Monthly Archives: August 2016

Noss 22.06.2016

Noss is another of the places that for one reason or another, we’d been unable to visit on our first trip to Shetland.  We were determined that we wouldn’t miss out on seeing its spectacular cliff scenery and abundant bird life a second time.  Even reaching Noss is a bit of an adventure, requiring a ferry across to Bressay, followed by a three mile journey across that island to its wild eastern coastline.  An old track then leads down to a small jetty where a second ferry (just a RIB taking a few passengers at a time) crosses the narrow sound to land on Noss.

A full circuit of the island is only six miles, but I predicted at the outset (correctly as it turned out!) that we would nevertheless be rushing to make the last boat back.  It’s that kind of place.  Walking anti-clockwise seems to be the norm, presumably because the southern coast is slightly more interesting, and also because this direction gives a more dramatic build-up to the scenic highlight, the Noup of Noss.

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Rounding the delightfully named Stinking Geo, near the start of the circuit.  The Noup of Noss can be seen on the far right.

The route begins with fairly gentle walking on grass, above low cliffs.  As elsewhere in Shetland, we found the remains of crabs and sea urchins everywhere.  After rounding Stinking Geo, we began to gain height, and the cliff scenery became more dramatic.

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Tarristie of Setter

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A small natural arch

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The Point of Hovie, with its cave

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Looking back at the Point of Hovie, with Bressay in the background.  Sea pinks in abundance!

In some places, chasms are starting to open up as the cliff edges break away due to the constant pounding of the sea and the winter storms, so the temptation to go right to the edge had to be resisted!

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Feadda Ness

At Cradle Holm, a rockfall on the Noss side has caused the two islands to re-connect at low tide, though it must have been high tide on our visit as there was clear water between the two.

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Cradle Holm from the west

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Looking down the channel that once separated Cradle Holm from Noss, but now only does so at high tide

It was here that we encountered our first puffins, and a comical trio posed obligingly for the camera.

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The old dry stone walls also seem to be popular with the Shetland wrens (an endemic subspecies).

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Shetland wren

As dramatic as Cradle Holm is, nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of the Noup of Noss.  A towering prow of old red sandstone, it rises sheer from the sea to a height of 592 feet and is home to innumerable gannets, fulmars, shags, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and black guillemots.

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Noup of Noss

Though not in fact the most numerous, it is the gannets that grab the attention most with their amazing diving antics. The ears are also bombarded by the din and the nose by the pungent aroma of guano.  I spent quite some time just enjoying the sensory overload.

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Gannets

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Seabird skyscraper!

The view from the summit is stunning for such a low altitude.  It is apparently sometimes possible to see Fair Isle away to the south, and Foula overtopping the lower hills of Mainland.  I tried, but couldn’t pick either of these out, though it was clear on our visit.

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The view across the island, with Bressay and Mainland in the background

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Looking back to the Noup

The northern side of the island doesn’t quite live up to the drama of the south.  Even so, there are plenty of headlands and geos to investigate.  I can never resist walking out to a headland, which is probably why we were able to take several hours over a six-mile walk!  As it was, we only made the last boat back with ten minutes to spare.  But after all, it would be criminal to rush around such a magical place.

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A few images from the return leg

Some photos by Georgina Collins

Point of Fethaland 20.06 .2016

We’ve recently returned from a fortnight in Shetland, during which we were out exploring its fantastic coastline every day and amazingly, experiencing almost continuous good weather.  I don’t intend to write a post about every single day (because I’m too lazy), but hopefully this will be the first of three posts covering some of our most memorable days.

Fethaland is the northernmost tip of Mainland and somewhere that we hadn’t visited on our previous trip to Shetland.  Like everywhere in Shetland, the coastline here is a chaotic jumble of cliffs, headlands, inlets (geos), skerries, stacks, natural arches, sea lochs and caves.  Every twist and turn of the coast reveals another staggering view, or another headland that just has to be walked out to.  For this reason, even short walks in Shetland take hours.

Our plan was simple – we would set off from North Roe and keep the coast on our right till we reached the Point of Fethaland, whence a good track would return us to our start point.

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A couple of small geos near the start of the route

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Looking north – the coast of Yell can just be seen on the right

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Looking south across Burra Voe

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Looking right across the peninsula to the west coast

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Another of the many geos – Yell in the background

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Looking back south along our route

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Approaching the Head of Virdibreck

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Wick of Virdibreck

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Kame of Isbister – or as Karen called it, the Dragon’s Head

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Looking back at the Head of Virdibreck

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Another view of the Kame of Isbister and its natural arch

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…and another

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Looking north along the coast

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Trumba and Eislin Geo

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A closer view of Eislin Geo

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Our objective finally comes into view!

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The Isle of Fethaland – the northernmost point of the peninsula (though not actually an island)

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The rock architecture hereabouts was amazing

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You can really see why Shetland is so popular with geologists

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This geo isn’t maned on the map, but the headland has the wonderful name of Fluga Taing

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I wonder how far back that tunnel goes?

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Common seals (I think)

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Wick of Breibister

The Isle of Fethaland was the undoubted highlight of the walk.  The cliff scenery here is almost too spectacular to be true.  It must be an incredible sight when the winter gales bring the waves crashing in.

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Looking south-west from the north tip of the Isle

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Skerries off the northern tip

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The amazing cliff scenery on the west coast of the Isle

On the neck of land that connects the Isle of Fethaland to the rest of the peninsula are the remains of a haaf (deep sea) fishing station, which remained in use until the 20th century.  Amazing to think that somewhere that is so peaceful today was until relatively recently a hive of industry.

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Remains of the fishing station

Some photos by Georgina Collins.