Infobox Scottish island |
meaning of name= Old Norse for 'helpful island' or 'judge's island'
highest elevation=Ward Hill 64
local authority=Orkney Islands
references= [General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) " [http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/publications-and-data/occpapers/occasional-paper-10.html Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands] " Retrieved 1 October 2007.] Haswell Smith (2004) "op cit" pages 364–7.] [http://www.orkneyjar.com/placenames/pl-isle.htm "Orkney Placenames"] Orkneyjar. Retrieved 10 October 2007.] cite web|url=http://getamap.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getamap/frames.htm?mapAction=gaz&gazName=g&gazString=HY5054917950|title=HY5054917950|work=Get-a-map;|publisher=
Ordnance Survey|accessdate=2007-10-10] [Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) "Orkneyinga Saga". Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9] Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) "Orkneyjar ok Katanes" (map, Inverness, Nevis Print)]
Shapinsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. There is one village on the island, Balfour, from which roll-on/roll-off car ferries sail to
Kirkwallon the Orkney Mainland. Balfour Castle, built in the Scottish Baronial style, is one of the island's most prominent features, a reminder of the Balfour family's domination of Shapinsay during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Balfours had transformed the island's life by introducing new agricultural techniques. Other landmarks include a standing stone, an Iron Age broch, a souterrainand a salt-water shower.
With an area of just under 3,000 hectares (7,300 acres), Shapinsay is the eighth largest island in the Orkney
archipelago. It is low-lying and fertile, consequently most of the area is given over to farming. Shapinsay has two nature reserves and is notable for its bird life. [cite web|url=http://www.orkney.org/islands/shapinsay.htm|title=Island Explorations—Shapinsay|accessdate=2007-12-15|work=The Orkney Website]
As of the 2001 census, Shapinsay has a population of 300. The economy of the island is primarily based on agriculture with the exception of a few small businesses that are largely tourism-related. Plans for the construction of a
wind turbineare under consideration.
Unlike most of the larger Orkney islands, the derivation of the name 'Shapinsay' is not obvious. The final 'ay' is from the
Old Norsefor "island", but the first two syllables are more difficult to interpret. Haswell-Smith (2004) suggests the root may be "hjalpandis-øy" ("helpful island") due to the presence of a good harbour, although anchorages are plentiful in the archipelago. The first written record dates from 1375 in a reference to "Scalpandisay", which may suggest a derivation from "Judge's island". Another suggestion is "Hyalpandi's island", although no one of that name is known to be associated with Shapinsay.
Standing stones provide evidence of the island's human occupation since
Neolithictimes. According to Tacitus, the Roman general Agricola subdued the inhabitants of the Orkneys, and a local legend holds that he landed on Shapinsay. During the 18th century, a croft named "Grukalty" was renamed "Agricola". Roman coins have been found on Shapinsay, but they may have been brought to the island by traders.
Shapinsay is briefly mentioned in the Norse sagas; "The Saga of Haakon Haakonsson" states that
Haakon IV of Norwayanchored in Elwick Bay before sailing south to eventual defeat at the Battle of Largs.
The 18th century saw the beginnings of change to agriculture on Shapinsay, courtesy of the Balfour family. The family owned the estate of Sound, which covered the western part of the island. Sound had passed from the Tulloch family to the Buchanan family in the 17th century. In 1674, Arthur Buchanan built the house of Sound, where
Balfour Castlenow stands. His granddaughter married James Fea, who is best known for his role in the capture of the Orkney Pirate John Gow. Fea was a supporter of the Jacobite Rebellion, and the house was burned by Hanoverian troops in revenge. The estate was acquired by Andrew Ross, Stewart Depute in Orkney of the Earl of Morton. [The office of Stewart Depute was also known as "Sheriff Depute" cite web|title=The Pundlar Process| url=http://genealogy.northern-skies.net/genealogy.php?number=70| accessdate=2007-10-13| work=Fea, a genealogy with connections to Orkney, Scotland] Ross's heirs, the Lindsay brothers, sold the estate to Thomas Balfour in 1782.Tait, Charles (2006) "op cit" pages 498–507] cite book|title=The New History of Orkney|publisher=Mercat Press|location=Edinburgh|year=2001|last=Thomson|first=William P.L|ISBN=978-1841830223] Balfour had previously rented the Bu of Burray, a large manor farm on another Orkney island. They did not possess enough wealth to acquire the estate, even though his wife had inherited a legacy on the death of her aristocratic brother. To raise the necessary funds, Balfour had to sell his military commission and borrow money from his brother, John, who was prospering in India with the East India Company. Once installed on the island, he built a new house, Cliffdale, and founded the village of Shoreside, now known as Balfour. He also reformed the local agriculture, enclosing fields and constructing farm buildings.
