World’s Shortest Flight, 5,000 Year Old Homes & More: Stephen’s 3 Cards, 3 Continents Day 2 Recap

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The first day of my 3 Cards, 3 Continents trip was fun, but day 2 – yesterday – was where things kicked into gear.

What is 3 Cards, 3 Continents? Frequent Miler loves creating fun and competitive team challenges. This year Greg, Nick, and Stephen are competing to book the most amazing 3-continent dream-trip using 3 credit card welcome bonuses.

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that world records would be a theme of my trip and a key part of that was taking the world’s shortest scheduled flight which only lasted 90 seconds.

That isn’t the only fun activity I did though, so here’s a recap from day 2 of my trip.

Northern Lights Executive Lounge

Yesterday was both the first time I’d ever flown with Loganair and my first time flying out of Aberdeen airport, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how long check-in and security would take.

Even though I suspected that I was leaving the hotel far earlier than necessary, I walked from the Moxy Aberdeen Airport I’d stayed at overnight to the airport just under two hours before my flight. Sure enough, getting there that early was unnecessary. Check-in only took a couple of minutes and security was just as quick, so I still had 1.5 hours to kill at the airport.

Despite being a relatively small airport, Aberdeen has a lounge that participates in Priority Pass – the Northern Lights Executive Lounge. Although it’s not a massive lounge, it was a good size considering a) the size of the airport and b) how few people were in the lounge.

Northern Lights Executive Lounge seating at Aberdeen airport
Northern Lights Executive Lounge seating at Aberdeen airport

The lounge had a bar area with a comprehensive selection of Scotch whisky, but I didn’t order any and so I’m not sure if that’s complimentary or not. Rather than having a buffet breakfast set up, there was a menu from which you could order up to three items.

Northern Lights Executive Lounge breakfast menu
Northern Lights Executive Lounge breakfast menu

I had a hard time choosing between the bacon roll and sausage roll, but settled on the sausage roll and a pot of tea – there’s no finer start to the day.

Northern Lights Executive Lounge breakfast
Northern Lights Executive Lounge breakfast

Loganair Flight – Aberdeen To Kirkwall

In order to take my sub-two minute flight from Papa Westray to Westray, I first had to get to Papa Westray. The first leg of that journey was flying Loganair from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, the airport that serves the largest of the Orkney Islands. It was operated by a Saab 340 (twin-turboprop) which was a similar kind of size to some puddle-jumpers in the US and had a 2-1 cabin configuration.

Loganair Aberdeen to Kirkwall flight
Loganair Aberdeen to Kirkwall flight

The headrests were all a different kind of tartan which was a cute touch.

Tartan headrests on Loganair
Tartan headrests on Loganair

Despite only lasting 30-40 minutes, the flight attendant came through the cabin with a snack and beverage service. Drinks were a choice of tea, coffee or water and the snack was shortbread or a Tunnock’s chocolate/caramel wafer. I don’t know if they’ve changed the recipe in the two decaes since I last had one of these Tunnock’s bars, but it was tastier than I remembered it being.

Food & beverage service on Loganair flight
Food & beverage service on Loganair flight

Kirkwall Airport

The flight was uneventful and we soon landed at Kirkwall airport which, up to that point, had the smallest airport building I’ve ever been in.

Kirkwall airport
Kirkwall airport

I didn’t investigate too closely, but I think the airport only has three gates. Gates one and two are for flights to the Scottish mainland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness), while Gate 3 is for inter-island flights. The airport has a café with a good-sized menu, a bar, a gift shop, etc., as well as free Wi-Fi.

Inside Kirkwall airport
Inside Kirkwall airport

Highland Park Distillery is in Kirkwall, so I’d hoped to be able to take a tour during my four hour layover, but they were sold out. I have another lengthy layover at Kirkwall on my way back through today, but the only space they had on a tour was at 10am and I wouldn’t be able to get to the distillery until 10:30am.

All was not lost though. The bar had Highland Park 12 Year Scotch, so I got a shot of that to go with my unexpectedly large sandwich for lunch as my flight to Papa Westray wasn’t until 1:45pm.

Some light heavy refreshments
Some light heavy refreshments

Loganair Flight – Kirkwall To Papa Westray

After finishing lunch, it was time to board my flight to Papa Westray which was on a Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander plane which only has 8 passenger seats.

View from the third of four rows
View from the third of four rows

After leaving Kirkwall airport, the plane headed first to North Ronaldsay which is the northernmost of the Orkney Islands. After dropping off a couple of passengers there, we continued on to Papa Westray, landing at about 2:10pm.

I mentioned earlier that Kirkwall had the smallest airport I’d seen up to that point. Well, Papa Westray airport surpassed (or underpassed?!) that with an even smaller building.

