A walk around Papa Westray – a four-square-mile island on the northern edge of the Orkney archipelago in Scotland – is a walk through history.
From the 5,600-year-old Knap of Howar, northern Europe’s oldest standing house, you can walk up the coast to St Boniface Kirk. One of the oldest Christian sites in the north of Scotland, the church’s graveyard is filled with lichen-covered headstones indicating generations of families and shipwrecked sailors. Further on at the wind-battered northernmost point, where the Atlantic crashes into the North Sea and daunting cliffs are deeply ridged from centuries of erosion, a stone cairn marks the site where Britain’s last great auk – the now extinct ‘northern penguin’ – was killed in 1813.
But Papay, as the island is locally known, is not lost in the past. Thanks to its forward-thinking residents, it is thriving.
Read the rest of my article about the Orkney island of Papa Westray at BBC Travel.
(All photos ©Karen Gardiner)The tiny airport welcomes passengers arriving on the world’s shortest scheduled flight
The restoration of old houses provides work for the island’s builder and accommodation for incomers
At the northern tip of the island, the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the North Sea
A stone cairn marks the home of Britain’s last great auk
Now run by Neil Rendall, Holland Farm was the seat of the Traill family lairds for 14 generations
At the co-op-run Beltane Hostel, the dining room doubles as the Saturday night pub and hosts community events including Orcadian dialect workshops
Restored by the trust last year, the Kelp Store holds Papay’s archives and functions as an exhibition space
The Market Garden is a new initiative to bring vegetable farming back to the island. It produces food for the community owned store, to encourage islanders to use it more often
Many islanders hold multiple jobs. The postwoman is also the school caretaker, airfield attendant and a craft worker.
The RSPB cottage, available to rent over winter, overlooking the Holm
Seals are a common sight along the shore of the South Wick