William Irving was born c. 1740 in the small hamlet of
Quholmin the northeast part of the island. He became a sailor before emigrating to New Yorkin 1763. One of his sons was Washington Irving, author of Rip van Winkleand the first American author to gain international recognition.
Marjory Meason, a native of Shapinsay, was the last person to be executed in Orkney, in 1728. She was a young servant, hanged in Kirkwall for the murder of a child. The execution is recorded as requiring 24 armed men, not including officers, and costing £15 8s.
During this period, burning
kelpwas a mainstay of the island economy. Over convert|3048|t|LT|0|lk=on of burned seaweed were produced per annum to make soda ash, bringing in £20,000 for the inhabitants. Thomas Balfour's income from the kelp industry brought him four times the income that farming did.
The 19th century saw more radical change in Shapinsay. Thomas Balfour's grandson, David Balfour, transformed the island after inheriting the family estate, which by 1846 encompassed the whole of Shapinsay. Most of the land was divided into fields of convert|4|ha|acre|0, a feature that is still apparent today. Tenants were required to enclose and drain the land or pay for the estate to do it in the form of a surcharge added to their rents. In 1846, convert|303|ha|acre|0 on Shapinsay consisted of arable land. By 1860, that had trebled to more than convert|890.3|ha|acre|-1.Thomson, William P.L. "Agricultural Improvement" in Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) "op cit" page 98.] New crops and breeds of cattle and sheep were also introduced. Balfour's reforms were described as "the fountain and source of Orkney Improvement."
Balfour also gave the island its most noticeable landmark when he recruited an
Edinburgharchitect, David Bryce, to transform Cliffdale House into the Scottish BaronialBalfour Castle.cite web| url=http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/balfourcastle/index.html| title=Balfour Castle Feature Page| publisher=Undiscovered Scotland| accessdate=2007-08-13] Other buildings he added to the island include the porter's lodge (now a public housecalled The Gatehouse), a water mill, a school, and a gasworks that remained operational until the 1920s.cite web| url=http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/balfour/index.html| title=Balfour Feature Page| publisher=Undiscovered Scotland| accessdate=2007-08-13] The gasworks is in the form of a round tower with a corbelled parapet of red brick and carved stones—including one possibly removed from Noltland Castleon Westray, which is inscribed with the year 1725. The structure appears to be fortified, in accordance with Balfour's intention to give the village a medieval appearance. [Wickham-Jones, Caroline (2007) "Orkney: A Historical Guide". Edinburgh. Birlinn. Page 193.] David Balfour was also responsible for the construction of Mill Dam, a wetland which was once the water supplyfor the mill and is now an RSPB nature reserve.
herringand codalso grew in importance during the 19th century. Herring fishing was expanding generally in Scotland at that time, with fishing stations being set up in remote areas. Herring fishing began in 1814 on Stronsayand soon spread throughout the Orkney Islands. By the middle of the century, Shapinsay had 50 herring boats. [cite book|last=Fenton|first=Alexander|title=The Northern Isles|year=1997|publisher=John Donald|location=East Linton] Cod became important largely because the Napoleonic Warsforced English fishing boats to fish further north. Local fishermen, who had been catching fish using lines from small boats for centuries, also began trawlingfor cod. However, this was largely a part-time venture, unlike in Shetland, where many inhabitants made a living from fishing. A saying originating from this time states, "a Shetlander is a fisherman with a croft, while an Orcadian is a farmer with a boat." Consequently, fishermen from outside the Orkney Islands earned a large share of the profits. Helliar Holm's beaches were used to dry both herring and cod after they had been salted. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, which led to cheaper sources of soda ashbecoming available from continental Europe, the kelp industry collapsed by 1830.cite web|url=http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/shapinsay/|title=Shapinsay Feature Page|publisher=Undiscovered Scotland|accessdate=2007-10-13] This collapse helped fuel agricultural reform, as crofters accustomed to earning a second income had to now earn more from farming.
