Papa Westray is one of the Orkney Islands north of mainland Scotland - nearly the northernmost, but North Ronaldsay edges it by half a mile. Papa Westray measures 4 miles north-south and a mile across, and is more low-lying and fertile than nearby Westray. In 2011 it had 90 residents, who usually just call it "Papay", pronounced Papee - the name indicates medieval priests. There's no TIC, but see the island website for info.
By boat: The car ferry sails year-round from Kirkwall on Orkney Mainland, taking 2 hr 15 min. It sails on Tuesdays via Rapness on Westray and on Fridays outward direct but returning via Rapness.
Some 3 to 6 ferries a day link Papa Westray with Pierowall on Westray, taking 25 min, for foot passengers and bicycles only.
Rapness has daily ferries from Kirkwall, so you (but not a car) can reach Papa Westray M-Sa by taking the morning sailing to Rapness, then travelling the six miles across Westray to Pierowall for the ferry to Papa Westray; and vice versa. The single Sunday outbound connection is too tight.
All the ferries land at the 1 south pier at the tip of Papa Westray.
By plane: Twice daily Loganair flights link Kirkwall with Papa Westray. These flights also stop at Westray just across the channel, making it the world's shortest scheduled flight, at just under two minutes duration.
The Loganair flight between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay calls at Papa Westray on some days of the week. The 2 airport (PPW IATA) is midway along the island.
Walk, it's hardly worth bringing a bike here let alone a car.
- 1 Knap of Howar. Always open. This is the oldest standing domestic structure in northern Europe, occupied from about 3700 BC, earlier than Skara Brae. It comprises two thick-walled farm houses with stone furniture. Free.
- Holland Farm. Just south of the airfield in the centre of the island, it has a set of attractive buildings and a small museum. Free.
- 2 St Boniface Church. This dates from the 12th century, built over a 9th-century Pictish settlement and church eroding into the sea. Winfrid Boniface (675-754) was born in Devon but became a leading figure in the early German church, and archbishop of Mainz. He was organising missionary work to the Picts at the time of his murder by robbers, so this is probably why an Orcadian church was dedicated to him. The building was restored in 1993 and remains in use as a church.
- 3 RSPB North Hill Reserve. 24/7. See Arctic terns and other birds from the small hide. In mid-May and again in July the Scottish Primrose (Primula scotica) is in bloom. But it's elusive, and you can't go tramping among the breeding birds - check with the ranger which paths are okay to take. There are guided walks May-Aug: W Sa at 13:30. Free, donations welcome.
- 4 Leaper's Geo is a gully that the sea storms into when the weather is easterly. If anyone ever did try to leap it, he's not been seen since.
- 5 St Tredwell's Chapel is a scrappy ruin on a mound on the east bank of the freshwater St Tredwell's Loch. It's a medieval chapel built over an Iron Age settlement. The 8th century Triduana, Tredwell or Trøllhaena was supposed to have plucked out her own eyes (no doubt in an empowered sort of way) when pestered by a suitor, and spent her later years in Restalrig in Edinburgh healing the blind. She was venerated at various spots including here, and ophthalmic miracles were ascribed to her.
- 6 Holm of Papa is an islet 100 m east of Papa Westray. The Southcairn is a 20-metre-long chambered cairn from 3000 BC, used as a burial place, and with ancient carvings. A modern roof has been added to protect it, enter via the trapdoor. Ask at the Beltane Co-op about boat trips to get there.
- Join the ranger's guided walks.
- Wildlife: bird life and seals are the main features, but always keep looking (including on the ferry), you never know what might come into view.
- Night skies: Papa Westray is free of light pollution so expect starry skies and maybe the aurora borealis on any clear night Sept-April. In summer it's a lost cause as the sky never gets properly dark.
- 1 Papa Westray Hostel, Beltane House KW17 2BU (near airfield), ☏ +44 1857 644224. Open all year, with rooms, pods and camping area - no traditional "dorm" but some rooms shared. Single room £33, double room £55, single pod £28, double pod £50, camping £12.
- Peatwell, firstname.lastname@example.org. Cottage to rent. Bedroom with king bed, sun room has double futon. Jun-Aug £300/week, Sep-May £40/night (min 3 nights).
- Beware Google Map shows a B&B at Backaskaill. They've got the wrong island: it's at Backaskaill on the island of Sanday.
Eat, drink and buy
Beltane Co-operative is the only amenity on the island - you can buy food and drink here to cook next door in the hostel.
As of Oct 2021, the island has patchy mobile coverage from O2 and Three, but no signal from EE or Vodafone.
- Westray can be reached without returning to the Mainland. It has sea stacks and cliffs and a 16th-century castle.
- North Ronaldsay can likewise be reached direct by air on some days of the week.
- Kirkwall is where all inter-island routes eventually return.