Papa Westray is one of the Orkney Islands north of mainland Scotland. It's about 4 miles north-south and a mile across, and is more low-lying and fertile than nearby Westray. It's usually just called "Papay", pronounced Papee, by its 90 residents. There's no TIC, but see the island website for info.
By boat: One car ferry on Tuesdays and Fridays sails between Kirkwall on Orkney Mainland and Papa Westray, calling also at Rapness on Westray and on Tuesdays at North Ronaldsay. In Jan & Feb 2020 this ferry will be out of action for a refit, the replacement service hasn't been announced.
May-Sept some 3 to 6 ferries a day link Papa Westray with Pierowall on Westray, taking 25 mins. This ferry is for foot passengers & bicycles only. Oct-April it doesn't run so the Tuesday car ferry is the only link.
The ferry from Kirkwall to Rapness on Westray is daily May-Sept, so you (but not a car) can get here any day by sailing to Rapness, then travelling the six miles across Westray to Pierowall for the ferry to Papa Westray; and vice versa.
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 commercial 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 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 C 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. May-Aug there are guided walks at 13:30 Weds & Sats. Free, donations welcome.
- The scrappy remains of 4 St Tredwell's Chapel are 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.
- 5 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.
- 1 Papa Westray Hostel, Beltane House KW17 2BU (near airfield), ☏ . Open all year, with rooms, pods and camping area - no traditional "dorm" but some rooms shared. Single room £33, double £55, pods £28 single £50 double, camping £12.
- Peatwell, ✉ email@example.com. Cottage to rent. Bedroom with king bed, sun room has double futon. Jun-Aug £300 / week, Sept-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
The Beltane Co-operative is the only amenity on the island - you can buy food and drink here to cook next door in the hostel.
This is probably one of the safest places on the planet with friendly natives and no crime, rabies, snakes, corrupt police, insane drivers, dodgy electrical systems, drug dealers, foreign exchange touts, air pollution, ozone holes or horrible tropical diseases.
You'll probably have to return to Kirkwall. But you can get to Westray, and on one day a week there's a ferry to North Ronaldsay.