is a local name of the island PAPA WESTRAY - one of the most remote
Northern Isles of Orkney, and journey to Papay can be as exiting as
journey to the Moon. The Island is 4 miles long and 1 mile wide with
lash green treeless hills and stone houses, ruins of great samples
of vernacular architecture and historical monuments scattered around
and the coastline of sea-cliffs, flat rocks and sandy beaches. Northern
Sea meets Atlantic here at the northern tip of the island - Mull Head
and North Hill is a busy nesting ground for a variety of sea birds.
The first know house on the Island, Knap of Howar, was build 6000
years ago and the history can be traced from there through Neolithic
sites (Chambered Cairn on Holm of Papay), numerous ruins of Pictish
brochs (Munkerhoose and St.Tredwell), Norse Placenames and Nausts
all around the island, 12 century St. Boniface Kirk, St. Tredwell
Chapel, Holland Farm, other landmarks and the Island's Legends
is also known as PAPEY IN MEIRI in the Orkneyinga Saga
3500BC Knap of Howar - the oldest preserved house in northern
Nechtan and Triduana in
the 8th century, the Pictish King Nechtan visited Papay and attempted
to seduce a young woman from the island named Triduana, who in response
gouged her own eyes out. Nechtan was known as the King Philosopher. He abdicated in 724 and
became a monk. Triduana became saint and chapel St. Tredwell was build
in Papay, the place of pilgrimage for many centuries. It seems Nechtan
and Triduana could be a nice couple, but the King was a pagan at that
time. Triduana was a nun. It looks like ugly sisters couldn't let
it happen and helped a lot in reapping out Triduana's eyes and presenting
in to the King. Since 8th century no other cases of similar self harm
were recorded in Papay
Findan, having been captured by a Viking slave-raiding party
who had stopped on a small, uninhabited island, escaped to a larger
island close by, where he took refuge with a bishop; Thomson has suggested
the two islands could be the Holm of Papay and Papay itself (Thomson
1986, 280-3; Lowe 1998, 8-9; Thomson 2001, 50). Lamb has also seen
the island as the seat of a ninth- century bishop
Rognvald Brusason (born 1011 - died 1046), son of Brusi Sigurdsson,
was Earl of Orkney jointly with Thorfinn Sigurdsson from about 1037
Rognvald was taken by his father to Norway, to the court of Olaf Haraldsson,
when Brusi and Thorfinn went there to have the inheritance of Einar
Wry-mouth's third-share of the Earldom settled. Olaf kept Einar's
share for himself, appointing Brusi to administer it, and kept Rognvald
at his court.
The Orkneyinga Saga says of Rognvald: Rognvald was one of the handsomest
of men, with a fine head of golden hair, smooth as silk. At an early
age he grew to be tall and strong, earning a great reputation for
his shrewdness and courtesy...
Rognvald was a supporter of Olaf Haraldsson, later Saint Olaf, sharing
his exile in Kievan Rus, and helping his brother Harald Sigurdsson,
better known as Harald Hardraade, escape after the Battle of Stiklestad
in 1030. While Harald went on to Constantinople, Rognvald and other
exiles remained in Rus, in the service of Yaroslav the Wise. Rognvald
returned to Norway with Olaf's son Magnus the Good in 1035.
While Rognvald was abroad, his father had died and Thorfinn Sigurdsson
was ruling all of the Earldom of Orkney. Rognvald asked King Magnus
for his third part of the Earldom, and Magnus agreed, giving him three
ships and granting him the stewardship of Magnus's own third share.
When Rognvald arrived in Orkney, he sent to his uncle Thorfinn asking
him for the two thirds of the Earldom which Magnus had given him.
Thorfinn agreed to give Rognvald his father's third, and the third
which Magnus claimed into the bargain, although he claimed not to
recognise Magnus's claim and presented this as a gift in return for
Rognvald's assistance. and Rognvald worked closely together for eight
years, fighting against enemies in the Hebrides and raiding Scotland
He was murdered and buried in Papa Westray.
The Orkneyinga Saga offers this assessment of Rognvald:
Everyone agrees that of all the Earls of Orkney he was the most popular
and gifted, and his death was mourned by many.
In the twelfth century the ‘great lady’ and ‘wise
woman’ called Ragna and her son, Thorstein,
‘a man of fine character’ had an estate in Papa Westray,
although they seem to have lived in North Ronaldsay (Orkneyinga Saga,
Taylor,218,246). This estate was probably to the south east of Holland,
comprising the farms of Backaskaill and Breckaskaill which were believed
by Clouston to make up the bu of Ragna and Thorstein,:
- the two names perhaps indicating the splitting of an early udal
property (probably called originally Skaill) between two heirs (Clouston
1927, 49; Marwick 1952, 45) Although there are now no surface indications,
an old settlement site lying between the two extant farms is known
to have existed (RCAHMS 1983, 14, no. 12; NMRS no. HY45SE41, OR 787,
HY 4862 5085). Backaskail forms the main landing place on the west
side of the island (Marwick 1925, 44; Marwick 1952, 45).
