UPDATE October 2021
As October draws to a close and it feels increasingly like winter is upon us we will put Westraak into hibernation and concentrate on some of our other commitments here in Westray. Thanks to all who have joined us for a tour this year, after a slow start we have been as busy as ever during the summer, welcoming guests from the length and breadth of the UK.
We will be here and continue to answer calls and emails so please get in touch with any queries. We look forward to welcoming more visitors to Westray in 2022.
Best wishes, Andy and Karen
UPDATE May 2021
We are pleased to be able to operate tours again. We are currently running with limited numbers in order to comply with social distancing on the bus and in our house but are hopeful that will ease again soon.
Please be aware that even foot passengers have to book in advance with Orkney Ferries. The system can best be described as requiring updating, so you will need to phone the office no later than 4pm the previous day.
UPDATE April 2021
The puffins are back in Westray and we are hopeful that it won�t be long before we can welcome visitors to Westray again too. At the moment there is no clear guidance on when travel restrictions to the islands of Scotland will be lifted (at the moment it is essential travel only allowed on the ferries and planes) but we are happy to take provisional bookings for later in the summer and hope to have a clearer idea of when visitors are permitted soon. We also have to make sure we can operate safely and within the guidelines which might mean some changes to the way we run our tours but hopefully all will be come clearer soon. Best wishes, Andy and Karen.
COVID UPDATE July 20th 2020
WESTRAAK TOURS WILL BE CLOSED FOR THE REMAINDER OF 2020
We have been deliberating for many hours on whether we can or should restart our tours this season. While there has been plenty of advice made available from such bodies as the Scottish Government and Visit Scotland, and we have taken the time to plough through it all, there is nothing that specifically applies to our set up. We have sought advice from Destination Orkney and had a long phone call with their chief executive, Elaine Tulloch, but ultimately we ourselves have to make any definitive decisions.
While we are keen to get going again for all the same reasons that everyone working in tourism has, we are really worried that we will not be able to offer a safe or satisfactory service while the current restrictions are in place.
Our tour involves an extended period of time in an enclosed space (the bus), and the personal nature of our tour means there is an ongoing two way conversation while on the bus. We and our guests would have to be masked the whole time. Another key feature of our tour, and one that we believe makes it standout is that we provide hospitality (coffees, lunch) in our family home. It’s not a huge house, we use our family dining room & table. We are not convinced that having guests out-with our immediate friends and family ‘bubbles’ in our house is allowed or sensible. Being unable to host mixed groups would also detract significantly from an aspect of our tour that our guests really appreciate, and we feel enhances the day considerably.
We have done risk assessments and invested in hand sanitisers etc and also pondered alternatives – but the café is closed and there is a distinct lack of enclosed places to eat a packed lunch. Westray is a fantastic place to be on a lovely day but we have many days when the weather is less than brilliant, this is easier to contend with when our guests know they can get some respite at our house or at the Castle or Heritage Centre, but if these are not available (currently closed) it is a very long day to be outside in the rain. There is no alternative ‘early boat’, day visitors are committed to the whole day.
We are very concerned that any tour we could operate would be so substandard compared to the one we usually offer that it would be damaging to our reputation. We are also worried it would expose ourselves, our guests and the wider Westray community, most of whom share significant anxieties about an influx of tourists after many months of well observed lockdown, to unnecessary risk.
Our decision to open or not would be based foremost on the public health aspects, and secondly on the quality of the service we could offer. There is also the matter of fact that hosting tours for single groups of 1 or 2 people does not actually make us any money, we are happy to do that on occasion when required, but it is not a sustainable business model.
In conclusion, the measures we would have to take to mitigate the risk are practically and financially detrimental to the running of our tour and would impact on so many central aspects of what we believe enhances the experience for our valued guests. For these reasons, and to remove any uncertainty, we have taken the tough decision to remain closed in 2020, and fully intend to be operating again in 2021.
We have some bookings already for 2021 and hope to take more over the winter as the situation evolves. In the meantime, take care everyone, stay safe and best wishes.
Andy & Karen
COVID UPDATE, July 3rd 2020
Hello. We trust you are all doing Ok. While there are some tentative plans for the tourism industry in Orkney to reopen in the next few weeks we have taken the decision to remain closed until at least the end of July. The social distancing requirements mean that the use of our bus for mixed groups and our home for our guests to eat etc is not possible. We look forward to welcoming visitors as soon as its safe and practical.
Orkney.com has a lot of useful information for potential visitors which is continually updated in these ever changing times.
Best wishes, Andy & Karen.
We�ve had quite a few requests for day tours on Tuesdays for this year so I�d like to clarify that while we are open for business on Tuesdays the Westray ferry timetable is different during the summer (3rd May-28th September, allegedly). The boat leaves Kirkwall very early (7am) and then returns from Westray three hours earlier than the other weekdays, which makes it an unsatisfactorily short day over here. Unless you are staying over in Westray on the Tuesday, or are leaving by plane, we recommend booking a day tour on one of the other weekdays.
Happy New Year, best wishes for 2020. We had another busy year and are now taking bookings for the new season. We�ve had a few issues with folk�s booking requests not getting to us, should you make an enquiry via the calendar and you don�t hear from us within a day or two, apologies, please send us an email or phone. Thanks.
A very happy New Year to all our previous and prospective guests. Its a bit calmer here after a blowy few days after Christmas. The sea has been crashing over the cliffs at the North End (Scann). We are already taking bookings for this year and looking forward to welcoming more visitors to Westray in 2019. Best wishes from Andy and Karen.
The season is very much underway - the puffins are back and can be viewed in the evenings. Up at Noup Head the cliffs are filling up with gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills. We are still having a few technical issues with our website I�m afraid - you should be able to contact us and access most of the site but the availability page is showing up spaces where we don�t have any! We don�t as a rule do tours on Sundays. Please fill in the enquiry form as normal and we will get back to you asap with our availability as some days are already fully booked. Thanks.
12th March 2018
Apologies if you have tried to contact us via the website - it appears we are having a few technical issues with it so please ring us (01857 677777) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to get in touch. Thanks.
28th January 2018
Despite some mixed weather we’ve had our first tours of the year. We won’t be able to take phone calls for the next two weeks so if you need to contact us please do so via our website or email. Thanks.
24th December 2017
Happy Christmas to everyone who joined us on a Westraak tour in 2017. We thoroughly enjoyed our first season and look forward to showing Westray off to more fine folk in 2018.
5th October 2017
The season is drawing a close but we are still here should any intrepid souls wish to tour Westray with us during the winter. We’ve had a few folk miss our email replies, please check in your spam folders in case they drop there. If you phone us please leave a number so that we can get back in touch.
During the winter we intend to update our website in preparation for next season.
18th June 2017
At long last we have a Facebook page
17th April 2017
Karen and Andy Penn are delighted to be taking over Westraak Tours. We thank Graham and Kathy for all their hard work and dedication in establishing Westraak and making it such an asset to Westray and we are very grateful for the trust they have shown in us in taking over their business.
We look forward to welcoming visitors to Westray and showing off this special place. The puffins are here in good numbers, Noup Head is full of life. The fields are getting greener everyday and filling up with lambs and calves.
28th February, 2017
Westraak Guided Tours:
Book your Westraak Tour for 2017 and 2018.