Shetland – June 2012

Shetland – June 2012

Shetland – where Scotland meets Scandinavia and the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

In June 2012 Carol, John and I went on Mike Grimshaw’s Shetland trip. There were 12 of us in total and Mike had hired a mini-bus which we drove round in. We stayed at the annex to Sumburgh hotel.

Day 1 – Saturday June 23

We arrived in a rather small plane at the airport with the runway sticking out at sea. After collecting the mini-bus and checking into our hotel we made the first of many trips to Sumburgh Head. The RSPB reserve is the most accessible seabird colony in Shetland. The cliffs were covered in lovely pink Thrift and there were Puffins everywhere.

Day 2 – Sunday June 24

It was a rather wet morning when After a quick visit to Sumburgh Head again we set off for St Ninian’s for the day. To escape the rain we first had coffee and cake at a church hall. The community rent a hall every Sunday, and get together over tea and homemade cakes, raising money for local causes. Feeling suitably refreshed, and with the weather having cleared up, we set off for St Ninian’s.

St Ninian’s Isle is a small tied island connected by the largest tombolo in the UK to the south-western coast of the Mainland, Shetland, in Scotland. It is part of the civil parish of Dunrossness on the South Mainland. The tombolo, known locally as an ayre from the Old Norse for “gravel bank”, is 500 metres long.

On the way back to the hotel we had an exciting moment when somebody thought they had seen a Snow Bunting. After much searching we located the bird in question and decided, after much debating, that it unfortunately had to be just a leucistic sparrow.

Day 3 – Monday June 25

This morning we went on a boat trip to the gannet colonies around Bressay and Noss. On the way we spotted a stranded lamb shivering on the rocks and the captain decided to phone the farmer to let him know. There were thousands of birds on the cliffs, not just gannets but guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes too and plenty of young. The broxies follow the boat at eye levels, probably as the captain is feeding them buisquits.

After the boat trip we got to spend a little time in Lervik. The museum was very interesting and our stop for lunch. After lunch, we drove slowly along the coast back to our hotel stopping above Scalloway for a view of the old village and the castle on the way.

Day 4 – Tuesday June 26

It was time to explore the northern parts of Shetland. The first stop was The Drongs.

The Drongs are a group of rocks that rise steeply from the sea at the northern end of St Magnus Bay in the north west of mainland Shetland. They lie half a mile west of the Ness of Hillswick and 2 miles south east of Tangwick.

Day 5 – Wednesday June 27

Jarlshof Prehistoric site is located next to Sumburgh airport. We had a look as we went by but didn’t enter the site. We set off towards Lervik where we first had a look at Clickimin Broch.

On the shore of Clickimin Loch is an outstanding example of a broch, a sophisticated type of stone-built round house found only in Scotland. Clickimin Broch has evidence of settlement spanning over a thousand years.

Then we took the ferry across to Bressay where we spent a pleasant afternoon. We had a look around the museum at the ferry port.

Late evening we visited Mousa. The island is known for the Broch of Mousa, an Iron Age round tower, and is designated as a Special Protection Area for storm-petrel breeding colonies. Watching the return of hundreds of small storm petrels after a day feeding out at sea was an amazing experience, and the noise….

Brochs are a kind of Iron Age roundhouse found only in Scotland, and Mousa is the best-preserved of them all. Thought to have been constructed in about 300 BC, it stands 13m tall, a totem of Scottish prehistory.

It appears twice in Norse sagas. One recounts how an eloping couple took refuge here after a shipwreck en route to Iceland in AD 900, while another describes the broch as ‘an unhandy place to get at’ for an attack.

Day 6 – Thursday June 28

We visited the area around Lunna Ness on the east side of the mainland looking for otters, which we managed to see. I saw a footpath sign to the Stones of Stofast that looked rather tempting but alas time was against us.

Having crossed over some hills, we stopped at a small village on the shore for lunch. Whilst the others were looking at the sea birds I walked up the hill where I came across a pair of golden plovers making their wonderfull calls. There were nobody else about – a magical experience.

Day 7 – Friday June 29

On this, our last day, we visited a traditional crofthouse located on the coast of Boddam, a village in Dunrossness. There is also a lovely garden outside with a path which leads to a restored watermill.

The Croft House Museum is a mid-nineteenth century Shetland croft, which was lived in until the late 60’s. A typical family unit included grandparents, parents and children. The sea, not the land, was the main provider and the crofter was a fisherman, seaman or whaler. His wife and family worked the land in his absence.

In the afternoon we went towards the Ness of Burgi on the opposite side of the bay to Sumburgh Head.

The total for the group was 62 bird species, two otters, and maybe a polecat.

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