Interesting Info
Washington Irvine's father was born on Shapinsay before emigrating to America. Shapinsay's most famous grandson, Washington Irvine would go on to write
Sleepy Hollow.
Useful Advice
There are tours of the Balfour Castle in the summer. Call first to confirm!
Essential sites to visit
Balfour Castle
Dishan Tower
Mor Stane
Balfour Village
Mill Dam RSPB Reserve
The Gatehouse
Balfour harbour

Shapinsay is one of the closest northern isles to the mainland - the short 25-minute journey by ferry from Kirkwall has led to it being a commuter island. Many Shapinsay residents travel to Kirkwall to work. It is easy to see, why, after a hard days Balfour Castle Librarywork, they would want to travel across the see to stay in such a peaceful place.

Shapinsay's most prominent landmark is Balfour Castle, a vast building built in 1848. There are tours of the castle on specific days during the summer - call first to confirm and ensure you will not be disappointed. The Gatehouse to the castle is now a pub. Nearby Balfour Village was originally formed as houses for the builders of the castle, and the Balfour legacy continues through Shapinsay - it is intensively farmed - as a result of the Balfours modernising the land.

Shapinsay is a great island for bird watching at Mill Dam reserve, and seal-spotting along the shore. Other sites of interest include a dramatic 3m standing stone - the Mor Stane, Dishan Tower, and the Broch of Burroughston. Also worth a wander is the top of Ward Hill, at 210m, it offers a superb view of the isles.

Balfour Castle photo © Fraser Dixon, Balfour harbour photo © Fraser Dixon, Balfour Castle library photo © Fraser Dixon. All text © Magnus Dixon.

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