I travelled to one of the furthest places in the United Kingdom. Westray in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.
And it was beautiful.
If you had asked me this time last year whether I had heard of Westray in the Orkney Islands, let alone would I be travelling all the way up there, I wouldn't have believed you.
Despite being a travel nerd, I literally had never heard of the Orkney Islands! I never knew what those small islands were at the top of Scotland. If I'm honest, I thought they were completely abandoned.
But alas, there is actually life on them and yes, there is stuff to see and do on them!
And that's where I found myself on a small island called Westray, in a little town called Pierowall.
You're probably thinking: Nicole, what made you travel all the way up there?
Basically, Josh's mum and step-dad moved up there a couple of months ago, so Josh invited me to tag along with him to not only meet them for the first time but to go on our first trip away together.
So basically, we crossed two big relationship tick boxes!
I'm not sure whether any blogger has ever written about their experiences travelling to the Orkney Islands, and because I like to try and do things out of the norm, I'm very pleased to be sharing this beautiful location to the blogging world.
Becuase honestly, whether you're a blogger or not, everyone should experience the peace, serenity and stunning views that the Orkney Islands have to offer. Specifically, Westray.
Westray, Orkney Islands
Westray is one of the two of Orkney's Northern Isles, along with Papa Westray.
On their website, it's described as this:
"In a world of hustle and bustle, of deadlines and dramas, Westray and Papa Westray offer you a chance to truly unwind."
And that couldn't be more true.
How to get there
Firstly, we did not plan our trip well.
Since it was very spontaneous, booking flights were a massive pain.
We booked our flights too late, meaning they were more expensive than they would normally be if had pre-planned them prior to our visit. So instead of booking for a normal return flight, we had to book two separate single flights in order to cut the costs down by ever so slightly.
We've already agreed that we're going to be returning in June for a long weekend and we will be pre-booking our flights months in advance.
However, this is a rough guide to what we did:
- We booked our flights on Skyscanner, where we had to get flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen, then from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, which is the largest settlement and capital of the Orkney Islands, about 2 hours away from Westray. Our flights cost between £90 to £180 single, but if we had booked a return flight, this would usually cost £200 return.
- Once we landed at Kirkwall Airport (which btw, is the smallest airport I have ever seen!) We took a taxi to the Kirkwall (Hatston) Ferry Terminal, which was about a 10-minute drive from the airport, where we would catch the ferry. Around December to February time, ferry times are limited as this is their repairment season. Luckily, we managed to catch the only ferry going out on the day to get to Westray, which meant we got there on the day, as opposed to staying in Kirkwall for the night and going the next day.
- The ferry from Kirkwall to Westray takes around an hour and a half and consists of a small ferry, with a cafeteria at the bottom, plus plenty of seating areas around the boat. However, if you're prone to sea-sickness, I suggest sitting on the medium floor, outside, so you can get plenty of fresh air because the ferry can get very choppy and bumpy!
Then from there, we got picked up by Josh's mum and step-dad and were treated to some beautiful views of the island.
What there is to do
It might be a small island, but because it's a completely different way of life, you won't be feeling too bored too quickly.
There were lots of coffee shops, which I adored, as there wasn't a chain coffee shop in sight and all of them were independent. One of my favourites was Groatie Buckies Cafe, which was a little coffee shop in the corner of a convenience shop where Josh and I walked down for a hot chocolate and a toastie.
We did lots of walking around the island, come rain, wind or shine! We also went off-roading in Josh's step-dad's jeep, which gave us an opportunity to see more of the island, including the highest point of the island.
We've said next time we visit in the summer, we want to go climbing up to the highest point of the island and go hiking!
Westray has some of the most beautiful beaches (which was what I took photos of the majority of the time). Wild creatures like seals can be seen on the beaches, which was awesome!
There was a little pub which we went into every day for a drink (why not, we were on holiday!) a heritage centre which was unfortunately closed during winter seasons and there was a shop called the Bargain Box which sold items like clothing, books and more from as little as 20p to £2!
I managed to find some beautiful German branded shoes which would have normally cost around £100 which I found for £2!!!
We were also treated to fish and chips' from Jack's chippy, the only fish and chip shop on the island, where all their fish was fresh! I have never tasted such fresh and delicious Cod and Scampi in all my life!
As it was the winter season, lots of places were closed and we didn't venture outside as much due to the heavy winds, but Josh and I already want to return in the summer where the weather will be much more improved and the sandy beaches will look even more beautiful glistening in the sunshine.
Overall, it was such a relaxing few days away. I needed it more than I thought, as January was starting to get me down after Christmas and it came at just the right time. It is definitely worth going that bit further!
Have you ever heard of Westray? If you're looking for something completely out of the norm and love the Scottish highlands, then make Westray your next visit (but wrap up, it can be very cold and windy!)