The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"SHAPINSAY, an island and parish in the district of the North Isles of Orkney, county Orkney and Shetland, Scotland. It extends in length nearly 6 miles from E. to W., with an extreme breadth of about 4½ from N. to S. The surface is of an irregular character, and rises gradually towards the centre. The coast is moderately flat, along which are Viantro and Elwick bays, the latter, opening to the S.W. towards Kirkwall, has from 4 to 6 fathoms water, with a sandy bottom, and forms a natural harbour. On the W. side of it is a beach. Near the coast are numerous antiquities, including Shapinsay Standing Stone, 12 feet by 4, and 1½ in thickness; the black stone of Odin, with other Pictish remains; and several round and oval "Picts' houses" of stone without cement, nearly kiln-shape.

Much of the southern part of the parish has been brought under cultivation through the energies of the late Colonel Balfour and his son, to whom the village owes its foundation and prosperity. The soil is generally thin and shallow, and very fertile. There are several hilly sheepwalks and limestone quarries at How. Lead mines were formerly worked here, but have been discontinued, and there are numerous lime kilns. The village of Shapinsay is about 5 miles N.E. of Kirkwall. It is situated between Stronsay Frith and the String near Kirkwall Bay. Its houses are well built, encircling the bay of Elswick.

Many of the inhabitants are employed in the cod and herring fisheries. This parish formerly made part of the temporalty of the bishopric of Orkney, the estates of which are now forfeited to the crown and leased to Lord Dundas. This parish is in the presbytery of North Isles and synod of Orkney. The stipend of the minister is about £158. There are a United Presbyterian church, Evangelical Union chapel, and a school under the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The principal mansion is Cliffdale, the mansion of How being now in ruins. On the W. shore, nearly opposite the rock of Vasa, is Grucula, or Agricola, where tradition says one of Agricola's ships, in his voyage round the island of Britain, was stranded, and near this spot Roman coins have been found."

"ELGAR, (or Ella Island), one of the Orkney group, 1 mile S. of Shapinsay Island, in which parish it is included.

"ELLWICK, a village on the island of Shapinshay, Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is situated opposite to Ellerholm Island, on the harbour of its name."

"GRASHOLME ISLAND, two small islands of this name: one off the coast of Pembroke, near St. Anne's Point; the other one of the Orkney Islands, Scotland, lying about 6 miles N. of Kirkwall."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]