Westray is one of the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

 in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, with a population of around 550 people. Its main village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

 is Pierowall, with a heritage centre
Heritage centre
A heritage centre is a museum facility primarily dedicated to the presentation of historical and cultural information about a place and its people, including, to some degree, natural features...

, the ruined Lady Kirk
Lady Kirk, Pierowall
The Lady Kirk is one of two ruined churches on Westray, in Orkney, Scotland. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Scotland.The Category B listed church was built in 1674, on the foundations of the 13th-century church.-Description:...

 and ferries
A ferry is a form of transportation, usually a boat, but sometimes a ship, used to carry primarily passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo as well, across a body of water. Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services...

 to Papa Westray
Papa Westray
Papa Westray, also known as Papay, is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of 65 at the time of the 2001 Census, now increased to 70 people...


Geography and geology

With an area of 18.2 square miles (47.1 km²), it is the sixth largest of the Orkney Islands. The underlying geology is Rousay type Middle Old Red Sandstone
Old Red Sandstone
The Old Red Sandstone is a British rock formation of considerable importance to early paleontology. For convenience the short version of the term, 'ORS' is often used in literature on the subject.-Sedimentology:...

, the flagstones of which make excellent building materials. There is very little peat
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter or histosol. Peat forms in wetland bogs, moors, muskegs, pocosins, mires, and peat swamp forests. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world...

 and the soil is noted for its fertility.


At the time of the earliest known settlements, c. 3500 BC, in Westray and neighbouring Papa Westray
Papa Westray
Papa Westray, also known as Papay, is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of 65 at the time of the 2001 Census, now increased to 70 people...

, it is believed that the two islands were joined. A Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 and Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 site at the Links of Noltland
Links of Noltland
Links of Noltland is the archaeological site of a Neolithic village near Grobust Bay on the north coast of Westray in Orkney, Scotland.Excavations at the site in the 1980s found a Neolithic building, which is now in the care of Historic Scotland who are funding further excavation...

 is in the care of Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government, responsible for historic monuments in Scotland.-Role:As its website states:...

. Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland says that "A larger settlement at Noltland on Westray is less well preserved" than the one on neighbouring Papa Westray. The Westray Wife
Westray Wife
The Westray Wife is a small Neolithic figurine, in height, carved from sandstone that was discovered during an Historic Scotland dig at the Links of Noltland, on Westray, Orkney, Scotland, in the summer of 2009...

 is a 4 cm carved Neolithic figurine
A figurine is a statuette that represents a human, deity or animal. Figurines may be realistic or iconic, depending on the skill and intention of the creator. The earliest were made of stone or clay...

 discovered there during a dig there in the summer of 2009. It is the only Neolithic carving of a human form archaeologists have found in Scotland to date, and is the earliest depiction of a face found in the United Kingdom. In 2010 some local businesses reported a 45% increase in turnover since the discovery of the figurine.

Westray constituted a major family estate during the saga period.

And it was at Noltland on Westray too, that one of the most impressive castles in Orkney, and indeed the Northern Isles
Northern Isles
The Northern Isles is a chain of islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. The climate is cool and temperate and much influenced by the surrounding seas. There are two main island groups: Shetland and Orkney...

, was built, Noltland Castle
Noltland Castle
Noltland Castle is located on the island of Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. It dates mainly to the later 16th century, although it was never fully completed...

. The castle was commissioned in the 1560s by Gilbert Balfour
Gilbert Balfour
Gilbert Balfour probably played the leading role in the murder of Lord Darnley, consort of Mary, Queen of Scots.Balfour married Margaret Bothwell, the sister of Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney who endowed him with the isle of Westray, when it was episcopal property.At Noltland on Westray, he had...

, who probably played the leading role in the murder of Lord Darnley
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Henry Stewart or Stuart, 1st Duke of Albany , styled Lord Darnley before 1565, was king consort of Scotland and murdered at Kirk o'Field...

, consort of Mary, Queen of Scots. Balfour married Margaret Bothwell, the sister of Adam Bothwell
Adam Bothwell
Adam Bothwell was the Bishop of Orkney.Bothwell was the eldest son of Francis Bothwell, Lord of Session, by his second wife Katherine Bellenden, daughter of Sir Thomas Bellenden. He was born about 1527; his epitaph states that he died ‘anno ætatis suæ 67.’He is said to have been versed both in...

, Bishop of Orkney
Bishop of Orkney
The Bishop of Orkney was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Orkney, one of thirteen medieval bishoprics within the territory of modern Scotland. It included both Orkney and Shetland. It was based for almost all of its history at St...

 who endowed him with Westray, when it was episcopal property. The Castle is situated above the Bay of Pierowall, was built in the 1560s. It is notable for an unusually large spiral staircase, "second only to Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle is a castle in the village of Fyvie, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.The earliest parts of Fyvie Castle date from the 13th century - some sources claim it was built in 1211 by William the Lion. Fyvie was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce, and Charles I...

