For those who want to dive a little deeper into the wild, Tingon, Northmavine is a great place to get-away-from-it-all.
Tingon is a peninsula on Shetland’s rugged north-west coast. To the west is the North Atlantic, flanked by sheer cliffs that create an imposing barrier to any boats, and to the west, the skyline is dominated by Ronas Hill, Shetland’s highest point.
Walk: 4 miles (6.5 km)
Terrain: Fair, walking boots/hiking trainers would be best to wear
Time: 3 hours (we spent three hours exploring the area, this allows lots of time to enjoy the sites at a leisurely pace)
Remains from prehistoric times and the 19th century at Tingon, Northmavine.
To get to Tingon, follow the main A970 North, following the roadsigns for Eshaness until you reach Braewick where you take the road into Hamnavoe. A few miles in the Hamnavoe road there is a dirt track with a small wooden sign for ‘Tingon’. This road is well-maintained, but if driving in, please drive responsibly, bearing in mind that the local farmer must maintain the road for access. A few miles in the road, a house comes into view, and there is a turning point almost at the end of the track where you can park.
From here, pass through the gate or follow the fence until you reach the stile and head towards the coast between the lochs until you reach the Burn of Tingon. Follow the burn towards the sea and marvel in the incredible scenery! Here, where the burn meets the sea, there is a natural amphitheatre, similar to what you find at Da Grind o’ Da Navir in Eshaness. The U-shaped cleft in the cliffs frames the ocean and cone-shaped Muckle Ossa rock perfectly – particularly against a setting summer sun. Taking care near the cliffs, you can make your way down the ‘steps’ of volcanic rock until you reach the edge where you can gaze down on a waterfall caused by the termination of the burn into the sea, and a natural arch, formed over thousands of years of erosion.
Follow Tingon Burn to the sea.
The geology here is similar to what you’ll find at Eshaness, with layers of dark, almost black, volcanic and pyroclastic (that which has been blasted through the air) rock, forming impressive sheer-cliffs and ledges. Formed some 390 million years ago when the Eshaness volcano sat on the edge of Lake Orcadie, and we were part of a super-continent somewhere close to the equator. Looking out to sea we see Muckle Ossa, the cone-shaped rock that is thought to have been a lava-feed channel that fed into the main vent of the volcano – you really get a sense that you are immersed deep in the heart of our explosive geological past.
Tingon's volcanic landscape.
Geo of Ockran, Tingon.
Much of the area is a designated Special Protection Area of Conservation (Ramsar site) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the blanket bog and breeding birds, particularly the whimbrel (which was noted to be in decline in 2013) and red-throated diver that has been making a recovery in recent years.
At one time Tingon supported 14 families – and 99 people in the 1851 census – in the houses that now stand in roofless ruin. The crofts of Tingon are; Knowes, Sannions, Sumra, Ocran, Ocraness, Quidadale, Westerhouse, and Aurora (pronounced ‘Rora). There was also Southerhouse, Northerhouse and Easterhouse which each had two crofts. As well as the crofts, there was the North Head which was rented out by the minister of Hillswick.
One thing that immediately struck us as we looked around the ruins of the crofts was that they were all good-sized houses, some appearing to have had an upstairs, indicating that when active, this was a thriving community. Despite its isolation, we happened on a cultivated field, indicating that the fertile ground is still of value to today’s crofter.
As well as the houses, there are remains of mills, in the style of the Norwegian click mill, up the Tingon Burn and Ocran Burn. These are fed from the plentiful lochs on the hill above.
Ruined croft at Tingon, Northmavine.
Unfortunately, and like many others, this once thriving community was ripped apart at the hands of landowners who cleared the tenant farmers, replacing them with sheep during the clearances. Blighting much of the Highlands and Islands during the 19th century, Shetland was no stranger to heartache at the hands of ruthless landlords and the men who did their bidding for them.
In 1865 the eviction notices came, proclaiming that the tenants had to leave the area to make way for sheep farming which was believed to be more lucrative. The first to be forced to leave were Donald and Mary Tulloch and their infant daughter Grace. They were forced to build a felly hoose (a house made from pieces of turf) until they were able to find another croft. Others had to create a new croft, often on poorer land. This was no mean feat as the stone had to be quarried, the house built, areas enclosed for livestock and animals and the ground turned over and cultivated.
Anyone who is born to the islands can trace their family tree back through the generations and can usually find a link to a place. It was along the maternal line that I found our family’s connection to Tingon; born in 1812; Jean Jamieson was my fourth great-grandmother who was born in Tingon and later moved to Heylor at the other side of the hill. She had already made the move before the clearances took place, with several children born to Heylor in the 1830s.
Similarly, my husband, Aaron, shares a connection to this special place from his grandfather’s forebearers.
A view from the window in Tingon.
Tingon is a special place, a place that is steeped in history, spectacular scenery, but more than that, there is something that runs much deeper. Tracing the stones in the walls of the once-proud houses, you get a real sense of the community that thrived here. Although gone, the people are all around you; in the stone-built enclosures, the old rigs that have left shadows on the landscape, the mills that weave up the hill, following the route of a burn and, most importantly, they live on in the generations of Shetlanders who have a connection to this small corner of Shetland’s wild and beautiful north-west.
Perhaps I'll explore the clearances more in another blog - would you like that? In the meantime, stay safe,
“Visitors want to have the best experience; they want to see Shetland through the eyes of a local. They want to taste the salt on their faces, smell the sea and bear witness to the wind in their hair. They want to drink in the sights, the smells and the sounds of an island community. They want to be shown the places they would otherwise not discover. They want to piece together the fascinating jigsaw and truly discover Shetland; this is the trip they have dreamed of.”
A little about Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for, whether you are planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.
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Shetland with Laurie
Copyright ©Alexa Fitzgibbon
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Shetland tourist info: shetland.org