After taking the morning ferry from Kirkwall we started our visit to Westray with a walk along the coast near the Rapness Water Mill. Oats were milled here until about a hundred years ago. ‘Ideal for DIY enthusiast’ would be the estate agent’s description of this place and I bet it would make a nice house. Put some panoramic windows in, mod cons like heating and electricity and you would have a great home. Not for us though: a bit too remote and quiet.
We walked to what is known as Castle O’Burrian, a sea stack where once a hermit lived. Now, at the right time of year, this is where you can see hundreds of Puffins, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots and other birds. Today there were only some tired gulls.
Next destination was Noup Head, on the northwest corner of the island. The last bit of the ‘road’ was a bit rocky and I would not have attempted it with the old RX8, but our new car got up to there quite easily. The lighthouse is another Stevenson construction (David A), from 1889. It was converted to solar power in 2001.
The cliffs are spectacular and seem much higher than 79 meters when you stand near the edge. Gannets put on a show for us, majestically gliding up to their perches on the vertical rock face. There were still some young birds with their dark plumage (whenever I use or read that word I always have to think of the dead parrot’s sketch.)
After a quick fish and chips lunch in the Pierowall Hotel (delicious), we went to the airport. Unfortunately there was no time to take the world’s shortest schedule flight to Papa Westray. The plane is airborne for about a minute (47 seconds in the right weather conditions) and covers a distance of about 1.7 miles (2.4 kilometers.) We did observe the sign that told us to “be aware of propellors.” Before taking the ferry back we just had time for a short walk to Cross Kirk, a ruined 12th century church and churchyard with a view across the Bay of Tuquoy.