Westray Castle & Sand Cycle

This simple route lets you explore some of Westray's highlights in a relatively straightforward style.

It begins in the island’s main settlement of Pierowall, heading first west to Noltland Castle, before taking a circular route south to one of Westray’s finest hidden beaches.

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The route is designed to suit active families or those of modest fitness who don’t fancy cycling all the way from the pier, which is at the very southern tip of the island, and might instead opt to get the bus and hire a pre-booked bike in the village.

Begin at W.I. Rendall’s shop in Pierowall where, at the time of writing, bikes are available to hire (do note that you need to provide your own helmet). Head south, back through the village, turning right immediately after the school to rise up a shallow brae. At the top of the brae turn right then left, following the road for around 500m to reach Noltland Castle.

This island stronghold was built in the 16th century by Gilbert Balfour from Fife, a man deeply implicated in the intrigue and tragedy surrounding the life of Mary Queen of Scots. A fine spiral staircase leads to the upper levels.

Back on the bike, retrace your outward route to the school before turning right to head south through the village. After following the contour of the bay, the road takes a sharp turn to the right. Around 100m beyond this take the side road that leads off to the right, signposted Westside.

A steady but gentle incline carries on for around 2km, with fine views initially over Loch Saintear before you reap the benefits with a long, gentle downhill run after passing near the summit of Gallowhill. At the low point in the road, you pass the wetlands surrounding the Burn o’ Cheor, home to a wealth of birdlife.

Follow the road as it rises and falls a little for a further 1km until you arrive at a T-junction. Turn right here and follow the road for around 2km as it curves left towards the coast. Just before you reach a group of old farm buildings, leave the bikes alongside the small carpark and carry on by foot, passing through a gate around 50m further on at a bend in the road. Descend along the path to the beautiful Mae Sands, looking out across the Westray Firth.

Return to the bike and head back along the road you came on for around 2.5km. As you come to the top of the brae, immediately opposite a red phone box on your left (now home to an emergency defibrillator), turn right to head downhill, passing the head of the Bay of Tuquoy, a shallow bay whose sand flats extend for around a mile at low water. At the eastern side of the bay there’s a small area of marshy wetland – another good spot for birdwatchers.

Keep following the road east then northeast for a further 1km before arriving at a junction with the island’s main road. Turn left and cycle the last 3km back to Pierowall. Our Pierowall Circular walking route covers much of the early parts of this cycle, including the village, Noltland Castle and Grobust.

  • Plan your trip to Westray

    Daily ferries connect Westray and Kirkwall. View timetables and book online via the Orkney Ferries website. Booking in advance is recommended, and bikes can be carried for free.

    You can also fly to the island with Loganair's inter-isles service. The route can sometimes stop off in Papa Westray, giving you the chance to experience the world's shortest scheduled flight. Visit the Loganair website to view the current timetable.

    There is a local bus service which meets every ferry arrival and operates on request throughout the island, and Rendall's Shop offers a taxi service.

    Public toilets are available at Rapness Ferry Terminal, in Pierowall village and at Gill Pier.

    Find out more about Westray on the island's Explore page, or visit the official island website.

  • Food & drink

    There are three well-stocked local shops offering a wide selection of food and drink, W. I. Rendall's and J. C. Tulloch's in Pierowall, and Peter Miller Merchants on the east coast of the island. W. I. Rendall's also has the Groatiebuckies Café, while the Wheeling Steen Gallery, a short drive north of the village, offers teas, coffees and snacks.

    JACKS Chippy at the southern end of Pierowall does excellent takeaways. The Pierowall Hotel also offers a bar, meals and refreshments. Saintear is a bistro just outside the village offering meals and light bites, as well as regular specials. Richan's Retreat, close to Rapness Pier, also offers teas and coffees. The best advice is to check all opening times before you travel to Westray.

This cycle route information was funded through the North Isles Landscape Partnership Scheme by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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