Shetland Mainland – Sight Seeing & Safari Tour
Enjoy a leisurely day out, taking in some of Shetlands most iconic and breathtaking vistas, a day packed with dramatic views of land meeting sea. Along the way, we shall explore a wide cross-section of the islands’ natural habitats and the spectacular wildlife found among them.
Our first stop is Sumburgh Head, the southernmost headland of mainland Shetland. Here, as well as admiring the first ever Stevenson’s Lighthouse built in Shetland, we shall enjoy stunning views of breeding seabirds at one of Shetland’s most important seabird colonies. Along the busy ledges and stacks, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Shags breed in good numbers, Arctic and Great Skuas patrol the air while along the cliff tops the ever-photogenic Puffins are typically confiding.
From Sumburgh, we head north, our route taking us around one of the islands’ largest freshwater lochs, the RSPB’s Loch of Spiggie reserve, which is surrounded by some of the most fertile agricultural land in Shetland.
Just north of Spiggie, we stop off at St Ninians Isle, undoubtedly one of Shetlands most picturesque views. St Ninians Isle is connected to the mainland by a spectacular sandy beach, or ayre, which is well-known as one of the finest active tombolos in Europe.
As we leave the South Mainland and make our way to the West side, we take a scenic shortcut through Tingwall valley, stopping for panoramic views across Shetland’s ancient capital of Scalloway and shortly afterwards the islands’ medieval parliament, the Ting Holm, at the north end of Loch of Tingwall, itself another key wildlife site. As we make the long and steady ascent of the hills overlooking Weisdale, there are ever more spectacular coastal panoramas to revel in, looking across the west side of Mainland, out across the myriad tiny offshore islands, with the dramatic silhouette of Foula on the distant horizon.
As we continue deep into the heart of the west side, we travel through the Kergord valley and Shetland’s most extensive ‘forest’ landscapes, and then up into heather moorland country, where we spend time searching for Mountain Hare and Red Grouse.
Passing through the picturesque settlement of Voe, we soon reach Brae, the gateway to the North Mainland. Just to the north of Brae, the road passes the impressive Mavis Grind, a narrow arm of land where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean are but a stone’s throw apart.
Before we explore the magnificent, remote and rugged scenery of the North Mainland we take a break at the quite magnificently situated Breawick café, looking out over the dramatic sea stacks known as the ‘Drongs’ as we enjoy our lunch.
Our afternoon begins with yet another different seascape, this one at the northwestern edge of the Shetland mainland, from Eshaness lighthouse. Here we take the opportunity of a gentle stroll along the cliffs here to appreciate once again Shetland’s seabirds, flowering plants and coastal landforms.
The final leg of our journey takes us to the foot of the red-granite massif of Ronas Hill, the highest point in Shetland at some 450 metres. From here, there is one more panorama to take in at the end of a marvellous trek across Mainland Shetland, this one stretching north across the islands of Yell and, in the far distance Unst, while to the south we can look back across those areas of mainland we have spent the day exploring.