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.

Shapinsay Farmers Market and Car Boot Sale

Shapinsay Farmers Market and Car Boot Sale

After the success of our first ever farmers market, we are hosting a 2nd one on the 3rd of Septembe…

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Soond Cinema Returns

Soond Cinema Returns

Soond Cinema Plans to Re-Open After 28 months of weekly virtual films, Shapinsay’s Soond …

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Out of Hours Ferry Service

Upcoming sailings for 09/08/2022

    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.

    Week of Events

    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 on the 7th of October 2021