The Balfour estate sold its farms on Shapinsay between 1924 and 1928. This was a common occurrence in Orkney at the time as wealthy landowners moved to more lucrative forms of investment. Farms were generally sold to the sitting tenant or to their neighbours who wished to expand.
The 20th century saw many changes in farming on Shapinsay. Mechanised implements came to the island, particularly after the
Second World War. In common with the rest of Orkney, the amount of land given over to growing grass increased. The growing of grain (with the exception of barley) and turnips steadily declined as these were replaced as winter fodder for livestock by silage, usually harvested by mechanical forage harvesters. [convert|116664|acre|ha|1 of farmland (90% of the archipelago's cultivated land excluding rough grazing) is now under grass, of which convert|40668|acre|ha|1 are cut for hay or silage. Thomson, William P.L (2001) "op cit" page 422.]
Orkney was a strategic site during both World Wars, and Shapinsay was no exception. In 1917, during the
First World War, the convert|836|t|LT|0|sing=on "Swiftsure" was hit by a mine 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) east of Haco's Ness and sank in 19 metres (62 ft) of water with the loss of a single life. The site of the wreck was not discovered until 1997. [ [http://jeanelaine.co.uk/text/NorthIslesDiving.htm#swiftsure "North Isles and beyond Wreck Database"] Scapa Flow Charters. Retrieved 13 October 2007]
During the Second World War, gun batteries were built on the island. A twin six pounder emplacement at Galtness Battery on the coast at Salt Ness protected the Wide Firth from German torpedo boats. A Castle Battery was operational from 1941–43, as was an anti-aircraft battery.
Mains electricityarrived on Shapinsay in the 1970s, when an underwater cable was laid from Kirkwall.
The trend towards more intensive farming began to be partially reversed by the end of the century as more environmentally friendly practices were encouraged by government and
European Uniongrants. For example, Richard Zawadzki, owner of Balfour Mains (the largest farm on the island), ceased to breed livestock (instead keeping animals bred elsewhere) and grows less grain (some barley is still grown on the farm). Instead, some of the land is now managed under a Habitat Creation Scheme, which aims to encourage natural vegetation, wild flowers and nesting birds by limiting grazing and reducing the use of chemical fertilisers.
Tourism started to become important in the latter half of the century; the first restaurant to incorporate
bed and breakfastfacilities opened in 1980.
With an area of convert|2948|ha|sqmi|0, Shapinsay is the 8th largest Orkney island and the 29th largest Scottish island. The highest point of Ward Hill is convert|64|m|ft|0 above sea level. The east coast is composed of low cliffs and has several sea caves, including the picturesque geo at the extreme northern tip known as
Geo of Ork. Elwick Bay is a sheltered anchorage on the south coast, facing the Orkney mainland; the island's largest settlement, Balfour, is at the western end of the bay.
The island has several ayres, or
storm beaches, which form narrow spits of shingle or sand cutting across the landward and seaward ends of shallow bays. They can sometimes cut off a body of water from the sea, forming shallow freshwater lochs known as oyces. [cite web|url=http://www.fettes.com/Orkney/storm%20beach.htm|title=Orkney storm beach|work=Orkney Landscapes|publisher=Fettes College|accessdate=2007-10-12] [ [http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/geology/orkneyShetland/voes.asp "Voes, Ayres and Beaches"] Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 12 October 2007.] Examples include Vasa Lochand Lairo Water. [cite web|url=http://www.visitorkney.com/orkney_isles/shapinsay.asp|title=Shapinsay|publisher=VisitOrkney|accessdate=2007-10-12]
There are several small islands in the vicinity including Broad Shoal, Grass Holm and Skerry of Vasa.
Helliar Holmis a tidal isletat the eastern entrance to the main harbour at Balfour; it has a small lighthouseand a ruined broch. The String, a stretch of water that lies between Helliar Holm and the mainland, has strong tidal currents.
