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
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