Westray the most westerly of the Outer North Islands, has a more varied terrain than most, with hills and lochs, cliffs and sandy beaches, and there is a magniﬁcent panorama of the archipelago from the top of Fitty Hill. The sheltered bay of Pierowall was one of the Vikings, two main bases in Orkney. On Westray too, in the l6th century Gilbert Balfour, Master of the House hold to Mary Queen of Scots, built the impregnable fortress of Noltland Castle, whose walls are still in a remarkable state of preservation. The island is recognized as an ornithologist’s paradise.
- Westray Geolocation Latitude 59.2942° N Longitude -2.9801° W
- Westray Postcode KW17
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The main feature of this island is Noltland Castle, reconstructed by Gilbert Balfour, who was Master to the Household of Mary, Queen of Scots.
It was burned by the Covenanters in 1650. The castle, one of the earliest of the Z-plan type, is notable for its over provision for artillery defence.
The ruins of two ancient churches, Holy Cross (12th century) and St Mary's (13th century) are part of the numerous religious settlements erected in the Orkneys soon after the Norsemen adopted Christianity, for political rather than religious reasons at first.
To the north-west of the island is the Gentlemen's Cave, where a number of fugitive Jacobites hid after the disastrous battle of Culloden in 1746. A large cemetery of Viking graves was discovered in the sand dunes during the tenth century near the village of Pierowall, which was once the Vikings' second harbour in Orkney after Kirkwall.