Visiting Papa Westray: Small, but not at all boring

When I mentioned my intent to visit Westray and Papa Westray Islands in Scotland’s Orkeny Islands, a friend suggested that it would necessarily be a short visit as there is nothing to see or do there. In addition to getting to fly on the World’s Shortest Commercial Flight – something that was completely AWESOME – there actually were things to see and do in the Westrays. Not a lot of things to see and do, but definitely enough to spend a day or so and get a flavor for the area. We certainly were not bored.

After the flight in to Papa Westray we had a bit of a hike down the length of the island – just a couple miles, really – to get to the ferry which would bring us back to the larger Westray and the town of Pierowall. But we also had a couple hours before the next ferry and we had our luggage with us so we took our time making the walk and managed to take in some pretty cool sights on the smaller island. Most significant on Papa Westray is the site of The Knap of Howar.

The Knap of Howar is believed to be Northern Europe’s oldest standing building. The structure – really two adjacent buildings connected by a small hallway – are over 5500 years old. They are located right on the coast (though not likely on the coast back when they were built) looking out towards Westray across the strait. The two buildings are believed to be a store house and living quarters. They are constructed with layers of local stones surrounded by earthen berms to stabilize and insulate the buildings. The fact that they are still mostly standing more than 5,000 years later is really amazing.

Getting to the Knap of Howar involves walking around a random farm house and then through a field of grazing cows. And, in our case, around cows protecting their calves in the middle of the path. Whoopsie.

Further on headed south on the island we eventually made it to the ferry pier with plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Scottish sunshine and some snacks for lunch.

And then we hopped on the Golden Mariana for the ride over to Pierowall and the more developed part of the Westrays.


More from the Westrays in Part 2, coming soon….

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.