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Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > Scotland > Orkney Islands > Shapinsay


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Shapinsay is one of the smaller Orkney Islands, a short ferry ride from Mainland Orkney, with its main settlement at the village of Balfour. The castle can't be visited but there are several prehistoric sites.

Get in[edit]

Orkney Ferries ply to Shapinsay from Kirkwall on Mainland. The ferry is a small roll-on, roll-off ferry for vehicles and foot passengers and takes about 30 min. In summer there are six sailings daily and day-trips are easily possible.

Get around[edit]

At about 6 km by 5 km, you can reach most sights on foot. A bike would come in useful though.


  • 1 Balfour Castle, +44 1856 872856. Closed. Impressive 19th-century castle in Scottish Baronial style. It has operated as an upmarket hotel and wedding venue, with occasional guided tours. However it's now a private dwelling and is closed to the public. You can admire the Gatehouse, and the house facade from a distance - indeed it's visible from Kirkwall. Balfour Castle (Q4850755) on Wikidata Balfour Castle on Wikipedia
  • 2 Burroughston Broch is a well-preserved Iron Age broch, with thick dry-stone walls and an interior chamber. It's on the north-east corner of Shapinsay, 4 miles from the ferry pier, follow Hillock Road. Nearby on the north tip of the island, the Geo of Ork is a deep cleft in the cliff face.
  • Other remains are the Mor Stein, a 3-metre neolithic standing stone in the south-east of the island; Linton Chapel a 12th-century ruin on the east coast, and nearby Castle Bloody a neolithic chamber.
  • Helliar Holm, the uninhabited islet enclosing the harbour at Balfour, has a lighthouse and the remains of a broch, cairn and chapel. It's tidal but only just, you'll need a spring low tide to walk across, but then how to get back? Seek local advice before trying.


  • Milldam RSPB Reserve 1 km from the port, the bird hide overlooks a peaceful lake, once used to power a mill.


  • 1 Thomas Sinclair, Shoreside, Shapinsay, KW17 2GG. A general store and bakery.


  • 1 The Smithy, Balfour Village, +44 1856 711258. Daily 10:00-17:00. Moderately priced good food, would make a good lunchtime trip out from Kirkwall. Tables on the seafront too. With various exhibits about the history of the island.



  • Self-catering accommodation may be available at nearby Iona Cottage.

Go next[edit]

Back to Kirkwall and the Mainland is the only option.

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