Orkney annexed to the Scottish Crown, following the failed payment
of a dowry for James III's bride, Margaret of Denmark
Survivals from one of the Spanish Armada' ships wrecked near North
Ronaldsay established a settlment in Westray and as a legend goes
buried a treasure at North Hill in Papay
Sometime prior to 1595, the king’s land in Papay had been feued
out to the deceased Gilbert Balfour of Westray (Marwick
In 1614, the leading families were Leasks and Howisons
1636 Thomas Traill purchased the estate of Holland in
Papa Westray and by the eighteenth century Traills were the sole landowners on the island
The last Great Auk being killed by local man William Foulis an Fowl Craig.
1909 John D. Mackay (1909, Maeback,
Papa Westray, Orkney), Orcadian school-teacher, taught on Stronsay
and North Ronaldsay before working as headmaster of Sanday School
between 1946 to 1970.
is remembered locally for writing to The Times in 1967 suggesting
that Orkney and Shetland be returned to Norway after five centuries
in pawn to Scotland. His letter brought publicity to Orkney and boosted
some residents' morale, at a time when absorption into the administrative
structure of the Scottish Highlands seemed destined to cause a reduction
in the powers of the local authorities. A stream of local publicity
loss of the Airships SSP 2
Airship SSP 2 left Caldale for operations to the north of the Orkney
Islands at 08.50 on the morning of 26th November 1917. The weather
on the day was considered favourable.
On board were:
Pilot Ft Lt Edward Bourchier Devereux
Engineer AM 1 Albert Edwin Scott
W/T LM (W/T) Edgar James Wilson.
By 10.00 the winds had freshened and the Airship, which was 17 miles
NNW of the base sent a radio message saying she was intending to return
to base and giving an ETA of 10.30. Ft Lt Devereux brought SSP 2 down
to 200 feet hoping to find lighter winds. Things appear to be going
ok with regular messages being sent back to base, one at 10.30 giving
a new ETA of 11.30 and an update saying wind had increased to 30 knots.
At 11.20 the SSP 2 reported engine failure and was going to make a
free balloon landing in the sea to the NE of Papa Westray and requested
HMS Leopard and several drifters were patrolling in the area and at
11.40 a lookout on HMS Leopard reports seeing an Airship land on the
sea then explode. Despite a search which went well on into the evening
nothing of the crew or airship was found
the northern tip of the island lies North Hill 49 metres (161 ft)
the island's highest point and an RSPB nature reserve. Many sea birds
breed on the island, including Arctic terns and Arctic skuas. It was
one of the last places where the Great Auk was found, the last individual
being killed in 1813 by local man William Foulis an Fowl Craig.
reserve is also home to the rare and tiny purpled-flowered Mey-flooer
(Scottish primrose Primula Scotica)
BONFIRE OPEN INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURAL COMPETITION
72 architectural projects from all over the world were submitted for the First Open International Architectural Competition "BONFIRE" organised by Papay Gyro Nights Art Festival. The winning projects will be build in Papa Westray
Fire Shelter: Papay was built during a workshop at the festival Papay Gyro Nights 2014. The shelter became the heart of the festival and the interior acted as a social and reflective space with a fireplace in the middle and seats along the shelter walls. The shape of the shelter referred to nomadic tents, and the construction created a great acoustics for songs and storytelling. The fire shelter reflected the spirit of the festival; by creating a world of its own where knowledge and poetry were shared.....
Knap of Howar Neolithic farmstead which is the oldest preserved house
in northern Europe, dating from around 3500 BC. The homestead, which
consists of two roughly rectangular stone rooms side by side, linked
by an internal door, and with doors to the outside at the west end,
is partly subterranean, and virtually complete to roof height. Examples
of the round bottomed Unstan ware have been found here, and provided
the key to dating the settlement.
TREDWELL CHAPEL & BROCH
to tradition, in the 8th century, the Pictish King Nechtan attempted
to seduce a young woman from the island named Triduana, who in response
gouged her own eyes out. She later became abbess of a nunnery at Restalrig,
now part of Edinburgh, and was in due course, canonised as Saint Tredwell.
A chapel was consecrated to her on Papay and became a place of pilgrimage
for people with eye complaints.
