While staying at Balfour Castle you may wish to create your own itinerary for exploring Orkney. Alternatively we can offer you numerous activities or tours suitable for individuals, families or groups. Below is a list of some of what we offer.
Balfour Castle has 2 private boats: a 5.25 metre inflatable ideal for short trips and cave exploration. The second is a 5.2 metre fibreglass speedboat with twin outboards and cabin. For longer trips we charter a 12 person fast cruiser that has toilet, galley and large cabin.
There are numerous small uninhabited islands within easy striking distance of Balfour all with unique features and wildlife. Almost all have either Common or Atlantic seals which we can get close to and between June and August the Common seals have their pups. Seabirds you are likely to see are black guillemots, fulmars, puffins, razorbills, gannets, kittywakes, great and arctic skuas, eider ducks, cormorants, shags, greater black backed gulls and arctic terns. We frequently see dolphins and occasionally catch a glimpse of an otter. We can land you for a picnic and a walk over the islands ensuring we avoid sensitive bird nesting areas.
The soft sandstone rock of Orkney is easily eroded by the sea resulting in many wonderful sea caves and geos (narrow channels). Each cave has its own unique atmosphere, some are spooky, some are noisy and slightly smelly with nesting birds, others are cathedral like and awe inspiring. There are many great photographic opportunities. We can take you right into them with our boats.
The long sunny summer days and warm current of the Gulf Stream ensure Orkney's waters are a rich feeding ground for fish. There is plenty to be caught by anglers of all abilities, we have often taken youngsters out in the castle bay and their parents on shore know they are having a great time from the squeals of delight coming from the boat!
Anyone wishing to go further afield for mackerel, cod, pollock, coalfish and ling can use the charter vessel from which up to 12 people can fish comfortably.
Some of the fish you catch will be used as bait for our lobster pots, and we hope you will come and help us haul them. You can order lobster for dinner if you can't catch your own!
Orkney has some of Europe's finest bird cliffs; several of the most dramatic are easily accessible from Balfour. We can get you a little more than arm's length from the lower ledges, turn off the engine and let you experience the drama of life in a seabird colony. After you have taken some great photographs, we will linger a while so you can appreciate the differing routines of the various species including watching the guillemots catching fish under the boat.
We can give instruction to individuals wishing to learn the rudiments of small boat handling.
There is local sailboat Charter Company (www.sailorkney.co.uk) where you can get a 4, 6 or 8 berth yacht on a daily basis, with or without skipper. It is hard to imagine a more relaxing way to travel amongst the islands.
ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY
We are blessed in Orkney with Europe's finest examples of well-preserved archaeological sites. Take day trips to visit the 5500 year old village at Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Maes Howe, Tomb of the Eagles and scores of other remarkable sites on the Orkney Mainland or surrounding islands. You will get an intimate feel for the lives our ancestors led. There are signs too of more turbulent times in Orkney's history, from the Viking era up to WW II's romantic Italian Chapel and dramatic Churchill Barriers. All this and the beautiful and inspirational backdrop of the islands will leave you spiritually uplifted as you head back towards the tranquil surroundings of Balfour Castle in the evening.
SIGHT SEEING AND WILDLIFE
The bird life of Orkney constantly changes, from the spring migration northwards, when our winter visitors are replaced by our summer breeding birds, to their Autumn exodus and the arrival of a fresh intake from the Arctic regions, there is not a month when Orkney is not alive with birds.
Seals are also to be found year round with mid summer and autumn being the pupping times for the Common and Atlantic seals respectively. We have more than once witnessed the spectacle of Killer Whales attempting to catch a seal.
There are numerous nature reserves in the islands, the closest being a 10 minute walk from Balfour Castle and these allow good wildlife viewing. Using our experience we will direct you or take you to those places that will give you the best viewing and photographic opportunities.
On your travels round the islands you may well wish to take a detour to one of the numerous craft workshops. Orkney is best known for its Celtic and Norse influenced jewellery and knitwear.
Tours of Shapinsay with a local guide visiting historical & archaeological sites and craft workshops while learning about island life and folklore.
There are two 18-hole golf courses on the Orkney Mainland at Kirkwall and Stromness.
We can arrange days brown trout fishing on the numerous lochs on Orkney, either to explore on your own or with a ghillie and boat.
We have several bicycles for hire for you to explore the gently rolling island of Shapinsay.
If you would like to try this fun sport or just keep your eye in, we can lay on a shoot with instruction.
Learn the basics of off road driving in Land Rovers on our farm. Instructor accompanied.