Walking to Fethaland

A sunny day provided the perfect opportunity for walking to Fethaland – the remote northern point of Shetland Mainland.

Fethaland is one of those ends of the earth places.

It’s at the northernmost tip of Mainland in Shetland (Mainland is the name of the main island in the archipelago), miles from anywhere. You drive (there’s no public transport) along narrow single-track roads, winding along the coast until you come to Isbister. Then you walk. Continue reading “Walking to Fethaland”

Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: St Kilda

Memories of one of the best day trips ever.

This week’s Friday Flickr is the last in my series of reminiscences from my travels through the Outer Hebrides.

Just before my trip ended I achieved one of my major goals and managed to get to St Kilda. It was only for a day, but at least I got there. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: St Kilda”

Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Lewis and Harris

Standing stones, chessmen, tweed, beaches, wild coastlines and day trips to St Kilda are just some of the reasons to visit Lewis and Harris.

This week’s Friday Flickr is the penultimate post on my photographic reminiscences of a journey through the length of Scotland’s Western Isles. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Lewis and Harris”

Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray

White beaches, dark peat bogs, blue skies and green machair are all part of the colour scheme in the Outer Hebrides.

For this week’s Friday Fickr I’m continuing my tour north through the Outer Hebrides, a chain of islands off Scotland’s west coast. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray”

Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Mingulay

An abandoned island lying to the south of the Outer Hebrides is the theme for this week’s Friday Flickr.

I visited Mingulay as as day trip from Barra.

Mingulay was the southern most inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides until 1912 when it was finally abandoned, its remaining population unable to sustain their lives there any longer. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Mingulay”

Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Barra and Vatersay

This week’s Friday Flickr is all about two tiny islands with a lot to see and do.

My visit to the Outer Hebrides started in Barra. I caught the ferry from Oban and spent 5 hours sailing past idyllic looking islands. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – Outer Hebrides: Barra and Vatersay”

Friday Flickr – White Sand and Blue Sea

Is there anything more enticing than a long white sandy beach and a dazzling blue sea?

I’m not a lying on the beach person, but I love to discover a gorgeous beach when I’m out walking and I’ll happily sit and read or just gaze out at the sea for a while before moving on. Continue reading “Friday Flickr – White Sand and Blue Sea”

Friday Flickr -The Great Glen Way

This week’s Flickr album sees me reminiscing about my first long distance walk.

It’s quite a while since I had my introduction to long-distance walking and ticked a challenge of my 60 before 60 list by walking the Great Glen Way.

The Great Glen Way meanders it’s way through the (yep, you guessed it) the Great Glen, which stretches from coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands.

A series of lochs, formed along a geological fault line, almost splits the country in half. Just to finish the job, the Caledonian Canal came along in the 1800s and linked the lochs. It is now impossible to travel to the far north of Scotland without crossing water somewhere. (Does that mean the north of Scotland is actually an island?)

The Great Glen Way begins in Fort William and leads onwards and upwards to Inverness on the west coast. Although the official path actually starts and finishes in the middle of these two towns, I walked out to the sea lochs at either end, adding a few more miles and making it a true coast to coast walk.

As an introduction to long distance walking, this is a good one. Plenty of wilderness, but not too difficult to get lost. Few enough people to make it feel like an adventure, but enough people around if you ran into difficulties. Lots of trees and ‘nature’, but also plenty of man-made historical stuff to keep it interesting on a different level.

I wrote about it in a lot more detail at the time, but for an overview of what it looks like, I’ve put a Flickr album together.

Click on the photo below to access the Flickr album.

Great Glen Way

And in case this has whetted your appetite, here are the links to the rest of my posts on the Great Glen Way.

Great Glen Way Day 1

Great Glen Way Day 2

Great Glen Way Day 3

Great Glen Way Day 4

Great Glen Way Day 5

Great Glen Way Day 6

Great Glen Way Day 7

Friday Flickr – Lighthouses

This week’s Friday Flickr is all about those sentinels of the sea; lighthouses.

