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Sunday 19 July 2009

Westray visit

(Picture: Pierowall village, Westray) A few das ago I spent a couple of days on one of the more Northerly of the Orkney islands - Westray and have only just got round to writing about it! I had visited the island some years ago with a friend from South so had done all the usual tourist sites etc. So this visit was very relaxing as I didn't feel the need to try and visit everything or walk everywhere. Instead my time was filled with pottering around galleries, walking along deserted shores, eating fish and chips, and of course, a plentiful supply of tea and cake and chatting to local folk! I did visit the ruin of Notland Castle, and had several walks along desserted sandy beaches!

Notland Castle (ruin)

I can't do justice to the island with this blog or my photos so I do encourage you to go to the Westray web link and take a look at the short video which provides some panoramic views and fascinating insights into the artists on the craft trail. The commentary is provided by a local Orcadian so you will get a feel for the cadences of the Orcadian accent - quite different from a Scottish accent. As I've said before - Orkney became part of Scotland a mere 400 years ago, being payment for a debt of a Norwegian King, so although we are 12 miles from Mainland Scotland many of the links and traditions of the Orkney islands are Norwegian.

Papa Westray (known locally as Papay) is a small island off Westray and visitors can experience the shortest flight in the world (and get a certificate to prove it!) by flying from Westray to Papay on the little 8 seater plane that provides a vital link between the islands and the Orkney mainland. I didn't visit Papay this time but it is a small island with about 60 folk on, so much smaller than Westray which has about 600 inhabitants.

Puffins can be seen in several locations on Westray, though I didn't see any on this visit. Primula Scotica are also blooming on the island, a rare plant and it must be a delight to the island to have a colony of their own.

I also met Malc, a fellow blogger, who keeps pigs on his croft. We spent a pleasant evening at the bar in Cleaton House discussing similarities and differences of our islands over a plentiful supply of liquid refreshment.

Westray countryside

The Pierowall Hotel has wonderful fish and chips - I sampled several varieties..... and I had to make a daily visit to the Wheeling-steen Gallery for the homebakes as well as being able to sit and admire the art of the local farmer, Edwin Rendall, who as well as farming also draws, paints, takes photos, makes all the frames for his art AND runs the gallery and cafe. Another wee gem was the Westray Pottery where we could see Martin throwing his pots and hear about his ideas for future glazes etc.

On my way home trip the Westray Ro-Ro ferry was busy with trucks returning to Kirkwall - including a consignment of scrap cars!

Westray Ferry

There will be an influx of Graemsay folk to Westray early in August as Kevin, a Graemsay lad, is marrying a Westray lass, so a large party is in order.


  1. I do so love the idea of island living - being able to see, hear, and smell the sea. As I wrote that, I thought maybe this is one of those things that I'd love the "idea" of it, but not necessarily like the "reality" of it. Hmmmmm.

    I'd love to give it a try sometime, though.

  2. Like Mary, I love the idea of island living - I'd possibly go batty withing a week, BUT, the more I see and read... I'm trying to figure a way of including Orkney to my next trip to Glasgow. I suspect it will be as expensive as getting to Glasgow!!

  3. Other times in my life and island living would not have suited me either! I've always been a fairly self-reliant person so the isolation isn't too bad, and on Graemsay you can always drop in for a cuppa and a chat with neighbours if you want too. But of course there aren't the distractions that you find in more urban areas either!

    VioletSky - do let me know if you come up to Orkney but yes, it IS expensive. I think the return air fare from London to ORkney would be equivalent to a four day all inclusive mini-break in Europe - sigh......

  4. I can't think of a more perfect way to spend a few days off!

  5. Hey i too spent a few days in westray and i feel the same as you it is a beutiful island and is a good place to spend your holiday