Balfour Castle Orkney Islands, Scotland

Let us take you to the most northerly castle hotel in the world on Reggie the private boat...

Balfour Castle Enquiry
Reggie the boat
Whale watching
Dog Walking


Man Fishing Clay Shooting Seal Watching Reggie the boat Bike Riding Golf Course Close up Food Jean Baptiste Dining Boat Whales

Shapinsay's quiet paths and roads are perfect for walking. A number of suggested routes are available as are guided walks.

Most guided walks follow a theme and combine well with some of the other activities available. It is usually possible to arrange collection from (or delivery to) virtually any point on the island.


Orkney offers trout fishing of unrivalled quality. Orkney trout are true wild trout - there are no introduced species such as rainbow or brook trout. Fishing is usually traditional loch style, although dry fly in a hatch of sedge can be productive and very exiting. Although the norm is usually from a boat, wading is also popular, particularly at each end of the season. A ghillie can be arranged for you, who will have access to the boats and equipment you will require and the local knowledge necessary to ensure a perfect day. A wide range of locations are available and for most of them there is no actual fee for fishing provided you become a visiting member of the Orkney Trout Fishing Association. We can arrange this for you in advance or your ghillie can complete formalities on the day.


An excellent tennis court is provided for the use of guests. The artificial grass carpet ensures a good clean playing surface and continued availability throughout most of the year.

Seal Watching

Seals are the most easily spotted of all the sea mammals which live in the waters around Shapinsay. Depending on the season two types of seal may be seen.

- The Common (or Harbour) Seal can be found on the island all year round. It's favoured resting points vary with tide and season but with local knowledge there is usually a fair chance of finding them. In Orkney common seal pups are born during June and early July. They are active almost immediately and are able to swim as soon as water covers their birth place.

- The Grey (or Atlantic) Seal spends most of the year at sea and begins to arrive in Orkney waters towards the end of summer. By late September cow seals are coming ashore and pupping peaks around the middle of October or beginning of November. The last pups depart the beaches by the end of December. They are usually abandoned by the mother which provides the stimulus for them to finally head out to sea.

The Estate owned island of Muckle Green Holm is one of the major seal nurseries in Orkney.

Sea Trout Fishing

The keen sea trout fisherman will spot a number of locations around Shapinsay which offer the chance of a fish. Guidance and tackle are available.

Sea Fishing

Sea angling can be arranged using local vessels with masters who understand the waters and who know the best places to fish. Depending to some extent on the season a wide variety of different species are found in Orkney's clean, clear waters. Tackle is always available for guests.


Private tours are always available and bespoke tours which match your particular interests can be prepared on request.

Orkney has a wide range of sites to visit; the islands also have a rich, diverse and unique history. A day out can range from the neolithic, though medieval Norse and Scottish history to World War II, or else from the most northerly distillery in the world to modern art via wild coastlines. Accredited, trained guides are available to help you get the very best from your tours.


Around the Balfour Estate there are a number of options for paintballing. Exciting competitions in the woodlands, on the Estate owned island of Helliar Holm or simply in the grounds immediately around the Castle itself are all possible. Up to date protective equipment paintballing guns and consumables are all provided. Safety briefings and basic training are included.

Horse Riding

Guided trekking and hacking for individual riders or small groups can be arranged on the Orkney mainland. Routes will often follow tracks over the heather clad hills visible from Shapinsay. On clear days these routes offer the chance of magnificent views over the Northern Isles. Shore riding is sometimes available too - this will depend on the state of tide though and will usually need arranging well in advance.

Golf Room

This room houses a state of the art golf simulator which offers the choice of 56 different courses to play on and can accommodate up to eight players at a time. It is also possible to practice driving on the range, putting on the green or to hold a 'closest to the pin' competition.


Whether you are a complete beginner or a highly experienced diver Orkney has a great deal to offer. A full range of diving courses and guided dives can be arranged.

If you are qualified to dive to 30m then the wrecks of the scuttled German High Seas Fleet await you on the seabed of Scapa Flow - this is widely acknowledged as one of the most extraordinary dives anywhere in the world. A much shallower diving opportunity is from the shore at the Churchill Barriers on Blockships sunk to protect the British Naval Fleet anchored in Scapa Flow during WWI & WWII. These wrecks are spectacular lying in ~12m of water within easy swimming distance from the shore. This site is ideal for certified divers who have not dived for a while, or who are not qualified for the deeper dives in Scapa Flow.


A croquet lawn is maintained in the Castle grounds.

Cooking Lessons

Jean-Baptiste Bady is now at the helm of the kitchen at Balfour Castle.

Jean-Baptiste is happy to give lessons in cooking to individuals or small groups working to menus or dishes agreed in consultation according to interest and experience. Creations can be served in the dining room or chilled and vacuum-packed to take home.

Jean-Baptiste is driven in his belief that sourcing produce from local farmers and producers delivers the essential freshness and authenticity required to truly “create taste on a plate”. Where possible he will use the best of the local Orkney produce such as lobster, scallops, beef, game and vegetables from the gardens at Balfour.

Throughout his career he has worked at many revered Relais and Châteaux and Relais Gourmand properties. His early inspiration, at the age of just 22 years, was the three Michelin star chef, Bernard Loiseau, of the Relais Gourmand La Côte d'Or Bernard Loiseau. From Chef Loiseau, Jean-Baptiste learnt to understand food and how to keep it simple, yet tasty; by following the philosophy of no more than three flavours on the plate a philosophy he still lives by today. He also learnt firsthand how you inspire a team in a calm and cheery working environment through observing Chef Loiseau's unique and professional attitude to work.

Remaining true to his early mentor, Jean-Baptiste runs his kitchen in the same style, encouraging learning in a relaxed and constructive environment.

Before joining the Balfour team, Jean-Baptiste worked as head chef at Kinnaird Hotel and Estate in Perthshire where he was named "Scottish Chef of the Year 2009" at The Scottish Hotel Awards.

Clay Shooting

Clay pigeon shooting can be offered in a number of locations around the estate. A state of the art trap is available for use which can simulate a variety of game targets with flushes of up to 60 birds at a variety of speeds. Ideal for practice, competition or simply for enjoyment.


An automatic change of screen in the golf room turns this facility into a cinema, TV and games room. There is a library of films available on DVD and Blueray. TV channels are provided as are Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.

Boat Trips

A variety of boat trips are available and bespoke tours can be arranged to match your interests. Suggestions are available on request.

Bird Watching

Balfour is a sporting estate and as such has been managed to provide and improve habitat, ensuring that a wide range of birds nest on the estate. Shapinsay also has an RSPB reserve at the Mill Dam. A well-equipped hide is provided here to view this haven for waders and wildfowl. Habitats on the island include a range from salt marsh though tidal sands to upland heather ensuring that there are a wide range of species to view all the year round. During migration easterly winds often bring rarities to the island. We can provide experienced guides if required.

Billiards Room

Available for billiards, snooker and all other variants of these games the Billiard Room offers a traditional environment in which to play. Decorated with stag heads, otters heads and wildfowling images the room reflects the sporting heritage of Balfour.


Shapinsay has a very good network of small straight roads over a mixed terrain. These quiet roads and farm tracks lend themselves very well to cycling. A number of suggested biking routes have been prepared which use a mixture of rough tracks, shore side areas and tarmac roads. Guided tours by bike are also available. The Castle has a number of bicycles available for guests at all times.

Please note: All activities are subject to availability and we would advise you book these in advance to save disappointment.

5 star exclusive use accommodation, unlike no other...