A picturesque and unique island only a short ferry journey from Kirkwall.

Welcome to Shapinsay

Shapinsay is one of the inner North Isles of Orkney and is a unique place to live and work.

Shapinsay is a small picturesque island, around 7 miles long and 3 miles wide. It has a population of around 350. Shapinsay may not be very big, but it is certainly striking and famous for it’s green fertile land and lack of hills (although don’t be fooled, when you set off on your bike, there are plenty of hills to tackle!)  Shapinsay is very convenient for commuting or for visiting as the Ferry leaves from the centre of Kirkwall and arrives in Shapinsay less than 30 minutes later.

When you step off the Ferry you step right into Balfour village, which still retains much of its original character, with the single street overlooked by stone cottages that originally housed workers on the sprawling Balfour estate, home of the grand Balfour Castle. These days the castle is privately-owned, but it’s still a striking sight.

You can have a great day out in Shapinsay with plenty to see and do – Read more

Shapinsay has a thriving community with many activities happening every week – Read more

Shapinsay Sketch Graphic

News & Updates

Keep up to date with all the latest news and updates from Shapinsay.

Calling all community groups on Shapinsay!

Calling all community groups on Shapinsay!

We are nearly ready to open and we'd like community groups to come forward to benefit from th…

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Are you ready for the copper switch off?

Are you ready for the copper switch off?

BT are hosting 2 drop in sessions (there are other operators that offer this service, BT just happe…

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Out of Hours Ferry Service

Upcoming sailings for 08/07/2024

  • Next sailing: 9:00 pmKirkwallShapinsay
  • 9:20 pmShapinsayKirkwall
View full timetable

Please make bookings between 9am and 5pm – Monday to Friday. Any messages sent out-with these hours will be processed as soon as the office reopens.


Phone, voicemail or text 07901 575162

Shapinsay Development Trust staff will be happy to assist with any queries.

Island Calendar

Keep up to date with all the latest events by using our Island Calendar.

Interactive Map

Balfour Castle Shapinsay Map


Balfour Castle

Balfour Castle is a rare example of a calendar house and is first and foremost a family home.

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Balfour Village

Balfour village was built in the 1780s by Thomas Balfour that was originally named Shoreside

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Burroughston Broch

The iron age building named Burroughston Broch

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Castle Bloody

Castle Bloody is not quite so spectacular to look at as the magnificent Balfour Castle, but would certainly pre-date it!

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Gas House

The Gas House was once used as the Gas works to serve Balfour Village

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Helliar Holm

Helliar Holm is an uninhabited island off the coast of Shapinsay.

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Mill Dam RSPB Reserve

Mill Dam is covered in a dynamic wetland with open water. It's covered in wide swamp plant communities and a range of other plants.

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Mor Stein

Mor Stein (Locally prounced as Moora stone) is a solitary standing stone, standing approximately 10ft tall.

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Ness Beach

Ness beach is at the north end of the island.

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Sandgarth Beach

Sandgarth beach is one of the best beaches on Shapinsay.

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Shapinsay Play Park

Shapinsay play park is a fun and exciting place to visit for the day.

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Skenstoft beach

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The Douche

David Balfour constructed Dishan Tower in the 1600s

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World War 2 Coastal Batteries

The world war 2 coastal batteries was also named Galtness.

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Shapinsay Development Trust - Get involved

If you want to come and help us ensure that our way of life here can continue then please take a look at how to Get Involved. Please remember that this is the best way you can help your island and your community.

Become a member

The more members we have the easier it is to demonstrate support for the Trust when applying to funding bodies for the grants we need to do the work. Please click here for a membership form.

Become a volunteer - join a sub-group

If you would like to contribute your time and skills to community work organised by the Trust, contact the staff or one of the directors.

Stand for election

Stand for election as director at the next AGM. Directors are elected by the membership annually at the AGM.

Next AGM is to be held in November 2023