Tuesday, 24 April 2012


The small island of Shapinsay can be seen from Orkney's capital Kirkwall, and consists mainly of rolling farmland. The main point of interest on the island is Balfour Castle, built by the Balfour family of Westray in 1848 using the proceeds of their adventures in India. The village of Balfour was built to house the workers from the castle's estate. The castle is open to day visitors, and it is also now run as a hotel. Anyone feeling a bit rich can fly to the hotel in a helicopter and land on the front lawn by prior arrangement. Those who want to visit the castle for the day from Kirkwall have to buy an all-inclusive ticket which includes the cost of the ferry crossing, which takes less than thirty minutes, and the guided tours, which take place throughout the opening season from May to September, and which include complimentary tea and cakes in the servants' quarters. Otherwise, there is the option to just take the ferry and wander around the island, which apart from the castle has an Iron Age broch (drystone tower) called the Broch of Burroughston. There are some rocks nearby where seals can be seen lazing around. Birdwatchers should head to the Mill Dam RSPB reserve, where the hide can be used to spy on the teal, shovelers, wigeon and occasionally pintails which use the wetlands here for breeding. There are sea caves and cliffs on the east coast, while the best sandy bay is at Sandgarth Bay in the southeast.

Map of the area.

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