The Chapel was build on the ruins of Pictish Broch traces of which
can be well seen
Magnus cathedral in Kirkwall and the little church of St Boniface
on Papa Westray – one of the smallest and most northerly islands
of the Orkney archipelago – are the only two medieval churches
in Orkney which have survived into the 21st century intact and still
in use for worship.
A late 7th-century incised cross found in the kirkyard at St Boniface
is the earliest piece of hard evidence that Christianity had arrived
in the Northern Isles. Although Papa Westray seems remote when viewed
from the modern perspective of motor-car based communications, for
all the previous centuries of sea travel it was on a main highway.
It is likely that the first church on the island was part of a monastery,
built as springboard for missionary expeditions to both Orkney and
Sometime in the 12th century St Boniface became the parish church,
as it remained for 800 years until 1929 when it became redundant and
was abandoned. For the next 60 years the little stone church and its
unusual early 18th-century furnishings slid into dereliction until
at last restoration was undertaken by a team of local builders. In
June 1994 St Boniface was rededicated (after a pilgrimage around the
historic places of the island which has become an annual event) and
is used again for occasional services.
Surrounded by fields and the sea, it is a peaceful place; the only
sounds one usually hears there are the wind, the waves crashing on
the shore below, or birdsongon a summer evening. The remarkably good
acoustic makes it an ideal place for concerts (even if the performers
sometimes have to contend with the Orkney wind!): Emma Kirkby and
Anthony Rooley have performed Dowland and Monteverdi, and in August
2007 Alfia A performed her “Bach marathon”, the six suites,
in its intimate small space and realised it was where she wanted to
chambered cairn on the small desert island of Holm of Papay, a little
east of Papay itself (and readily visible from the larger island).
The long, stalled cairn, built of local stone, was once a communal
burial place for the bones of an ancient community.
nausts-unroofed or roofed boat shelters contrived on or above the
shoreline with an attendant slipway and landing place-is well attested
for the Norse period and earlier in Norway.
About 18 nausts sites were established on the shoreline of Papay
More information on Nausts of Papay can be found in The lniernaiional
Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration (1990)
19.4: 3 17-325. Boat naust survey on Papa Westray, Orkney by Anne
FARM and FOLK MUSEUM
the home of the Trail family, lairds of the island for three centuries,
this is perhapsthe most extensive traditional steading in Orkney.
It features a doo'cot, mill tramp and corn-drying kiln. Small Museum
at old Bothy, created by John o' Holland, is a great collection of
Papay artefacts and guide into the island's history
About the history of Holland Farm and Papay read:
A Jar of Seed Corn: Portrait of an Island Farm by Jocelyn Rendall,
Orcadian Ltd 2002, ISBN-10: 1902957164. A fascinating, well-researched
work on the history of Holland farm which also tells the story of
the island and its people. Once home to a powerful land-owning dynasty
that crashed into spectacular bankruptcy, Holland embodies the history
of Papay since medieval times. Full of pictures and intriguing details
this is an engaging account of the island's evolution from virtual
feudalism (as recently as Victorian times) to today's fragile but
independent and egalitarian community
several parts of the island one can see shallow, circular depressions
near the shore. These are kelp kilns, the only sign of an industry
that domonated the Orkney economy in the late 18th and early 19th
The two-storey buildings near the old pier on the east side of the
island were originally kelp stores and the enclosure at the head of
the pier was a boathouse for the "Mary Traill" which transported
Rendall. Papay - A Guide to Places of Interest. Papay Publications
PAPAY ART CENTRE @ THE KELP STORE ( design proposal by Ivanov ) 2009
James Hesford's work “Papay Holm” was performed by the
baroque choir Fiori Musicali in a reconstructed ancient language
of Orkney Nynorn during Felcino Bianco Festival in Citerna Italy
in July 2010.
Text is a chart for wind and sea - used to describe what happens
when the wind blows.... One is related to land the other the sea... MORE INFORMATION >
first you'll have to arrive to KIRKWALL (main town, port and airport of ORKNEY) : flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Samburgh ( and , only in the summer, from Bergen ): www.hial.co.uk
NEW! BERGEN - SHETLAND /almost Orkney! / flights from 24 November 2014 by 12-seater Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft, operated by Bergen Air Transport www.bergenair.co.uk
or any other day
from KIRKWALL via WESTRAY (our nearest good neighbour-island):
ORKNEY FERRIES to WESTRAY'S RAPNESS PIER and after travel by bus to the South of the island to PIERWALL where boat is regular in summer and sometimes can be arranged in winter month : please contact for advice and details
IVANOV + CHAN
PAPEY LISTSKJUL (PAPAY ARTS CENTRE)
PAPA WESTRAY (PAPAY)
ORKNEY KW17 2BU