Papey, Celtic for ‘Friar’s’ Island, is situated 5 kilometres (3 miles) off of the eastern coast of Iceland. Although the largest island in Eastern Iceland, it is only 2 square kilometres (0.77 sq mi) in area. Its windswept, grassy slopes rise to 58 metres (190’) culminating in a rock formation called the Castle. Rocky sea cliffs surround much of the island, providing excellent habitat for nesting sea birds. Guillemots occupy Papey until mid-summer while Atlantic puffins abound until mid-September. Seals and eider ducks can be found here during breeding season.
Although there is evidence of early Norse settlement, the island takes its name from Irish monks known as ‘papar’ who presumably occupied the island. The medieval Icelandic ‘Book of Settlements’ mentions this as a place inhabited by these ‘Vestmen’ (men of the west).
Today, a lighthouse, a dwelling and a church are on the island. The small church, with its white picket fence and red roof is the oldest wooden church in Iceland, built in 1902.