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Papa Westray

A 'priest' island of the Celtic monks in the Orkney islands, Papa Westray lies to the east of the larger island of Westray on roughly the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway. With an area of 918 ha (2268 acres), Papa Westray is four miles long and a mile wide, rising steadily along a central ridge towards the North Hill (48m / 157 feet). In contrast to the rocky Atlantic-facing north and west coasts, the island's eastern and southern shores have fine sandy bays. Most of the northern end of Papa Westray is occupied by the North Hill Nature Reserve, while in the south the landscape is dominated by the Loch of St Tredwell. One of Britain's last Great Awks (Pinguinus impennis) was shot at Fowl Craig in the northeast of the island in 1813. Archaeological sites of interest include the 5000 year-old Knap of Howar which is thought to be North West Europe's oldest standing house. Featuring in the Orkneyinga Saga, Papa Westray is said to be the burying place in 1046 of Earl Rognavald Brusasson after being murdered by his uncle, although the site of his grave is a mystery. Between 1881 and 1971 the population of Papa Westray fell from 345 to 106. Since 1978, the island's community co-operative has attempted to encourage settlement and sustain the island's facilities which include a shop, youth hostel, post office, guest house, an airstrip and ferry services to Mainland Orkney. However, the population has remained unstable: 92 (1981), 85 (1991), 65 (2001) and 90 (2011).


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