Living on Shapinsay

You can find out a lot about Shapinsay by looking at the Shapinsay Development Trust website at 

Our Island

There are about 300 people here in Shapinsay. There is one shop, a pub, kirk (church) and a café/restaurant. At the Smithy there is a Heritage Centre which contains old photographs and objects from the island’s history. Next to the school is a doctor’s surgery where the doctor and the nurses work.

We have a boat which runs to Kirkwall (the small town on the main island of Orkney). It is called the MV Shapinsay. It takes 25 minutes to get to Kirkwall. The boat goes at 7.30am, 9.00am, 10.30am, 1.30pm, 3.15pm and 4.45pm every day.

The nearest island is called Helliar Holm. There is a lighthouse on it and a few small, ruined houses.

On Shapinsay, we have a castle surrounded by lots of trees. The castle was built by David Balfour in about 1850. It is called Balfour Castle.

There are a lot of farms.  There are lots of cows and some sheep.

Our school

Our school is a fun place to learn and play with friends. Our school has three classrooms, a hall, courtyard, a play park and a field with trees. In the play park we have swings, climbing frames and a roundabout. In the hall we have a climbing wall and lots of other things to play with. We also have a polytunnel.

Children start in our nursery at 2 or 3 years old. At 4 years old they go into the pre-school. From 5 years old to 9 years, the children are in the Primary 1 to 4 class. From 9 years old to 12 years, they are in the Primary 5 to 7 class. After that children leave our school and go to a secondary school on the main Orkney island. This school is called Kirkwall Grammar School. It takes children from 12 to 18 years. KGS children have to get the boat every day to go to school.

At school we learn English, maths, science, French, art, music, RME (religion), technologies, ICT (computers), Social Subjects (history, geography, business, government etc) and PE (sport, gymnastics and dance) and drama.


For most of the year it is windy and rainy. The temperature varies between about 5˚C in winter and 18˚C in summer. We don’t get much snow and almost never have any frosts. Sometimes there are very strong storms, almost up to hurricane force.


Shapinsay has a lot of wildlife including killer whales, seals, otters and many birds, such as curlews, redshanks, gulls and pheasants. The seals spend a lot of time on the beaches. That is where they have their babies.

Orkney does not have any foxes, squirrels or badgers but these do live in the rest of Scotland.


On our island there is usually a lot going on. There is a playgroup for toddlers, a Youth Club for P4 upwards and a Lunch Club for older people. Lots of clubs meet in our Community Centre. There is a music group, , badminton club, yoga group and lots more. People who want to exercise use the Fitness Suite which is at the other end of the school building, next to the doctor’s surgery.

Here are some photos of our island:

Looking towards Balfour Village.

The pier and harbour, with the MV Shapinsay.

Snow on the beach (we don’t see that often!)

Balfour Castle

Thomas Sinclair Shop

Shapinsay School Website

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