Introduction / The Island
History and Ownership
There was settlement in Pharay in early times with the Ordnance Survey map indicating the site of a cairn in the north end of the island, just to the north of Quoy. However, the OS name books from the 1880s used for the purpose of the map making describe it as a "Pictish Fort".
In later times, Pharay was part of the Bishopric lands and the feu granted to Gilbert Balfour, the first of the Orkney Balfour family, in 1560.
It remained with the Balfour family for many generations, with a number of these adopting the moniker. "....of Pharay". (See Orkney Balfours). With the marriage in 1724 of Isabel Balfour to Archibald Stewart of Brugh in Westray, it then became part of the Stewart Estate.
The property passed down through the Stewart line to the last James Stewart of Burgh, who died unmarried in 1858. By a trust disposition and settlement dated 11th June 1858, it then passed to the Stewart Endowment. This was set up for certain religious purposes, the principal part going to the Presbytery in the North Isles of Orkney. While property in Firth and St Andrews were sold in the early 1920s and Westray in the late 1970s, Pharay continued to be owned by the trust.
Orkney Islands Council purchased the island, together with the Faray Holm and Red Holm, in 2019.There is a proposal for the construction of six wind turbines on the island.