There is so much of Shetland to explore, it feels as though it would be possible to visit the islands every year for the rest of my life and never grow tired of walking here. Visiting in June this year, we explored areas new to us which I could happily revisit time and time again.
A couple of areas which boast impressive views of popular hotspots include the peninsulas of the Ness of Burgi and No Ness. The walk out to the Iron Age fort of Ness of Burgi, on a narrow promontory just west of Sumburgh Head, has great views across the sea to cliffs which teem with puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars. An interesting stretch over jagged rocks to reach the peninsula is marked with posts and a metal chain, although in anything other than very strong winds these are largely unnecessary. Having walked around Sumburgh Head that morning I enjoyed seeing the cliffs from a lower angle, and the complete lack of visitors was a very welcome contrast to the coach parties at Sumburgh Head (although these are easily lost away from the lighthouse).
The Ness of Burgi from Sumburgh Head
The view from No Ness across to Mousa, an island RSPB reserve, can be reached by climbing a small hill which overlooks Mousa Sound. There are even the remains of a broch here, from which you can look across the Sound to the Mousa broch, the best-preserved in Scotland and which still has an intact staircase leading up to the top (and from which you can look back at No Ness).
Mousa from No Ness
Inside Mousa broch
At the top of Mousa broch
Mousa broch and the sound
There are plenty of off-islands to explore around Shetland, and the trip out to Noss was one of the highlights of our visit. It’s possible to walk right round the island in a day – although the drama of the cliffs and the wealth of wildlife to see meant that even after getting one of the first boats across, we just managed to return in time for the last!
The cliffs of Noss
View towards Bressay and Shetland mainland from Noss
A much shorter walk, although no less exciting for that, is around the Kettla Ness on the island of West Burra which is connected to the mainland by a bridge not far from Scalloway. The white sandy beaches near Duncansclett, which seem popular with seals, are soon replaced by impressive cliffs, and perfect inland territory for exploring – so long as you don’t upset the (very defensive) breeding birds, of which there are plenty! Walk along the eastern shore on a rising tide and you may also have some amazing views of otters.
Our best view of an otter was near Walls, on the western side of mainland. We’d walked up Sandness Hill and along the coast and, although we were above some pretty steep cliffs, an otter ran in front of us for longer than we’d have expected – possibly because a dead sheep masked our smell! – before clambering down to the shoreline.
View from Sandness Hill, Westside
Somewhere we really wanted to visit was Fethaland, an area which includes the most northerly point in mainland Shetland. The scenery is different again from Westside, Noss and so on and the cliffs are incredibly dramatic. Walking from Isbister, we followed the coastline anticlockwise to the (very windy!) Point of Fethaland, again exploring every headland and promontory it was possible to walk out to and never being disappointed. It’s possible to continue back to Isbister by continuing anticlockwise along the coast, but having taken so long to explore just one half of this coastline we headed back along the inland track.
At the Point of Fethaland
Point of Fethaland
Remains of the Haaf (fishing station) at the Point of Fethaland
We still haven’t managed to reach everywhere on our ‘must see’ list after four weeks in the islands – Ronas Hill and the islands of Foula and Papa Stour have as yet escaped. And I’m sure that when we next visit, hopefully taking in these places whilst we’re around, we’ll get to hear about new places to add to our ‘must see’ list!