There’s something that always looks special about a lighthouse. They add such a dramatic finishing touch to a landscape or seascape. I like the stories that surround them – why and how they were built and what life was like by the keepers who lived in them. If I get the chance, I’ll always walk out to one and, if possible, climb to the top.

Although I’ve seen lighthouses in many places, most of the ones pictured in this week’s Friday Flickr are to be found in Scotland. And if you want to know any more about them, I highly recommend Bella Bathurst’s The Lighthouse Stevensons. She weaves the story of the amazing engineering feats of the Stevenson family in a way that reads almost like fiction. I had to keep reminding myself that this was all true.

My favourite lighthouse of all has to be Muckle Flugga of course. It sits at the top of the British Isles and can be seen from Hermaness on the north coast of Unst, my favourite island in my favourite archipelago. A walk from the small car park out over the moor, dodging diving bonxies (Great Skuas), heading left to see (and hear and smell) the magnificent gannetry, then backtracking and going right to find a spot to sit among puffins and gaze out to sea knowing Muckle Flugga and the nearby rock of Out Stack are the last land until Antarctica, has to be on any ‘best walks’ list.

Click on the photo below to access the Flickr page.


Friday Flickr – Puffins Galore

Puffins have got to be cutest birds ever. I can spend hours sitting and watching them.

For this week’s Friday Flickr I’ve decided to go with a theme rather than a place.

And for my first theme, I’ve chosen puffins.

Puffins have got to be the cutest birds. With their colourful beaks and soulful eyes, to say nothing of their clumsy gaits and comical crash landings, how can anyone not love a puffin?

The best place I’ve found to see puffins is Shetland. There are two huge colonies; one right at the bottom of the islands at Sumburgh and the other right at the top at Hermaness on Unst (my favourite island).

Sumburgh is the easiest to get to as it’s on the Shetland Mainland (main island) and is easily drivable from Lerwick. You can even get a bus if you don’t have a car. I say easiest to get to, but it still involves getting to Aberdeen and then a 12-14 hour ferry journey before you even get to Lerwick.

Unst is a little trickier (but so worth it), as from Lerwick you have to drive to the top of the Mainland, get a 20-30 minute ferry over to the island of Yell, drive for 30-40 minutes to the top of Yell, get another ferry for 10-15 minutes over to Unst, drive as far as you can to Hermaness at the top of Unst (half an hour or so), then walk across the boggy moorland for around an hour (dodging skua attacks) to get to the most northerly bit of coast in Britain.

Looking out from cliffs there are a couple of bits of rock that belong to Britain (Muckle Flugga and Out Stack), but that’s it. No more land. You’d have to keep going until you reached Antarctica before you  hit land again.

Hermaness is well worth the effort of getting there. Not only do you get to see Muckle Flugga lighthouse (of Shipping Forecast fame), have the overwhelming sense of being on top of the world and sit among hundreds of puffins, but you get to experience a ginormous gannetry.

Puffins might be the cutest birds, but gannets are my all time favourites. They’re just so sleek and skillful as well as stunningly beautiful to look at.

The gannetry is a massive assault on the senses – the sheer number of birds, the sound, the smell – about the only sense not being assaulted is taste, though I’m sure that could be fixed just by breathing in through your mouth.

But back to puffins. Sit on the grass on the cliffs at either Sumburgh or Hermaness and you will have puffins pop up out of their burrows and crash land on the grass all around you.

They spend most of the year at sea and only come back to land when they breed. This means there’s quite a limited season to see them. They start arriving around April and have pretty much disappeared by early August.

I can sit for hours just watching them or snapping away trying to get the perfect photo. The photograph I really want to take is of a puffin with a mouth full of sandeels, but so far I’ve never managed this.

So I have a reason to keep going back. Not that I need one.

Click on the image below to access the Flickr album.