Shapinsay is the 8th largest island at 12 square miles (31 km²). It is connected to the Mainland by ferry (Balfour to Kirkwall). Shapinsay is known for the Iron Age Broch of Burroughston and the Dishan Tower, sea caves and cliffs, for birds including pintail, wigeon and shovelers, and Balfour Castle.
There is one village on the island (just by the pier), Balfour Village, which is composed mainly of terraced cottages that once housed the workers of Balfour Castle. The village has a school, licenced restaurant, and gallery/museum.
There is also a licenced local Shop/Post Office that is well stocked with its own bakery. Fresh fruit and vegetables, often locally produced, are available several times a week. Daily newspapers can also be ordered at the shop.
The Gatehouse to Shapinsay Castle is a small friendly pub only a short distance from the cottage.
The roll-on/roll-off car ferry sails regularly to Kirkwall on the Orkney Mainland. As the ferry enters Elwick Bay on its way to Shapinsay you get a stunning view of Balfour Castle with its surrounding woodland.
The castle was built in the Scottish Baronial style and is a reminder of the Balfour family's domination of Shapinsay during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a Calendar House that was planned to have 7 turrets; 12 exterior doors; 52 rooms; and 356 panes of glass. The castle took more than three years to build. The Balfours transformed life on Shapinsay by introducing new agricultural techniques. The island is low-lying and fertile, consequently most of the area is given over to farming.
Other landmarks include a standing stone, an Iron Age broch, and a souterrain. Shapinsay also has two nature reserves and is notable for its bird life.
Shapinsay has a population of 300 according to the 2001 census. The economy of the island is primarily based on agriculture with the exception of a few small businesses that are largely tourism-related.
Beach at Ness