St Kilda is a weather-beaten archipelago off the west coast of Scotland, some 40 miles from the Outer Hebrides. The cluster of islands sits alone in the vast expanse of the unforgiving North Atlantic. As Britain’s most remote point, it feels like the final frontier, a wild and foreboding place that looms from the horizon, echoing noisily with the sound of hundreds of thousands of seabirds. This is the land of the seabird. Yet until 1930, it was home to a population of resilient islanders who had occupied the islands for some 2,000 years. Evidence of the lives they carved out on this remote outpost of the British Isles are scattered all over the islands today.
For visitors to Shetland, there are usually several requirements on their wish lists, including; scenery, wildlife and archaeology. The following walk is a fantastic way to explore all three of these on a moderate three-mile walk.
For this walk, we walked to the Burraness Broch on the island of Yell. Yell is just a short hop across Yell Sound on the modern inter-island ferry. The crossing takes about 15 minutes, and passengers can stand on the upper deck, enjoying panoramic views across the sound, past the uninhabited islands of Bigga and Samphrey. Yell itself is around 17 miles long and seven miles wide, boasting large expanses of uninterrupted moorland, stunning beaches and breathtaking coastal walks.
You know that feeling, as the days start to change and the seasons begin to switch, it feels as though we’re falling into autumn at freefall speed. That’s when I anxiously try to squeeze in as much as possible, squeezing those last drops out of summer as if I were squeezing a lemon.
August is a month that makes me uneasy; it feels like the best of the summer has passed. The flowers are spent and shrivelled on their once-proud stems, the colours in the landscape begin to mute, and the sun that hung suspended in an eternal summer sky through June and July drifts lower in the sky as the day slowly gives way to night once more.
Yet, real poetry comes with August and an urgency to tick off all those things you wanted to do in summer. June and July are like a high-octane ride, but August forces us to slow down and we appreciate the little things in nature so much more, as we know they are drawing to a close for another year, to return again on the wind, in another season.
Still, my mind begins to wander into the months ahead, towards autumn and winter, and as I blow the dust from the candles that have been left unlit since spring, and fill the basket with fire kindling once more, I reflect on the summer’s adventures.
The following walk stopped me in my tracks as I considered the tragic loss of life that took place on a lonely and remote hillside in the heart of Yell, Shetland’s largest North Isle.
A few months ago, during the school’s May long weekend, we headed north to the most northerly island of Unst to stay at Noosthamar – a picturesque self-catering holiday home overlooking the sandy shores of Burrafirth.
Unst is a two-ferry hop from Mainland Shetland and has a community of about 650 people. Getting to Unst is easy on the inter-island ferries that serve the isles and are operated by the Shetland Islands Council.
At the start of the school summer holidays, I compiled a summer holiday bucket list, basically a list of things that I’d like to do with the bairns over the seven-and-a-half week school break. Now, here we are, almost at the end of the holidays, and we’ve ticked off hardly any of the things on this list. Granted, we did have two weeks on Harris where we ticked off their bucket-list experiences, but that said, the holidays are passing quickly, and before we know it, it’ll be back to 9 am starts and early bedtimes once more.
One of the experiences on the bucket list was a rock pooling session at Leebitten, Sandwick. This is arguably one of the best spots to explore rock pools in Shetland, and rock pooling is great fun for both children and adults alike as you’re never quite sure what you might find. RSPB Shetland often do rockpooling sessions, and it’s worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page for more information about these days.
I recently posted our summer holiday bucket list; basically, a list of all the places we want to visit and things we’d like to do at home this summer. I included a checklist for anyone who wanted to join in the fun, and today we ticked off one from the list – a walk to the Brigs of Vementry.
To get to the Brigs of Vementry, follow the A970 from Lerwick, turning onto the A971 at Tingwall. Drive for 16 miles before taking the B9071 towards Aith and Voe. After three miles, take the turn towards Vementry (just after Michaelswood in Aith) and drive almost to the end of the road where you’ll find a cattle grid with a waymarker that says “Path to Clousta”.
Today is the first day of the summer holidays here in Shetland – seven-and-a-half weeks of having the bairns under my feet again. As if having them home for the best part of 2020 wasn’t enough, this holiday seems exceptionally long this year.
That said, I’m looking forward to having a few adventures and taking more time off work to spend time with my family. Shetland is the perfect place to spend the summer holidays. With long days and plenty of outdoor space to enjoy, the only thing you need to worry about is whether you’ve packed enough spare changes of clothes into the boot of the car!
I know that thinking of fun-filled ways to spend the holidays can sometimes be a challenge for many families, so I’ve devised this checklist to help see you through the holidays.
For anyone visiting Shetland, particularly with children, you too can get involved and use this as a handy guide for filling the days of your stay here.
Pssst... I've provided a list of links at the foot of this blog so you can read more about a few of these suggestions, otherwise, print off the checklist and take it with you!
The return of the seabirds is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s filled with hope and the reassurance that, despite everything, the cyclical processes that guide the natural world continue regardless of the latest news story that’s making the headlines and keeping us awake at night.
Shetland is a birders paradise, with over one million nesting seabirds returning to their noisy colonies every summer, breeding on cliffs, moors, beaches and, even within the walls of a 2,000-year-old broch, their return is a welcome sight after a long winter.
People often ask why the seabirds only return to land in the summer, and the answer is simple. Seabirds can’t lay an egg at sea, so they have to come ashore to breed. Once breeding is complete and the chick/s has fledged, they return to the sea – sometimes thousands of miles from the breeding grounds.
It’s no secret that a trip to Mousa is one of my favourite things to do, not only on tours but with my family too.
This year, The Mousa Boat is reopening following a period of closure due to covid and, although tourism is still restricted and the broch doors remain closed (for now, we hope they will reopen soon), this remains a fantastic trip nonetheless. This is the perfect family outing for those looking for staycation ideas within Shetland this summer and, we’re announcing a fantastic giveaway with this blog.
Trips to Mousa begin tomorrow (1st May) and, for locals or those travelling to Shetland from within the UK, these day-trips are the perfect way to explore one of Shetland’s best uninhabited islands.
Last weekend we visited Sumburgh Head and the fantastic new Unken Caffee. With commanding views out to sea and north across the South Mainland, it got me thinking about how past people lived and about the architecture, defensive or otherwise, that they built here.
Shetland’s South Mainland, at one time, was a highly fortified area. If we rewind about 2,000 years to the Iron Age and place ourselves at Sumburgh Head, the landscape would have been very different and, likely, quite intimidating.
At Sumburgh Head, where we stayed, an Iron Age fort, now lost to history, stood proudly on the headland. The next prominent headland to the southwest is Scatness and, right at the point of this headland sits the Ness of Burgi, the subject of today’s walk.
Hello from Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for - whether you're planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some 'home' inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.