Westray Westray


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

With a healthy population of 600 including 75 school age children, much of Westray’s recent vitality and prosperity has been nurtured by the Westray Development Trust, formed in 1998 to buck the trend of population decline. Since then the trust has overseen many projects including a youth centre, play area, care centre, craft association, environmental projects and a community wind turbine which creates income for the islanders.

Westray hit the headlines in the summer of 2009 when the carved stone figurine the Orkney Venus, known locally as the Westray Wife, was found. It is Neolithic; the oldest figure of a human found in Scotland and was discovered during the annual archaeological dig at the Links of Noltland. Westray has many other ancient archaeological sites including the Quoygrew Viking longhouse, the 12th century Cross Kirk and Viking remains at Tuquoy and St Mary’s Church, Pierowall. In the Westray Heritage Centre you can see the stunning Westray Stone, a Neolithic carving and other historic treasures and search the archive. Impressive Noltland Castle is an incomplete fortress built in the 16th century by Gilbert Balfour, Mary Queen of Scots’ Sheriff of Orkney. This z-plan castle is open during the day.

Wildlife lovers head for Noup Head, an RSPB reserve along high sea cliffs which is one of Britain’s most important sites for sea birds, known as Seabird City, near the lighthouse. Puffins can be seen from May to August on and around the Castle o’ Burrian sea stack, a former hermitage. There are many seals and cetaceans can often be seen. Salt marshes and maritime heath are a rich habitat for wildflowers.

Pierowall is the main village set on a picturesque bay and nearby Gill Pier has a marina and the ferry for Papa Westray and hosts the annual regatta. There are two general stores, arts and craft shops, a hotel, hostel, a cafe and many B&Bs in Pierowall. Elsewhere there is a gallery and cafe in the north and another general store in the south.

Westray also has a marina with seventeen berths for visiting sailors.

A car ferry from Kirkwall serves Rapness Pier daily and there are flights daily to and from Kirkwall and Papa Westray. Car and bike hire and a taxi service are available, as is a bus service connecting with the Ferry. Westray is also a Fairtrade island.

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.

At the pier in 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.

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.