The Kelp Store

The fine two-storey buildings near the Old Pier are kelp stores. Kelp – an alkali substance produced by burning seaweed which was in great demand by the soap- and glass-making industries – dominated the Orkney economy in the late 18th and early
19th centuries. In the boom years Papay was producing more kelp per capita than any other island and George Traill of Holland was one of the lairds who made a substantial fortune from the profits. The walled enclosure behind the kelp stores was a boathouse for Traill’s sloop which transported the kelp south, to Newcastle and beyond, and brought coal, seed and other merchandise back north. Traces of kelp kilns: shallow, circular depressions where the ware was burnt, can be seen in many places near the shore.