Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Orkney Inter-island Air Service

The only place in Scotland with a cheap, frequent air bus service is Orkney. The outlying islands of North Ronaldsay, Sanday, Stronsay, Westray, Papa Westray, Eday, (and Britain!), are connected to Kirkwall by Loganair's fleet of tiny but sturdy planes. For these communities, the plane provides a useful alternative to the ferry, increasing the choice of timetable and, especially for the furthest flung islands, making a trip to Kirkwall a fairly quick and simple process. There is no doubt the inter island air service helps keep people on these islands.

It also attracts tourists to them: jumping on and off an island is not the best way to see one, but one flight in particular must be experienced - that between Westray and Papa Westray. At 2 minutes (shorter with a following wind), it is the shortest scheduled flight in the world. On the way out you can see seals, reefs, sandbanks, the hills and fields of Orkney, and maybe have a chat with the pilot.

And Kirkwall airport is the nicest I've ever visited - the airports of Barra and Papa Westray are mere huts, staffed part-time only when a plane is due, but Kirkwall is a proper little airport with a destination board, a check in desk, an x-ray machine, and a shop. Heathrow it isn't - and that's a good thing! A man on Rousay once told me he could leave his croft, get the ferry to the mainland, the bus to the airport, and be landing in London two hours after leaving his front door. The key to this is Orkney's integrated public transport and small, friendly airport.

If, like me, you spent a childhood fascinated by aeroplanes, you will love Orkney's inter island air service, and a flight to one of the islands will be a must-do. You can read more about the airport here.

An ayre from the Papa Westray plane:


mcgazz said...

I really liked Steòrnabhagh airport when I was there.

Quite fancy Orkney now, cheers :)

Robert Craig said...

never been to Steòrnabhagh airport - that's another one to add to the list!