Northmaven is a spectacular place. Some of the scenery is exceptional and there are parts that almost feel like they can’t be in Shetland. On Thursday and Friday we had guest Big Trekkers visiting Shetland from Aberdeen. Ali & Kirsty from the Cotswold Company store in Union Square, Aberdeen, travelled up and joined us. They had sourced some equipment for us and also provided us with some advice so we repaid them for that with some fantastic walking, breath taking vistas and pretty good weather.
Thursday 14th July
Hillswick to the Braewick Cafe was quite tough going in places. The Ness of Hillswick was a nice walk with some stunning views, although it would be easy to become blasé about this with the selection available up north. We got Ali & Kirsty settled in at the Braewick Campsite and then had some ‘brunch’ at the Cafe. We must say a huge thank you to Christina at the Braewick Cafe & Campsite who donated the use of one of their great little wigwams to Ali & Kirsty and also provided breakfast & lunch to us all. Having stayed in the campsite before I knew what to expect but our visitors were very impressed with the facility, the stunning location and views out over ‘The Drongs’ and of course the fantastic food and hospitality. It is a great place to go to get away from it all and I hope to get the chance to get back there before the end of the summer but hopefully there will be a minimal amount of walking done then.
We walked back around to Braewick from the Eshaness lighthouse past Stenness and Tangwick. The walking conditions were great and the sun was shining. When we got back to Braewick we indulged in a hearty lunch that was consumed with much enthusiasm. Life was good. Infact life was so good that Kirsty decided to ditch us and go play with her kite on the beach, you can’t blame her really.
We went around to Hamnavoe and walked back to the Eshaness lighthouse. The walk from the Grind of the Navir to the lighthouse is one of my favourites. The terrain is fantastic to walk on and the Grind of the Navir and The Holes of Scraada are well worth the effort alone. You could easily walk past The Grind of the Navir and never know it was there. There are two high walls of rock on either side and what could almost be described as a staircase of rock down to the sea. On a beautiful day like we had it feels like a very special place, we all commented that there wouldn’t be many better or more tranquil places to have a picnic around the country at that moment. On a windy day the atmosphere changes and it becomes very dramatic and has a fantastic sense of power, although care should be taken there on a wet or windy day. There is also a blow hole that needs to be watched out for, it is pretty spectacular on a bad day with the correct seas and wind. The Holes of Scraada is a collapsed sea cave that the tide washes in and out of. It is quite bizarre to be a fair distance back from the edge of the cliffs yet still to have the sea washing in past you.
The lighthouse accommodation can be rented out and with a quick internet search you’ll be able to find details of availability and cost. We have stayed in the lighthouse on a couple of occasions and have had a ball. The lighthouse accomodation in Sumburgh and Bressay is also available for hire but I would have to say that we enjoyed the stay in the Eshaness lighthouse the most. It is well worth looking into if you fancy a break with a difference. After we had finished that walk we dropped Ali off at the wigwam and finished off a little leg that hadn’t been done between Busta and the Muckle Roe Bridge.
Friday 15th July
On Friday morning me and Ewan went from the end of the road at Heylor around to Swinister, scoping out Ronas Voe & Hill at the same time. We were both complaining about ankles and knees but the sun was shining and we were about to go and see two of Shetlands most spectacular locations. We picked up Ali & Kirsty from Braewick and after a brief stop for a bacon roll we headed up to Sandvoe. The walk around to Uyea was pretty hard going in places but things wouldn’t really get much better for the next 17 miles. We stopped at Uyea for a spot of re-fuelling and despite the fact that the sun had gone in and the wind had picked up, we all were blown away by the natural beauty of of Burrier Wick. Uyea is undoubtedly one of Shetlands best kept secrets….oops!
The walk down the coast had its ups and downs…literally! There are parts that are not easy to navigate, with some sharp inclines and declines but on the whole the terrain wasn’t as bad as we had thought it could be. Lang Clodie Wick and Valla Kames were pretty spectacular but the Lang Ayre was every bit as stunning as it looks in the pictures you see….and more (please note I am not talking about my picture, which does not do it justice). It is without a doubt the most stunning piece of coastline we have seen. It’s not somewhere you can get to very quickly or easily but that’s possibly past of the payoff. The graft put in to get there is repaid many times over. It is a place that you need to be well prepared to visit though. The weather on Ronas Hill can close in pretty quickly and it would be very easy to become disorientated and lose your way. You possibly don’t need the week’s worth of supplies that I inexplicably took however. We stopped here for another re-fuelling session, with Flaming Hot Monster Munch the highlight of the snacks this time.
We had taken advice from a few folk that had walked here before and stayed up high coming in Ronas Voe. The ground was quite wet in places and by the time we came over Abbrams Ward we were all pretty tired and sore. Coming in to Swinister along The Clifts, the going wasn’t very good. There were a lot of cracks in the peat and a jungle of ferns covering many of them, making for interesting walking. We were all very relieved when we got to Swinister. It had been a hard 17 miles but had also been one of the most rewarding legs we’ve done. It was great to have Ali and Kirsty join us for the two days, lifting our spirits and injecting some fresh ‘banter’.
Me, Kirsty and Ali called it quits there at 8pm but Ewan, showing legendary determination and stubbornness, wanted to get the Hamnavoe to Heylor leg done so he pushed on by himself and did this. He possibly wished he hadn’t at a few stages through the leg but he managed to get it done by around 11pm.
The weather is supposed to taking a turn for the worse over the weekend and into next week. On the whole we’ve rode our luck with the elements but I suppose this had to come to an end at sometime and it’s no use having all this waterproof gear and not using it!