We had a week in the Orkney Isles last month, based on the mainland, and had a particularly brilliant day visiting Westray and Papa Westray.
The plan for the day had started simply with the intention of taking the shortest scheduled flight in the world - between Westray and Papa Westray - but we did not want to just sit on the plane and come back to Kirkwall on one of the 'Sightseer' flights. A long examination of the ferry and flight timetables, and a very helpful earlier TA trip report, helped plan the day.
We took the 09:30 flight from Kirkwall to Westray and were fortunate to have excellent visibility as we flew over. From Westray to Papa Westray the flight took 1 minute, 50 seconds - longer than it could have as the plane had to take off in the wrong direction due to the wind. The distance between the two airfields is less than the length of the main runway at Heathrow.
We walked south down Papa Westray towards the ferry pier, stopping to visit the Knap of Howar. There was not another person to be seen in any direction we looked.
We had plenty of time for a reasonably leisurely walk from the airfield to the ferry pier where we got the midday ferry to Pierowall in Westray.
In Westray we joined up with a Westraak tour - www.westraak.co.uk - for the rest of the day. This was a brilliant afternoon and we can recommend Westraak highly, for being very informative, friendly and good value. Graham was a first-rate guide. Lunch at the Haff Yok Cafe in Pierowall was included and was excellent. We enjoyed huge portions of home cooked, locally sourced, food.
After lunch Graham took us to Noup Head to see the sea birds on the cliff faces. A bit vertiginous for me, but stunning all the same.
From here we went to the archaeological dig site at Noltland, which was fascinating. This is a rescue dig to recover as much as possible from an area which is suffering from massive, and very speedy, erosion. The dig team were happy to explain what they were doing, answer questions, and most excitingly show us finds. The best moment was being handed a 5000 year old finely polished long bone needle found that day - found by the same person who discovered the Westray Wife. Now you don't get to handle something like that every day!
We had a quick visit to the Westray Heritage centre to view the Westray Wife. The centre was fascinating and we could easily have spent longer there.
The afternoon was rounded off with a tour of Noltland Castle.
Graham then dropped us off at Rapness in nice time for the ferry back to Kirkwall.
Throughout the afternoon Graham was happy to answer questions and cover a wide range of topics about life on Westray. We felt we had a real insight into the life of the island in a very short time. This was an excellent introduction to Westray and much better than it would been trying to cover the same ground on our own.
After a sail back to Kirkwall on a millpond sea we rounded off the day with a great curry before heading back to where we were staying. A perfect day!
We used a local taxi service on the mainland a couple of times, run by the very helpful and friendly Keith. We discovered he also offers tours - www.exploreorkeny.com - so will save that for a future visit.Edited: 6:42 am, July 10, 2010