Papa Westray Papa Westray

Papa Westray

Take the world’s shortest scheduled flight and see northern Europe’s oldest house on one of Orkney’s smallest inhabited islands with a big community heart.

Papa Westray is one of the last places in the UK where you can experience being part of a small island community, whether you are on a brief visit or considering settling for longer.

Papay, as it is known locally, is one of the most northerly Orkney isles, just four miles by one and with a population of around 80. You can fly from Kirkwall to Westray and stay onboard for the world’s shortest scheduled flight – at under two minutes in the air to Papay. You’ll get a certificate afterwards. If you stay overnight your fare is vastly discounted. Papay Community Cooperative’s Beltane House offers ensuite rooms or hostel dorms in converted farm cottages with self catering in two kitchens, a large lounge and dining rooms. On Saturday nights this is magically transformed into the Saturday pub with a chance of a good chat and sometimes music. Beltane is also home to a well stocked grocery shop. Nearby is the post office and craft shop. Papay is a Fairtrade island.

Other social events in sociable Papay include the Fun Weekend on the third week of July with a BBQ, ceilidh, games and sports and a carty race doon the New Hooses Brae. There is a Wednesday coffee morning and film and dance nights. Weekly services are held in the Parish Kirk and the Gospel Hall.

The Papay Development Trust is currently working on a series of projects to increase the benefits of tourism for local businesses and crafts people, and to encourage more opportunities for people to live and work in the island. A new heritage project, supported by the Coastal Communities Fund, to develop new facilities for tourists over the next couple of years will provide a boat service to take visitors to the Holm of Papay and around the island coast, a replacement minibus for island tours and will create new craft and heritage centre.

The Trust has also recruited a new Papay Ranger to lead tours and co-ordinate a programme of activities for visitors and islanders during 2015/16. For art lovers there is also the unique Gyro Nights festival every year.

Step inside the Knap of Howar and you are in a structure dating back to 3,500BC. You can access both the two rooms and then carry on along a spectacular cliff path to St Boniface Kirk, a 12th century recently restored church with a Viking hogback grave in the kirkyard. It’s a simple but very atmospheric place. The northern third of Papay is the RSPB’s North Hill reserve with a high population of sea birds in summer and a place to spot the rare Scottish primrose, the primula scotica. The tidal race roars where the Atlantic meets the North Sea. Around to the east side are the beautiful sheltered sandy beaches of North and South Wick where seals will swim along as you walk the shore. St Tredwell’s freshwater loch has a medieval chapel on a peninsula. At Holland House, a traditional steading in the centre of the island, surrounded by cattle grazing, you can visit the Bothy Museum with a range of farmhouse implements and fittings. Papay’s calf island, Holm of Papa has sheep and prehistoric cairns.

As an alternative to flying you can take a twice weekly direct ferry from Kirkwall or a daily foot ferry from Westray in the summer. There are minibus tours and guided walks during the summer season.

Inside Explore Orkney

Tankerness House Gardens at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall


Orkney's capital dates back to Norse times, in the 11th century, when it was called Kirkjuvagr (Church of the bay).

A view of Stromness from Brinkies Brae - image by Fionn McArthur


Stromness poet and author George Mackay Brown once wrote that the town's 'streets uncoiled like a sailor's rope from North to South'. Quaint closes and narrow old streets huddled between stone buildings of historical interest is the delight that is Stromness. Orkney’s second largest town is an architectural gem that inspires artists and writers and is a favourite with visitors.

Sunrise over Mull Head in Orkney - image by Rick Fleet

East Mainland

The area east and south east of Kirkwall is cattle country, with low lying and fertile farmland. Although the East Mainland doesn't have a World Heritage Site, it does have its own nature reserve, sea caves, beaches, historical sites and attractive villages to explore.

Sunrise over a west mainland loch in Orkney

West Mainland

Orkney's West Mainland hosts a collection of some of the finest archaeological sites to be found anywhere in Europe. It's home to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site, and welcomes thousands of visitors every year.

This wind turbine was one of the first installed in the east mainland


Burray is a small island linked to the east mainland of Orkney and South Ronaldsay by the Churchill Barriers. Once only accessible by boat, the farming and fishing community is now linked forever by the causeways.

Hoxa in South Ronaldsay has spectacular views over Scapa Flow

South Ronaldsay

After you cross the fourth and final Churchill Barrier, you'll arrive in the largest settlement outside Kirkwall in the east, the attractive harbour village of St Margaret’s Hope in South Ronaldsay.

A view of Red Head and the Calf of Eday


Eday is at the centre of Orkney’s North Isles and has a rich heritage and history to explore, as well as being at the forefront of research for the modern renewable energy industry.

Wartime defences at Stanger Head in Flotta


Flotta is an island that has changed much over the years. From its role at the very heart of Orkney's military history to the building of the Flotta Oil Terminal in the 1970s, it has always played an important part in our economy and heritage.

Looking across to the Kame in Hoy

Hoy and Graemsay

Hoy is Orkney’s second largest island and dramatically rises from the sea with mountainous moorland and glacial valleys, appearing more like a highland landscape than a typical Orkney low-lying island.

North Ronaldsay's new lighthouse at Dennis Head

North Ronaldsay

The island's unique seaweed eating sheep, an Old Beacon featured on prime time television and the flight path for thousands of migratory birds have all helped put North Ronaldsay on the map.

Rousay boasts a spectacular coastline - image by Max Fletcher

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre host some of Orkney's most magical archaeological and historical sites - with ancient brochs, cairns and tales of Vikings.

An aerial view of the Holms of Ayre in Sanday


Sanday by name and sandy by nature, the largest island of Orkney’s North Isles has beautiful sandy bays and dunes, turquoise seas and a gentle, fertile landscape.

A view of Balfour Castle in Shapinsay


Shapinsay is only a 25-minute ferry ride from Kirkwall but the atmosphere of this small Orkney island can be soaked up even before you step ashore.

A view across to Whitehall pier in Stronsay


Stronsay is a beautiful island to visit and live on with magical sandy beaches backed by dunes, a stunning coastline and a main settlement with grand houses dating back to the herring fishery days.

A view of the Rapness ferry terminal at the south end of Westray


Westray is known as the Queen o’ the Isles and is a vibrant place to live, work and visit.