In common with most of the Orkney isles, Shapinsay has a
bedrockformed from Old Red Sandstone, which is approximately 400 million years old and was laid down in the Devonianperiod. These thick deposits accumulated as earlier Silurianrocks, uplifted by the formation of Pangaea, eroded and then deposited into river deltas. The freshwater Orcadian Lake existed on the edges of these eroding mountains, stretching from Shetlandto the southern Moray Firth. [McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) "Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland". Edinburgh. Birlinn.] The composition of Shapinsay is mostly of the Rousayflagstone group from the Lower Middle Devonian, with some Eday flagstone in the southeast formed in wetter conditions during the later Upper Devonian. The latter is regarded as a better quality building material than the former. At Haco's Ness in the south east corner of the island is a small outcrop of amygdaloidal diabase. The island is overlain with a fertile layer of boulder clay formed during the Pleistoceneglaciations. [Brown, John Flett, "Geology and Landscape" in Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) "op cit" pages 4–5.] [cite encyclopedia | year = 1911 | title = Orkney Islands | url = http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Orkney_Islands | encyclopedia = Encyclopædia Britannica | edition= 11th edition | publisher = Encyclopædia Britannica|accessdate=2007-10-10]
Flora and fauna
The island's bird life is particularly rich in waders such as
curlewand redshank, found at The Ouseand Veantro Bay, and gull and terncolonies on the rockier shores and cliffs. Pintail, shovelers and whooper swans are regular summer visitors, and there are also breeding populations of shelducks, hen harriers and bonxies. [ [http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/m/milldam/star_species.asp "Mill Dam, Shapinsay: Star Species"] RSPB. Retrieved 12 October 2007.] There is an introduced population of red-legged partridges. [ [http://www.visitorkney.com/birdreports/may2003.asp "RSPB Bird Reports"] Visitorkney.com. Retrieved 12 October 2007.] Otters can be seen at the Ouse, Lairo Water and Vasa Loch, and at various places around the coast along with common seals and Atlantic grey seals. There are plans to build a hide to allow visitors to observe seals without disturbing them. Shapinsay and Hoyare the only two larger Orkney islands that lack the Orkney vole("Microtus arvalis orcadensis"). [ Tofts, Russell [http://www.napak.com/orkney_vole.html "The Orkney Vole"] National Association of Private Animal Keepers. Retrieved 12 October 2007.] Wildflowers abound in the summer, and the lichen"Melaspilea interjecta", which is endemic to Scotland, is found in only three locations, including Shapinsay. [http://www.orkney.org/islands/shapinsay.htm "Shapinsay"] orkney.org. Retrieved 12 October 2007.] [ [http://www.stirling.gov.uk/lichen_ap.pdf "Lichens Species Action Plan"] (pdf) Stirling Council. Retrieved 13 October 2007] In addition to the RSPB reserve at Mill Dam there is a Scottish Wildlife Trustreserve at East Hill in the south east.
The highest recorded population for Shapinsay is 974, in 1881. Since then, the population of the island has steadily declined; less than a third of that number was recorded in the 2001 census. The rate of absolute population loss was lower in the last decades of the 20th century than it had been in the first half of that century. As of 2001, Shapinsay had a population of 300, a decline of 6.83% from the 1991 population of 322. This is greater than the population decline for Orkney overall in the same period, which was 1.87%. However, the loss in population on Shapinsay was less than that experienced by most Orkney islands, with most showing a decline of over 10%. The number of persons per hectare on Shapinsay was 0.11, similar to the 0.19 persons per hectare in Orkney.cite web|url=http://www.hie.co.uk/ORK-Orkney-LEF-related-documents/ORK-lef-04-03-2001-census-info.doc|title=Notes on the 2001 Census|publisher=
Highlands and Islands Enterprise|work=Orkney Local Economic Forum|accessdate=2007-10-17|format=Microsoft Word document|date= 2007-06-10] [1798, 1841, 1931 and 1961–2000. Haswell-Smith (2004) "op cit" page 364.] [For 1851–61 and related pages for 1871–1901 [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/census/table_page.jsp?tab_id=S1861POP_M1&u_id=10124955&show=DB&min_c=21&max_c=22 "A Vision of Britain Through Time"] visionofbritain.org.uk. Retrieved 17 October 2007.]
