Westray is a walkers paradise, packed with historic sites and teeming with bird life. From our excellent B&B at The Old Manse in Pierowall we did a circular walk to Notland Castle and links. The castle was built by the tyrannical Gilbert Balfour, a minister to Mary Queen of Scots. The nearby links are gradually yielding from the sand a neolithic settlement, contemporary with or even earlier than Skara Brae.
The 'not to be missed site' is Noup Head to the north west. There the land rises and turns to heath populated by sheep and of course birds. The headland is a new gannet nesting site. For the last ten years the colony has grown to several hundred nesting birds who share the cliffs with the usual mix of guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes under the evil eyes of patrolling great and arctic skuas. At this time of year the chicks are growing quickly on a diet of fish provided by the parents.
The other popular nesting site is on the Castle o' Burrian stack in the south east corner of the island. This provides a nesting site for the largest puffin colony on the island and good viewing opportunities in the early morning and evening.
The Westray Heritage centre next to the Pierowall Hotel (excellent fish) has a permanent display on the history, flora and fauna of Westray including the famous Westray stone, a carved neolithic door lintel found during excavations in the village. The find of the 'Westray Wifie', a very rare female neolithic stone figurine, is also told. Outside, a whale skeleton and a collection of anchors reminds us that in former times Orcadians sailed the seven seas in search of a living and adventure. Papa Westray tomorrow.
The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder, published by Willow Moon. e-Book and paperback at all amazon sites. Reviews at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005BJ3GNI