Shapinsay | Colin Nutt

About

This low-lying, fertile island is well cultivated and dominated by its neatly regimented pattern of fields and long straight roads. Shapinsay is rich in flora and fauna, with a surprising diversity of habitats including wetlands and costal heath. As a result, a wide variety of breeding birds, wildflowers and lichens can be seen, along with seals and the occasional otter. The island has also embraced renewable energy with a community-owned wind turbine and a new hydrogen project.

Famous For

  • Balfour is an early example of a planned village. Originally called Shoreside, it was established in the late 1700s and still retains much of its original character.

  • Shapinsay farmers are renowned for quality livestock, and stock bred and reared on the island regularly wins prizes at local and national shows.

  • Balfour Castle is the island’s most prominent landmark. Set in a planned landscape, it was built in the mid-1800s as the home of the then-laird, David Balfour.

Ask an Islander

  • At 210ft, Ward Hill is the island's highest point. In 1998 excavations revealed a beacon site here of possible Norse origin. The place name element 'Ward' is ‘beacon’ in Old Norse.

  • You can often see seals basking below the village shop. This is a good place to get photos of them as, if you're quiet, they don’t rush away.

  • The island has a number of interesting natural features including storm beaches or ayres, some of which, like Vasa, enclose areas of water shut off from the sea.

Accommodation

Check out the following accommodation listings to book your stay.

Visit Scotland accommodation

Shapinsay - where to stay

More Information

You can find some additional information about Shapinsay at the links below

Explore Orkney - Shapinsay

COVID-19

Please check the latest rules on travelling to and around the Scottish islands on the Scottish Government website, including guidance on testing before you travel. Please note that advice may vary depending on the specific island you are visiting.

Getting here

Covid-19

Please check the latest rules on travelling to and around the Scottish islands on the Scottish Government website, including guidance on testing before you travel. Please note that advice may vary depending on the specific island you are visiting.


Orkney Ferries operates daily sailings between Shapinsay and Mainland Orkney.

Find out more about getting to Mainland Orkney.

Get Your Passport

You can find lots more information about things to see and do on the island, see some amazing island photography and collect your island stamp by downloading our app.

Download the app

App in phone

Download the Scottish Island Passport app to collect your island stamps! The app also provides lots more information on each island including recommendations from locals about things to see and do, info on how to get around, more stunning photos and useful offline maps.

  • Unlock Stamps - Collect them all! Stamp your passport when you visit each island - with an individual stamp designed to represent a unique aspect of island heritage.
  • Experiences - Discover the best experiences each island has to offer – from local boat trips to exciting traditional festivals, there is something for everyone.
  • Maps - Navigate the islands with useful offline maps, handy for areas where internet connectivity is weak.
  • Travel Jounals - Create an in-location travel journal with pictures from your island adventures, to look back on your trip.
  • Favourites - keep track of your most loved islands with the favourites feature. Available to access from your account on both the app and web.