Papa Westray airport building
Papa Westray airport building

Exploring Papa Westray

I think the flight I arrived on continued on to Westray immediately. If so, I could’ve taken the world’s shortest scheduled flight even earlier than I did. However, I wanted to have a chance to explore Papa Westray and so booked a later flight in the afternoon on to Westray.

That gave me about 2.5 hours to walk around Papa Westray which was just the right amount of time. At only four miles long and one mile wide, it’s about a quarter of the size of Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks, NC.

Knap of Howar

My first stop was Knap of Howar. These are Neolithic homes dating back to 3500-2900 BC which means they were constructed before the Pyramids.

The homes had quite literally been lost to the sands of time until they were uncovered in 1929 and excavated in the 1930s. Excavations also turned up pottery, bones of great auks (now extinct), tools, grinding stones and more.

Knap of Howar on Papa Westray
Knap of Howar on Papa Westray

Knap of Howar is free to visit at any time and you can go inside the buildings. At first I thought the people who’d built the home on the edge of the cliff were nuts considering how windy it gets on the North Sea. However, when standing inside the home, it was remarkably less windy, so their homes back then that would’ve had roofs presumably would’ve been far more cozy and comfortable than I’d been anticipating.

Mind your head though – the doorways are very low. There’s a doorway/tunnel between the two homes that’s even lower than the main doors and I managed to hit my head on its stone roof while walking through.

I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput
I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput

It was also fascinating being inside homes that old that are still standing today. Last year my wife and I spent a couple of months in New Mexico and visited Chaco Culture National Historical Park with its great houses and Bandelier National Monument with its cliff dwellings. Those date back to 900-1150AD and 1150-1600AD respectively which felt historic, but this remote island off the coast of Scotland has homes still standing that date back ~4,500 years earlier – incredible.

Inside Knap of Howar on Papa Westray
Inside Knap of Howar

World War I & II Memorial

Knap of Howar is on the south side of the island, with the other places I wanted to see further north. When walking back up the road I saw a memorial which turned out to be dedicated to the people of Papa Westray who lost their lives in World War I and World War II. The fact that the lives ended in those wars included people from places as remote as this was testament to how devastating the wars were.

Papa Westray World War I & World War II memorial
Papa Westray World War I & World War II memorial

St Boniface Kirk

About halfway up the western side of Papa Westray is St Boniface Kirk.

St Boniface Kirk & graveyard
St Boniface Kirk & graveyard

St Boniface as a site dates back to the 6th century BC, but the current church building dates back to the 1200s although it was altered a lot in the 1700s.

St Boniface Kirk on Papa Westray
St Boniface Kirk on Papa Westray

The building is open 24/7 and is also free to visit. The interior has been restored and renovated over the years and is still used as a place of worship.

Inside St Boniface Kirk on Papa Westray
Inside St Boniface Kirk on Papa Westray

RSPB North Hill Reserve

RSPB is an organization in the UK whose acronym stands for Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Orkney Islands are apparently an amazing place for bird watchers to visit due to the diverse range of birds that can be found there.

I got unlucky with the timing of my visit though. I’d really hoped to see puffins, but they tend to leave by mid-August. There was a bird watching cabin at the top of the hill overlooking the sea and so I walked up there in the hope I might see something, but alas – it wasn’t to be.

Bird watching cabin at RSPB North Hill on Papa Westray
Bird watching cabin at RSPB North Hill on Papa Westray

For any ornithologist readers, here are the stats from the 2022 breeding season which were on a board in the cabin.

Papa Westray 2022 breeding season stats
Papa Westray 2022 breeding season stats

Loganair Flight – Papa Westray To Westray

My flight on to Westray was at 4:52pm, so I walked back down to the airport and got there a few minutes before the airport worker arrived to unlock the building.

The Papa Westray to Westray flight is the world’s shortest scheduled flight. It’s blocked for two minutes, but in reality you spend closer to 90 seconds in the air. I wrote all about my experience taking the world’s shortest flight here, so check out that post for more. For now though, here’s a video of the flight:

Westray Accommodation

With a limited budget for flights and hotels and not many accommodation options on Westray, I had slim pickings for somewhere to stay. I settled on The Barn at Chalmersquoy which stated that it’s a hostel but looked more hotel-like on their website as there weren’t shared dorms.

I booked a private room for £35 (~$40) which was a good price point for what they offer. There’s a shared bathroom (my room had its own sink though) but be aware that toiletries other than handsoap aren’t provided if you book a stay there.

My room at The Barn at Chalmersquoy on Westray
My room at The Barn at Chalmersquoy on Westray

More Fish & Chips

When driving around near Aberdeen the day before, I’d stopped for dinner at a waterside restaurant that served locally caught fish and ordered fish and chips.

When doing that I’d forgotten that I’d planned to get fish and chips the following night from JACKS Chippy on Westray island. JACKS Chippy at Pierowall Fish is only open Wednesdays and Saturdays and I lucked out that I stayed there on a Friday night.