Of the island's 300 inhabitants, 283 were born in the United Kingdom (227 in Scotland and 56 in England). Seventeen were born outside the United Kingdom (four elsewhere in Europe, four in Asia, four in North America, one in South America and four in Oceania). By age group, 85 of the inhabitants were under 30 years of age, 134 were aged between 30 and 59, and 71 were age 60 and over. [cite web|url=http://www.scrol.gov.uk/scrol/warehouse/warehouse?selectedLevelId=&postcode=&areaText=&RADIOLAYER=&actionName=download-data&clearAreas=&downloadSpeed=1108&councilArea=&subArea=&stateData1=&stateData2=&stateData3=&stateData4=&debug=&tempData1=&tempData2=&tempData3=&tempData4=&areaId=118&levelId=6|format=
Microsoft Excelspreadsheets|accessdate=2007-11-02|title=Shapinsay Inhabited Island|publisher=General Register Office for Scotland]
Balfour Castle dominates views of the southwest of the island and can be seen from the tower of
St. Magnus Cathedralin Kirkwall. The castle library features a secret passage hidden behind a false set of bookshelves. The Balfours escaped unwelcome visitors through this passageway, which leads to the conservatory door, enabling the butler to truthfully tell visitors that the Balfours were not in the house. Another feature of the castle is the stags' heads with gaslights at the tips of their antlers, although these are no longer used as working lights. The castle grounds feature deciduous woodland (now rare in Orkney) as well as two acres of walled gardens.
Other buildings constructed by David Balfour include the Dishan Tower, known locally as "The Douche". This is a saltwater shower building with a
dovecoteon top. A local landmark due to its high visibility when approaching the island by sea, the building is now in a serious state of disrepair, with roofing slates missing and the dovecote in danger of collapsing. The Shapinsay Heritage Trust has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fundfor funds to repair the tower, and a survey is planned to determine what work will be needed.
A more ancient dwelling on Shapinsay is the Iron Age Broch of Burroughston. Only the interior of this partially buried building has been excavated, allowing visitors to look down into the broch from the surrounding mound. The surviving
drystonewalls rise to about three metres (10 ft) and are over four metres (13 ft) thick in some places. [Hogan, C. Michael ( 2007-10-07). [http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=7891 Burroughston Broch] . "The Megalithic Portal". ed Andy Burnham. Retrieved on 2007-11-03.]
The broch shows more evidence of David Balfour's influence on Shapinsay. He arranged for the site to be excavated by the archaeologists George Petrie and Sir William Dryden in 1861. [This was by no means Balfour's only contribution to Orkney architecture; he owned
Maes Howeon the Orkney Mainland, and paid for the construction of a protective roof which still exists today. cite web|url=http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/burroughstonbroch/index.html|title=Burroughston Broch Feature Page|publisher=Undiscovered Scotland|accessdate=2007-12-15] After the excavation, the site was neglected, slowly filling up with vegetation and rubble before being cleared in 1994. [cite web|url=http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/burroughstonbroch/index.html|title=Burroughston Broch Feature Page|publisher=Undiscovered Scotland|accessdate=2007-10-16]
Shapinsay Heritage Centre is located in Balfour's former smithy, along with a craft shop and a cafe. The castle's former gatehouse is now the village public house.
In common with the other Orkney islands, Shapinsay is fertile agricultural land, with farms specialising in beef and lamb which export thousands of cattle and sheep annually. [http://orcadian.co.uk/features/articles/shapinsay.htm "Shapinsay"] The Orcadian. Retrieved 12 October 2007.] [Wenham, Sheena "The South Isles" in Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) "op cit" page 98.]
