Balfour Castle, Shapinsay

Balfour Castle, Shapinsay


“Shapinsay is the island closest to Kirkwall and therefore it is often overlooked as travellers go further afield when deciding which island to visit.
The MV Shapinsay departs you on the island after a gentle 25 minute crossing.  The first image that strikes you is of the Victorian Turrets on Balfour Castle followed by the symmetrically shaped roads.
As I alighted the ferry, I made my way over to the Gatehouse, which was the former entrance to Balfour Castle.  This magnificent structure is still in excellent condition and it is possible to take a peek around the side of it towards the opulence of Balfour Castle.  Further left of the Gatehouse is the Douche, which is a salt water shower topped with a dovecot ….”


How do I get to Shapinsay?   Loganair (part of the Flybe group) fly from Aberdeen, Barra, Belfast, Benbecula, Birmingham, Campbeltown, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Islay, Isle of Man, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, London (Gatwick), Manchester, Manston (Kent), Newquay, Norwich, Southampton, Stornoway and Sumburgh (Shetland). Most flights are via Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Inverness.   Or, you could travel by Northlink ferry from the ferry terminals in Aberdeen (to Kirkwall) and Scrabster (to Stromness).  Alternatively, you could travel by Pentland Ferries on the Gill´s Bay to St Margert´s Hope route.  Finally, John O´ Groats passenger only ferries run from John O´Groats to South Ronaldsay. From May to September, there is a direct bus route from Inverness to John O´Groats that meets with the ferry – this is known as ´The Orkney Bus´.  There is a ferry from Kirkwall to Shapinsay that operates about 4-5 times a day.


How do I get around Shapinsay?   Guided tours of Shapinsay are available with Hilton Farmhouse.  Cycling and walking are other options available to travel around Shapinsay.


What’s worth visiting on Shapinsay?  Balfour Castle is a grand Victorian Castle and part of the Balfour Estate.  Balfour Village was built in the late 1700’s as home for workers on the nearby Balfour Estate.  The Smithy incorporates the Heritage Centre, Craft Shop and a Restaurant.  Headgoe Farm Museum houses farm machinery and agricultural implements.


Where can I stay on Shapinsay?  Harroldsgarth and Girnigoe offer Bed and Breakfast accommodation.  Self-catering is available at Iona Cottage, Peedie White’s Cottage and Newlot Cottage.


Any other information on Shapinsay?  King Hakon’s Viking fleet sheltered at Elwick Bay on Shapinsay before setting sail for the Battle of Largs in 1263.  For more information on Shapinsay, please read my Orkney Adventure article.


Other islands in Orkney: See the pages for Mainland Orkney, Eday, Egilsay, Eynhallow, Flotta, Graemsay, Hoy, North Ronaldsay, Papa Westray, Rousay, Sanday, Stronsay, Westray, Wyre


Love Scottish Islands Review of the Isle of Shapinsay
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  • Beaches
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  • Ideal for Cyclists/Walkers
  • Peace and Quiet
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