Orkneys Northern Isles

Balfour Castle

Orkneys Northern Isles

Northern Islands


The group of windswept islands north of mainland provides a refuge for migrating birds and a nesting group for seabirds; there are several RSPB reserves. Some of the islands are also rich in archaeological sites, but it’s the beautiful scenery, with beautiful white sand beaches and lime green azure seas, that is the main attractions.


The tourist office in Kirkwall and Stromness have the useful ‘Islands of Orkney’ with maps and details of these islands. Note that the ‘ay’ at the end of each island name (from the Old Norse for ‘Island) is pronounced ‘ee’ (Shapinsay is pronounced shap-in-see).




Just 20 minutes by ferry from Kirkwall, Shapinsay is a low lying, intensively cultivated island with a superb castle.


Balfour Castle, completed in 1848 in the turreted Scottish Baronial style, is Shapisnsay’s most impressive draw card. Guided tours must be booked in advance and the price includes the ferry, admission to the castle and afternoon tea. It is possible to stay at Balfour Castle in the grand, old fashioned Victorian rooms, with the added attraction that you are, of course, spending the night in a castle. A boat is available for guests for island trips, bird watching and sea fishing.


About 4 miles from the pier, at the far north-eastern corner of the island is the Iron Age Burroughston Broch, one of the best preserved Brochs in Orkney.


Girnigoe is a friendly traditional farmhouse at the northern end of the island. The breakfasts (with Mrs Wallace’s homemade bread and jam) and local kippers are excellent and dinner is also available.


The Orkney Islands are a must see attraction on your tours of Scotland, contact us now to book!