain.
South Wick in Papa Westray, Orkney

Top tips

  • Try and catch a weekend dance in Westray or Papa Westray – traditional Scottish dances that have died out elsewhere are still danced in the Isles.
  • The Castle of Burrian is known as the best place in Orkney to see puffins – you can get as close as a few metres away from these comical birds if you are quiet and do not make any sudden moves.