, while its triple tiers of gunloops are without parallel in Scotland, if not Europe". However, Balfour was executed by the Swedes before he could use it.

Other attractions include the Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 Cross Kirk and the Castle O'Burrian sea stack once used as a hermit
A hermit is a person who lives, to some degree, in seclusion from society.In Christianity, the term was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament .In the...


Noup Head Lighthouse
Noup Head Lighthouse
Noup Head Lighthouse lies on the north west headland of the isle of Westray, in Orkney, Scotland. It was constructed by David A Stevenson in 1898 for the Northern Lighthouse Board.It was converted to solar power in 2001....

 was constructed in 1898

Economy and infrastructure

Flights leave the island's Westray Airport
Westray Airport
Westray Airport is an airport located at Aikerness, on Westray in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is best known for being one of the two airports joined by the shortest scheduled flight in the world, a leg of Loganair's inter-island service, to Papa Westray Airport...

 at Aikerness for Kirkwall
Kirkwall is the biggest town and capital of Orkney, off the coast of northern mainland Scotland. The town is first mentioned in Orkneyinga saga in the year 1046 when it is recorded as the residence of Rögnvald Brusason the Earl of Orkney, who was killed by his uncle Thorfinn the Mighty...

 on the Orkney Mainland, and to Papa Westray
Papa Westray
Papa Westray, also known as Papay, is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, with a population of 65 at the time of the 2001 Census, now increased to 70 people...

 (known as Papay to the locals)in the world's shortest scheduled journey (two minutes). The main ferry terminal is at Rapness with regular sailings by Orkney Ferries
Orkney Ferries
Orkney Ferries is a company operating inter-island ferry services in Orkney, to the north of mainland Scotland.-History:The company is owned by the Orkney Islands Council and was established in 1960 as the Orkney Islands Shipping Company....

 to Kirkwall.

The island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

's main industries are fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

, fish farming
Fish farming
Fish farming is the principal form of aquaculture, while other methods may fall under mariculture. Fish farming involves raising fish commercially in tanks or enclosures, usually for food. A facility that releases young fish into the wild for recreational fishing or to supplement a species'...

 and cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 farming. Tourism is also important to the island economy. The Westray Development Trust
Development trust
Development Trusts are organisations which operate in the United Kingdom that are:*community based, owned and led*engaged in the economic, environmental and social regeneration of a defined area or community...

 is well-known for its renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 and recycling
Recycling is processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse...

 initiatives and plans to make the island self-sufficient in energy by 2012. A 900 kW community-owned wind turbine was erected in October 2009, the third large-scale such project in Scotland. “When the community realised it was their turbine, not someone else’s, there was no objection,” stated Alasdair McVicar of Westray Renewable Energy.

People associated with Westray

  • Sam Harcus Councillor for North Isles Ward of Orkney Isles Council. Sam was formerly the Local Development Officer for Westray. He has an interest in renewable energy.


The spectacular sea cliffs around Noup Head are home to thousands of seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

s including 60,000 Common Guillemot
Common Guillemot
The Common Murre or Common Guillemot is a large auk. It is also known as the Thin-billed Murre in North America. It has a circumpolar distribution, occurring in low-Arctic and boreal waters in the North-Atlantic and North Pacific...

 and Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-legged Kittiwake
The Black-legged Kittiwake is a seabird species in the gull family Laridae.This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Larus tridactylus....

, 30,000 Razorbill
The Razorbill is colonial seabird that will only come to land in order to breed. It is the largest living member of the Auk family. This agile bird will choose only one partner for life and females will lay one egg per year. Razorbills will nest along coastal cliffs in enclosed or slightly exposed...

 and numerous Atlantic Puffin
Atlantic Puffin
The Atlantic Puffin is a seabird species in the auk family. It is a pelagic bird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, but also eats other sea creatures, such as squid and crustaceans. Its most obvious characteristic during the breeding season is its brightly coloured bill...

 and Black Guillemot
Black Guillemot
The Black Guillemot or Tystie is a medium-sized alcid.Adult birds have black bodies with a white wing patch, a thin dark bill, and red legs and feet. They show white wing linings in flight. In winter, the upperparts are pale grey and the underparts are white. The wings remain black with the large...

. During the 1990s the Black Rat
Black Rat
The black rat is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus in the subfamily Murinae . The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 1st century and spreading with Europeans across the world.-Taxonomy:The black rat was...

 (Rattus rattus) may have been present although they have not been recorded since. Mice, and the Orkney Vole
Orkney vole
The Orkney vole is a population of the common vole found in the Orkney Islands, off the northern coast of Scotland, United Kingdom. Orkney voles are larger than voles from other populations of the common vole...

 are present however, as are European Otter
European Otter
The European Otter , also known as the Eurasian otter, Eurasian river otter, common otter and Old World otter, is a European and Asian member of the Lutrinae or otter subfamily, and is typical of freshwater otters....


External links

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