Orkney Ferriesprovides transport for pedestrians and vehicles, proximity to Kirkwallpermitting closer contacts with the Orkney Mainland than is possible for most of the other North Isles. There are six crossings per day, the journey lasting about 25 minutes, which allows for a moderate amount of commuting. [ [http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/ferry/index.html "Shapinsay Ferry"] Undiscovered Scotland. Retrieved 10 October 2007.] [ [http://www.orkneyferries.co.uk/pdfs/sk/winterspring/shapinsaywinterspring.pdf "Shapinsay"] (pdf) Orkney Ferries. Retrieved 10 October 2007.] [Hewitson, Jim "The North Isles", in Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) "op cit" page 186.] Between 1893 and 1964, the island was served by the steamer "Iona". Since 1964, the "Klydon" and then the "Clytus" have operated the service; the current ferry is the "MV Shapinsay". [Muir, Tom "Transport and Communications" in Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) "op cit" pages 216 and 219.] The Orkney Islands Council has considered building a tunnel to the Orkney Mainland. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4331889.stm "Isle tunnel plans under spotlight"] . BBC News Website, 2005-03-09. Retrieved 18 October 2007.] Balfour Castleis now run as a hotel by the family of Captain Tadeusz Zawadzki, a Polish cavalry officer. [ [http://www.balfourcastle.co.uk/ "Balfour Castle - Orkney"] balfourcastle.co.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2007.]
development trustis working on the island's community plan, including plans to build a wind turbine. As of August 2007, a feasibility study has been carried out and, in December 2006, the trust held a "Renewable Energy Awareness Day" on the island. [cite web|url=http://www.hie.co.uk/HICEC-tenders/HICEC%20Invitation%20to%20Tender%20Orkney%20Islands.pdf|title=Invitation to Tender— For the Provision of Technical Assistance to Community Wind Energy Projects on Orkney|publisher=Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company|accessdate=2007-10-12|format=pdf] [ [http://www.hie.co.uk/HICEC/Community%20Energy%20News_JAN07%20.pdf "Shapinsay growing greener"] (pdf) (January 2007) "Community Energy News No. 4". Dingwall. HICEC. Retrieved 10 October 2007.] A study on the impact the turbine will have on the island's bird life is under way, and meteorologicaland visual impact studies are planned.The meteorological study will involve erecting a 50 metre (164 ft) mast with three anemometers at the proposed site of the turbine to record wind speed, direction and turbulence, while the Landscape Impact Assessment will involve the creation of computer generated photomontages. cite web|url=http://www.shapinsay.org.uk/page005.html|title=Community Wind Turbine Update, August 2007
work=Shapinsay Development Trust website|accessdate=2007-10-12 ] According to the development trust, the turbine could earn more than £5 million during its 25-year lifetime.cite news|title=Shapinsay is positive about the future|url=http://www.orkneytoday.ltd.uk/news_item.asp?newsItem=2448|work=Orkney Today|date=
Small businesses on Shapinsay include a
jamand chutneymanufacturer, which uses traditional methods, [cite web|url=http://www.shapinsay.biz/preserves.htm|accessdate=2007-10-15|title=Orkney Isles Preserves|work=Shapinsay E-Business Park] and a studio offering residential arts courses such as stained glasscrafting. [cite web|url=http://www.orkneystainedglass.com/tutorial.php|accessdate=2007-12-06|title=Orkney Stained Glass|publisher=orkneystainedglass.com]
Education and culture
Shapinsay has a
primary schoolwith 26 pupils, as of the 2006–07 academic year. Before 1995, the island also had a secondary school but lost this because of falling enrolment and improved transport links with Kirkwall, to where Shapinsay secondary pupils now travel.Smith, Robin "The Making of Scotland" (2001) Edinburgh. Canongate] The school doubles as a community centre and is host to a learning centre supported by the UHI Millennium Institute. This centre uses the internet, email and video-conferencing to allow students in Shapinsay to study without leaving the island. [cite web|url=http://www.uhi.ac.uk/learning-centres|title=Learning centre unit|publisher=UHI Millennium Institute|accessdate=2007-10-12]
In December 2006, the pupils staged a joint Christmas show with a school in Grinder,
