Set sail for your own desert island

Tick another island off your list with a special boat trip to the Holm of Papay in Orkney

Have you ever wanted to explore a desert island?

How about one with its own underground Neolithic cairn?

Well, you can now take island hopping to new extremes in Orkney, thanks to the community in Papa Westray.

The residents of this beautiful place, one of our north isles, have invested in a brand-new boat to take visitors on a cruise to the uninhabited Holm of Papay. This tiny island off Papay’s east coast has always been a much sought-after destination for visitors, keen to explore its wildlife and archaeology, but only now has it become possible to reach it on a regular basis.

Papay Ranger Jonathan Ford at the helm of 'The Dunter'


The Papay Development Trust began operating regular summer trips to the Holm last year after taking delivery of its fully-insured and MCA coded boat, ‘The Dunter’. Trained skippers take you across to the island, steaming over clean and clear blue seas and up onto the shore.

Watch our video to find out more about the Papay Boat Trips

The Holm of Papay measures in at just 1km long but features one of the most intriguing historical sites in the islands. The sixty-seven-foot subterranean South Cairn dates back to the Neolithic and features carved decorations and 14 separate chambers. It really is a fascinating place to explore – and you’re guaranteed to have the place to yourself too (well, along with your fellow passengers on ‘The Dunter’)!

Visitors on the Holm of Papay


That’s not the only attraction of the Holm though. It’s an island teeming with wildlife! You’ll see seals and seabirds en-route and your guide will help point out different species and the perfect places to spot them.

Passengers will also get the chance to see the Papa Westray coastline and its natural features, and who knows, passing whales and porpoises might get in on the act too.

Seals on the shore in Papa Westray


The boat trips are a really special addition to a stay in Papa Westray, which has been doing a lot in recent years to attract visitors. Combine your visit with a ‘Papay Peedie Tour’, which run on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between the beginning of May and the end of August. The local island ranger, Jonathan Ford, will take you on a guided tour of the island’s archaeological and natural heritage – including a walk to the 5,000-year-old Knap of Howar, the oldest standing houses in northern Europe.

You can also enjoy a delicious lunch at the Kelp Store Craft & Heritage Centre before working it all off with a trek to the RSPB North Hill reserve, where you’ll see Primula scotica and puffins during the summer months. Private tours are also available from the end of August throughout the year.

Find out more and discover how to book a place on a Papay Peedie Tour. Bikes can also be hired to help you explore the island further and excellent accommodation is available at the Beltane House Hostel.

So why not head north and make island hopping your Orkney holiday highlight!


Boat trips to the Holm of Papay are weather dependant. To book or to find out more, phone 07931 235 213, contact the Papay Ranger on Facebook or email papayranger@gmail.com

Find out more about Papa Westray and visit the official island website.

Follow the Papay Ranger on Facebook and Instagram for updates on activities and events in the island.

The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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