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

Westray

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Westray is a small island, part of Scotland's Orkney Islands. Its two settlements are Rapness, the ferry port near its south end, and the larger Pierowall in the north. A lane stretches the six miles between them. Westray is about 12 miles north of Mainland Orkney and has similar terrain of red sandstone bounded by great sea cliffs and fertile green fields with cattle. Farming and fishing are the main occupations, with only a small tourist presence.

Noup Head

Get in[edit]

Ferry at Whale Geo pier, Westray

By boat: Orkney Ferries sail between Kirkwall and 1 Rapness two or three times a day May-Sept, taking 90 mins. This ferry takes cars. Tuesday & Friday it continues from Rapness to Papa Westray, and on Tuesday to North Ronaldsay. Oct-April there's only one or two sailings per day. In Jan & Feb 2020 this ferry will be out of action for a refit, the replacement service hasn't been announced.

Some 3 to 6 ferries a day (May-Sept) link Pierowall with Papa Westray, taking 25 mins, for foot passengers & bicycles only. To travel between the islands Oct-April, or with a car, you need the Tuesday (+/- Friday) car ferry from Rapness.

By plane: Twice daily Loganair flights link Kirkwall with Westray. The 2 airport is at the north tip of the island two miles from Pierowall. These flights also stop at Papa Westray just across the channel, making it the world's shortest scheduled flight at just under two minutes duration.

Understand[edit]

World's shortest scheduled flight: what does that mean? First, it means commercial aviation: private aircraft larking about their aero club, or Australian farmers checking their far-flung stock, don't count. Second, it means a point-to-point service that you can buy a ticket for. For instance in Kenya in the Masai Mara wildlife reserve, the planes make short low-altitude hops between any safari camps that have travellers that day, before heading back to Nairobi. But you can't buy a ticket between those camps, as effectively they're just separate terminals of a single destination. Third, it means a regular scheduled service: it might be fun to charter a big plane to recreate Orville Wright's first powered flight of 12 seconds, with everyone gussied up in 1903 period costume, but you couldn't claim this particular record.

The Westray-Papa Westray hop is part of a triangular flight coming out from Kirkwall then immediately returning, so normally all passengers are going to and from the Orkney Mainland. Nevertheless you can buy a ticket just for the hop, costing £17. As with the other inter-Orkney flights, you can't book this online, so either fill in the online booking request or phone Loganair. That's because they give priority to residents and essential travellers, so they may need to know the nature of your trip. "Wanting to fly the world's shortest route" is a perfectly acceptable reason but you'll appreciate you may get bumped if someone urgently needs to visit the dentist.

This flight has operated since 1967 and used to be in just one direction, Westray to Papa Westray, but nowadays it's both. The flight is scheduled for two minutes but is often less, and the record stands at 53 seconds. If you're collecting these things, the world's second-shortest air route is probably between Stronsay and Sanday, at five minutes. Several other inter-Orkney routes are scheduled for ten minutes, but don't expect dinner and a movie.

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

A minibus from M&J Harcus +44 1857 677450, can be arranged to meet the ferry at Rapness to take you to Pierowall and vice versa. Telephone in advance or arrange on the ferry.

By Bike[edit]

Cycling is a good way to get around the island. Hire can be arranged by:

  • Sand O'Gill, Pierowall, +44 1857 677374.
  • Twiness, +44 1857 677319.
  • Rapness Manse, Rapness +44 1857 677494.

See[edit]

Noltland Castle
  • Lady Kirk in Pierowall is the ruin of a church built in 1674, with interesting gravestones around.
  • 1 Noltland Castle (a mile west of Pierowall). Daily Apr-Sept 09:30-17:30, Oct-Mar 10:00-16:00. Remains of castle, built late 16th C but burned down in the 17th. Free. Noltland Castle (Q1965066) on Wikidata Noltland Castle on Wikipedia
  • Wheeling Steen is an art gallery at Aikerness, half a mile from the airport. It's open M-Sa 13:00-17:00.
  • 2 Noup Head, 3 miles north-west of Pierowall, has impressive cliffs, a lighthouse and headland, home to thousands of birds including guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and puffins.

Do[edit]

  • Visit the Westray Heritage Trust in Pierowall for traditional crafts and displays on island life, plus small cafe. It's open May-Sept M 11:30-17:00, Tu-Sa 09:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00, Su 13:30-17:00. Adults £3.

Buy[edit]

There are a couple of mini-markets in Pierowall to stock up in. There is also a potters in Pierowall.

  • Royal Bank of Scotland, Pierowall. W 09:15-12:00, 13:00-14:45. Bank branch, but only open one day a week, and no ATM.
  • Hume Sweet Hume, Pierowall. M Th 10:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00, Tu W F Sa 10:00-13:00, Su 14:30-16:30. Knitwear and souvenir shop.
  • W I Rendall, Pierowall, KW17 2DH. M-F 08:30-18:00, Sa 09:00-18:00. General grocers, with "Groatie Buckies" cafe.

Eat & Drink[edit]

  • Pierowall Hotel (see "Sleep") has good bar food. Serving May-Sept 12:00-14:00 & 17:00-20:30; Tues evening residents only but does takeaway to 19:30. Oct-Apr 12:00-13:30 & 18:00-20:00.
  • 1 Jack's Chippy (Pierowall Fish Ltd), Broughton KW17 2DA. W & Sa 16:30-19:30. Wholesale fishmonger, runs "Jacks" fish and chip shop two evenings per week.
  • Richans Retreat is an offbeat cafe next to Rapness ferry pier, open daily 08:30-18:30.

Sleep[edit]

  • 1 Pierowall Hotel, Pierowall (half mile south of jetty), +44 1857 677472. Decent 3-star hotel, has recently changed owner. B&B double £100.
  • 2 Chalmersquoy, Broughton KW17 2BZ (south end of Pierowall, a mile from jetty), +44 1857 677420. Welcoming, well-run place with campsite (tent or caravan for two £16), hostel (dorm £24 ppn), B&B (double from £80). Self-catering is Sat-Sat in Ben End sleeps 4/5 (£350), in the Apartment sleeps 3 / 4 (£300).
  • Kilnmans Cottage, Pierowall (just west of Chalmerquoy), +44 7440 158814. Self-catering cottage sleeping 4. Sat-Sat £300 per week.

Stay safe[edit]

Bad weather is the chief hazard, and take care near the cliffs.

Go next[edit]

  • Papa Westray - get away from it even more on a trip to the neighbouring island.
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