Have you ever wanted to explore a deserted island?

How about one with its own underground Neolithic cairn?

Well, you can now take island hopping to new extremes in Orkney, thanks to the community in Papa Westray.

Papa Westray's ranger Jonathan Ford at the helm of 'The Dunter'


The residents of this beautiful place, one of our north isles, have invested in a brand-new boat to take visitors on a cruise to the uninhabited Holm of Papay. This tiny island off Papay’s east coast has always been a much sought-after destination for visitors, keen to explore its wildlife and archaeology, but only now has it become possible to reach it on a regular basis.

The Papay Development Trust operates regular trips to the Holm during the summer months in its fully-insured and MCA coded boat, ‘The Dunter’. Trained skippers will take you across to the island, steaming over clean and clear blue seas and up onto the shore.

The Holm of Papay measures in at just 1km long but features one of the most intriguing historical sites in the islands. The sixty-seven-foot subterranean South Cairn dates back to the Neolithic and features carved decorations and 14 separate chambers. It really is a fascinating place to explore – and you’re guaranteed to have the place to yourself too (well, along with your fellow passengers on ‘The Dunter’)!

Visitors on the Holm of Papay, ready to descend down into the South Cairn!


That’s not the only attraction of the Holm though. It’s an island teeming with wildlife! You’ll see seals and seabirds en-route and your guide will help point out different species and the perfect places to spot them.

Passengers will also get the chance to see the Papa Westray coastline and its natural features, and who knows, passing whales and porpoises might get in on the act too.

The boat trips are a really special addition to a stay in Papa Westray, which has been doing a lot in recent years to attract visitors. Combine your visit with a ‘Papay Peedie Tour’, which run on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between the beginning of May and the end of August. The local island ranger, Jonathan Ford, will take you on a guided tour of the island’s archaeological and natural heritage – including a walk to the 5,000-year-old Knap of Howar, the oldest standing houses in northern Europe.

A tour group in Papa Westray - take advantage of your own tour this summer


You can also enjoy a delicious lunch at the new Kelp Store Craft & Heritage Centre before working it all off with a trek to the RSPB North Hill reserve, where you’ll see Primula scotica and puffins during the summer months. Private tours are also available from the end of August throughout the year.

Bikes can be hired to help you explore the island further and excellent accommodation is available at the Beltane House Hostel.

On the hunt for Primula scotica during a Papay Peedie Tour


So why not head north and make island hopping your Orkney holiday highlight!


Find out more about Papa Westray and visit the official island website.

Follow the Papay Ranger on Facebook and Instagram for updates on activities and events in the island.

Boat trips to the Holm of Papay are weather dependant. They cost £25 for adults and £10 for children. Family rates are available. To book or to find out more, phone 07931 235 213, contact the Papay Ranger on Facebook or email papayranger@gmail.com

Papay Peedie Tours cost £50 for adults and £25 for children (please enquire about under 5s). Bike hire can also be booked in advance. Contact the Papay Ranger via the details above to book.

The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.