Although exposed to the full force of the Atlantic weather in the far northwest of Orkney, Westray shelters one of the most tightly knit and prosperous island communities. The main village and harbour is PIEROWALL set around a wide bay in the north. The village’s Westray Heritage Centre is a great place to gen up on (and with any luck catch a glimpse of) the Westray Wife or Orkney Venus, a remarkable, miniature Neolithic female figurine found in 2009 in the nearby dunes. Above the village to the west is the sandstone hulk of Noltland Castle, begun around 1560 by Gilbert Balfour, Master of the Household to Mary, Queen of Scots, who was implicated in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley. To explore, pick up the key at the nearby farm.
The northwestern tip of Westray rises up sharply, culminating in the dramatic sea cliffs of Noup Head. In early summer, the guano-covered rock ledges are packed with more than 100,000 nesting seabirds, primarily guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars, with puffins as well – an awesome sight, sound and smell. For a closer view of puffins, head for Castle o’ Burrian, a sea stack in the southeast of the island.