I ordered cod and chips and got a small tub of toffee swirl ice cream made by an Orkney dairy. I also bought a can of Lilt. Coke Zero is the only soda I’ll normally buy, but when I’m back in the UK I love drinking Lilt which is a pineapple and grapefruit soda that’s delicious.

Dinner from JACKS Chippy
Dinner from JACKS Chippy

Talisker

Back in 2015, Shae and I flew to the UK with some friends for a week and spent a few days of that in Scotland. We stayed on the Isle of Arran for a night or two and I remember our friend Mark buying a small bottle of Talisker (a Scotch whisky) for us to share in the evening.

I’d sworn off whiskey up until that point of my life after a night to forget when drinking Jack Daniels as a teen. To my surprise, I enjoyed the Talisker and have become a whiskey drinker since then, so much so that during our recent trip to Dublin, a fair bit of it was spent checking out distilleries in The Liberties. Even my wife has discovered an enjoyment of Irish whiskey now.

When visiting Aberdeen, I’d looked into visiting a whisky distillery rather than driving down to Dunnottar Castle. However, the distilleries were all a bit of a drive from Aberdeen airport and so it would’ve been borderline as to whether I’d have been able to get to them before they closed. I also wouldn’t have wanted to do a tasting given that I’d be driving immediately, so I ixnayed that idea and went with Dunnottar Castle and the coastal road instead.

Knowing that I’d be visiting another Scottish island yesterday, I was interested in getting some Scotch whisky in honor of that fun evening on the Isle of Arran. I didn’t think that would be possible though because I didn’t want to buy a large bottle from Duty Free as it would mean having to check a bag throughout the rest of my trip.

I was in luck though. The Duty Free store had a number of miniatures for sale that would be fine as a liquid going through security. Seeing as it was Talisker that got me into whiskey, I got a three-pack gift set to start enjoying last night, along with a miniature from Glenlivet which was one of the distilleries somewhat close to Aberdeen that I didn’t have a chance to visit.

Glenlivet & Talisker miniatures
Glenlivet & Talisker miniatures

Next Plans

By the time you read this I’ll have left Westray and will be slowly making my way on to my next continent.

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Dugroz Reports

Fun report! Looks like the kind of place I’d love to visit some day!

Tom

great report, really enjoying your trip.
Have you a link to the DUB trip report, will be there soon and like your style of travel

Elizabeth

Possibly a few other firsts-most remote priority pass lounge, least crowded priority pass lounge, and priority pass lounge with the best food.

Really enjoyed reading this. I think I have a distant relative in the Orkney’s as I remember my parents went there.

Elizabeth

I didn’t mean firsts. I meant world records.

Captain Greg

You should’ve gone to the scapa distillery in the orkneys! Easily my favorite scotch.

TCCQuest

Your sausage biscuit and tea looks better than Greg’s worms.

In fact…all your food looks better than Greg’s monster fish and worms.

Sandie

I’ve been wanting to visit the Orkney Isles, and this has inspired me! Thanks so much for choosing the UK as your starting point!

Big Ern Mckracken PBA

Great Post as usual, now go out there and win this thing for Big Ern!

Iowan

Interesting trip Stephen…love the uniqueness. Highland Park and Talisker are my kinda scotches (not too peaty). Cheers and wish you the best on the rest of the trip.

Cyril.

Lee

Great story. It’s also incredible to think that these very remote islands are still inhabited and that such small populations are somehow viable.

Sandie

right?!?!?! i want to see the boat that the first humans took there!

Grant

Fascinating trip so far, looking forward to where your journey takes you next 🙂

Aloha808

Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. And Lilt sounds really good! Love interesting new sodas. Also really cool to see some of the ancient ruins in the UK, very fascinating. Personally I’ve always wanted to see some of the stone circles and megaliths there.

Aloha808

I haven’t been to the World of Coca Cola yet… that’s sounds really cool though. Will have to go check them out. I love trying coke in different countries, especially when they use real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. My favorite sodas are mostly sarsaparillas and root beers.

LarryInNYC

There’s a remarkable (and remarkably well-preserved) Neolithic settlement on Orkney Island itself called Skara Brae. Inhabited until 2,500 BC, it has an extant sewer system that carried effluent from in-house drains out to the ocean.

LarryInNYC

Oh yeah, in the category “Is LarryInNYC a creepy stalker”:

Last year my wife and I spent a couple of months in New Mexico and visited Chaco Culture National Historical Park with its great houses and Bandelier National Monument with its cliff dwellings

In Bandelier, did you walk the trail that goes down the canyon away from the pueblo and ends with a view of the Rio Grande in the distance? If so, pretty sure my wife and I passed you on the trail.

LarryInNYC

No, actually October 6th. Now that’s strange!

SamBam

I’d love to visit the Orkneys. Shetlands too