Day 18 – Papay

I woke to a beautiful morning on Papay today. With the sun beating down and only the lightest of breezes it was the perfect conditions to explore the island. I started off at the craft shop and post office at the bottom of the street where I met a lovely lady who knits socks and keeps sheep on the Holm of Papay. She showed me her map which charts the journeys of the socks she has sold all over the world and the postcards that she has been sent by happy customers. I bought a pair of socks from her that she told me she had just finished knitting the night before.  From there I walked back past the hostel to the other side of the island to the Knap of Howar, the oldest preserved stone dwelling in Northern Europe, where I ran into a couple that I had met on North Ronaldsay. I sat with them for a while basking in the warmth of the sun and chatting about travel and the Orkney Islands.

After some lunch in the hostel I spent the afternoon walking at the South end of the island. I had been told that there was an art centre at the end of the main road so decided to go and find it. There I met Chan and Ivanov who run a contemporary art festival on the island each year called Papay Gyro Nights. The festival is held at the first full moon in February and reflects on the islands tradition of the Night of the Gyro when young boys would hunt for Gyro’s (giant female monsters), who were usually the older boys dressed as repulsive old women, and whip them with ropes or tangles until they could out run them.  The festival brings international art to the island, mostly video works, which is fairly challenging but generally well received by the locals. As we chatted over coffee about the festival and life on the island their young daughter was variously playing with a glass of milk, handing me flowers and doing tai chi while wearing  her mums orange Doc Martins.

Later I was sat on the old pier watching the sea and thinking about my time in Papay. I felt a change in the air and turned to see what had been blue sky just moments ago was heavy grey clouds. I decided to head for cover before the heavens opened and so retreated to the hostel for a coffee until my flight was due. The flight from Papay to Westray is the shortest scheduled flight in the world with a flight time of under 2 minutes. I was told by one of the plane attendants to remember to collect my certificate and miniature bottle of Highland Park whisky when I got back to Kirkwall.

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