Norway, convert|875|km|mi|0 from Shapinsay. The schools used the internet to collaborate, supported by BT Group(BT), which upgraded the school's broadband connection. The finale of the show involved the Norwegian pupils singing "Away in a Manger" in English while the Shapinsay pupils responded with "En Stjerne Skinner I Natt" in Norwegian. This multilingual collaboration was somewhat easier for the Grinder pupils, who are taught English from the age of six. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/north_east/6180191.stm|title=A 544-mile long nativity cracker|accessdate=2007-10-12|date= 2006-12-14|work= BBCnews website] This collaboration was part of an ongoing relationship between the schools, whose children exchange letters and cards. Shapinsay school's headteacher has visited the Norwegian school, and there are plans for a reciprocal visit in 2008. [cite web|url=http://www.shapinsay.orkney.sch.uk/grinderskole.html|title=Grinder Skole|accessdate=2007-12-08|work=Shapinsay Community School & Nursery]
Shapinsay Community School has gained a Silver Award under the international
Eco-Schoolsprogramme. School pupils have carried out an energy audit, helped to plant more than 600 trees close to the school and carried out energy saving campaigns. [ For example, the children designed an owl that fits over light switches, reminding people to turn out lights. cite web|url=http://www.hie.co.uk/Default.aspx.LocID-0finewl9z.RefLocID-0fihiesv500b00d.Lang-EN.htm|title=When the lights go out on Shapinsay|accessdate=2007-10-12|date= 2007-02-22|publisher=Highlands and Islands Enterprise] [cite web|url=http://www.hi-energy.org.uk/Lets-Talk-Renewables/letstalkrenewables-spring2007.pdf|title=Let's talk Renewables, Spring 2007|publisher=Highlands and Islands Enterprise|accessdate=2007-10-12|format=pdf] Shapinsay pupils have also won an award from the Scottish Crofters Commission for producing a booklet on croftingon the island. [cite web|url=http://www.hmie.gov.uk/documents/inspection/ShapinsayPS6003621.pdf|format=pdf|accessdate=2007-10-15|title=Shapinsay Primary School|publisher= Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education]
Cubbie Roo, the best known Orcadian giant, has a presence on Shapinsay. He was originally based on the historical figure Kolbein Hrúga, who built Cubbie Roo's Castle in 1150 on the isle of Wyre, which is possibly the oldest
castlein Scotland, and was mentioned in the " Orkneyinga Saga". However, the figure Cubbie Roo has departed far from his historical origins and has become a giant in the fashion that Finn MacCool, (legendary builder of the Giant's Causeway), has in Ireland. He is said to have lived on the island of Wyre and used Orkney's islands as stepping stones. Many large stones on Orkney islands, including Shapinsay, are said to have been thrown or left there by the giant. Cubbie Roo's Burn is a waterway on Shapinsay that flows through a channel called "Trolldgeo". Cubbie Roo's Lade is a pile of stones on the shore near Rothiesholm Head, the westmost point of Stronsay. This is supposedly the beginning of a bridge between the two islands that the giant had failed to complete. The name derives from the Old Norse "trolla-hlad", meaning "giant's causeway". [ [http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/giants/cubbierow.htm "Orkney's Giant Folklore"] Orkneyjar. Retrieved 14 October 2007.]
In 1905, "The Orcadian" newspaper reported that a strange creature had been seen off the coast of Shapinsay. It was reportedly the size of a horse, with a spotted body covered in scales. Opinion on the creature's origin was divided, with some islanders believing it to be a
sea serpent, while others opined that it was merely a large seal. [cite web|url=http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/shapinsay1905.htm|title=Monsters of the Deep—The 1905 Shapinsay Sea Serpent|work=Orkneyjar|accessdate=2007-11-12]
* Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004) "The Scottish Islands". Edinburgh. Canongate. ISBN 978-0862415792. Pages 364–7.
* Omand, Donald (ed.) (2003) "The Orkney Book". Edinburgh. Birlinn. ISBN 1-84158-254-9
* Tait, Charles (2006). " [http://www.orkneyguide.com/ogbpdf/Shapinsay.pdf North Isles–Shapinsay] " (pdf). "Orkney Guide Book". Kirkwall. Charles Tait Photographic. ISBN 978-0951785911. Pages 498–507.
* [http://www.shapinsay.org.uk Shapinsay Development Trust]
* [http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/shapinsay/shapinsay/ Shapinsay Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland]
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