Living on Shapinsay

Living on Shapinsay is, like all the islands, a unique experience. Although we are our own little community and we are cut off from the mainland, we have a very regular boat service, taking only 20 minutes! It leaves from central Kirkwall and arrives right in the heart of Balfour Village. After that service stops in the evening, the Development Trust have 2 runs in the evening with the Charles Ann II, to allow people to work, study, eat out etc in the evening.

In some ways, Shapinsay residents enjoy the best of both worlds, we get to enjoy all that island life has to offer while also being a stones throw (or ferry ride) from the mainland of Orkney and all that it has to offer, it makes a fantastic base to live and work, or just to stay for a few days.

Shapinsay has a lot to offer. It’s incredibly picturesque from the moment you arrive on the ferry.

As you approach, you can see Helliar Holm on your right which is a small uninhabited island with an automatic lighthouse. As you enter Elwick Bay, on your left, you will see the beautiful Victorian structure of Balfour Castle, built by the late David Balfour, whose influences can be seen throughout Shapinsay.

Island life has it’s drawbacks, but I think, most of us that live here would agree, that the benefits far outweigh those! The long Summer nights are when you wonder to yourself why anyone would want to live anywhere else!

The sense of Community in the isles, Shapinsay being no exception, is like nowhere else. Because we have such a small community, everyone knows everyone and for the most part, it’s very tight knit and welcoming, with a helping hand always there when you need it.

The Community is normal a thriving, hive of activity, and post-covid, it’s just starting to pick things back up again! Throughout the year there are so many activities from dinner dances, to barbecues, coffee afternoons, bingo, table top sales, ceilidhs, the list goes on. In the hall there are activities from dancing, to badminton, carpet bowls to music club. In the Boathouse there’s a writing group, a drawing group and film club, a knitting group and more! There is no need to ever be bored when you live on Shapinsay.

For the bairns the groups have yet to fully get back off the ground, but pre-covid there was football, guides, after schools clubs, badminton, youth club, climbing and we also have a great, recently renovated playpark with an outside toilet!