About Argyll Walking Holidays

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Walking Level 2Shetland Islands

This walking tour takes in the many natural wonders and archaeological sites of the Shetland Isles. This is your chance to experience the most northerly islands of Britain, a unique place with long hours of daylight, beautiful landscapes, abundant wildlife and a rich cultural heritage.

Highlights

  • Walking on Mousa and climbing to the top of Mousa Broch
  • Boat trip and hike on Papa Stour with its caves, arches, stacks and skerries
  • Walk to Fethaland, the northernmost tip of Mainland
  • Hike in Hermaness Nature Reserve on the Isle of Unst
  • Boat trip around Noss with its cliffs packed with seabirds

Introduction to your walking tour on the Shetland Islands

Shetland is an archipelago of islands 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland. At 60 degrees north, Shetland enjoys almost 24 hours of daylight during the summer, and the sun, low in the sky, brings a quality of light that is quite unlike anywhere else in Scotland. The geology of the islands is ancient and complex. That, together with the erosive effect of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, has created a landscape characterised by dramatic cliffs, long fjord like ‘voes’ and beautiful sandy beaches.

The islands are a haven for wildlife. Walking through the landscape birds are ever present, grey and common seals are numerous and even sighting of otters and orcas are not uncommon.

Shetland Islandswalking tour Scotland

Bonxie or Great Skua

The human history on the islands stretches back to Neolithic times. Iron age brochs and Norse archaeological sites are among the best anywhere in world. The Norse heritage of the islands has had a profound effect on the dialect, culture and way of life. The Shetlander’s welcome is warm and adds greatly to a visitor’s enjoyment of these wonderful islands.

We start the tour in Glasgow, travelling by train to Aberdeen where we catch the ferry to Lerwick.

The tour takes in the southern and northernmost parts of Shetland, including the islands Papa Stour, Mousa and Unst. Our base is Shetland’s capital and main town, Lerwick. Although there aren’t always paths, short grass underfoot makes for easy going. On a number of the days we’ll use boats and ferries to access remoter islands.


Day-by-day Programme

The programme will be subject to variables such as weather and the abilities of the group and changes may also be made to take account of lambing, deer stalking, etc. Any such alterations will always take into account the need to maintain the overall character of the holiday.

Guided hiking tour Shetland, Scotland

 

 

  1. Saturday: St Ninian's isle, Jarlshof and Mousa
  2. Sunday: Staneydale Temple and Culswick
  3. Monday: Unst
  4. Tuesday: Fethaland
  5. Wednesday: Papa Stour
  6. Thursday: Noss and West Burra

 

Friday: Glasgow - Aberdeen - ferry to Lerwick
The tour begins in Glasgow at Queen Street Station. After travelling to Aberdeen by train we board the evening ferry to Shetland, arriving the following morning at Lerwick. Travelling to Shetland by boat, you come to appreciate how far north the islands really are. On the way, if you stay up late, you may catch a glimpse of the Orkney Islands and Fair Isle.

Saturday: St Ninian's isle, Jarlshof and Mousa
Our first day on Shetland is spent exploring the many fantastic sites south Mainland has to offer. One of the natural wonders of Shetland is St Ninian’s Isle, the best example of a tombolo in Europe. We take time to walk across the 500m long, sandy double beach to reach the grassy headland and the ruins of an early medieval chapel where Pictish treasure was found in 1958.

Next we visit Jarlsof, described as one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles. The site is comprised of a complex of dwellings from Neolithic times, the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Norse and Medieval Periods.

Mousa Broch, Shetland

Mousa Broch

In the afternoon, we travel to Sandwick and board a small ferry for the 15 minute crossing to the uninhabited island of Mousa. The island is a haven for puffins, terns, arctic skuas, shags, bonxies (great skuas) and seals. About an hour of walking, with lots of stops to look at the wildflowers, views and wildlife, takes us the finest and best-preserved broch or round tower anywhere in the world. Build 2000 years ago, its 12m high walls remain intact, allowing us to explore inside and ascend to the top of the structure. A short walk at the end of the day takes us back to the ferry.

5 miles/8km, little ascent

Sunday: Stanydale Temple and Culswick
We'll go to the Westside for one of the finest walks in this part of Mainland. Our first stop is Stanydale Temple, a Neolithic hall, heel-shaped externally, and containing a large oval chamber. Around it are ruins of houses, walls and cairns of the same period.

The walk at Culswick follows the track through a dramatic valley, which narrows and rises when we reach the cliffs. The valley was once a sea loch. It is now separated from the sea by a shingle bar, creating a fresh water loch. At its lowest point, the track passes between high peat banks.

Near the coast, the track rises and Culswick Broch and ramparts appear ahead, above the Loch of the Broch. The green valley ends in pebble beaches fringed by sea stacks, cliffs and caves. The Pictish Culswick broch looks out on an awe inspiring view over Gruting Voe and Vaila Sound.

From the broch we head southeast along the cliff tops. There are remains of a monastic settlement on one of the sea stacks and a tiny dwelling on another. We continue following the shore back to the start of our walk.
We have a good chance to see lapwings, curlews, ringed plovers and mountain hares.

6 miles/9.5 km, 330ft/100m of ascent

Gannet colony on Hermaness

Gannet colony Hermaness, Unst

Monday: Unst
Our visit to Unst is a day of ‘northernmosts’; the most northerly island, village, beach and bus stop! The rare serpentine rock underlying the islands is the remnant of a lost ocean sea floor – the Lapetus ocean of 600 million years ago. The rock gives a barren and stark look to the landscape and has created habitats for rare plants and flowers.

Unst is also famous for its Norse archaeological sites – it’s said that there are more Norse longhouse sites on Unst than in the whole of Scandinavia!

Our day starts by travelling north through the Mainland, across the island of Yell to Belmont on Unst. We then drive to the north of the island and visit Hermaness Nature Reserve. One hour's walk on good paths and boardwalks brings us to a huge and spectacular gannet colony on 558ft/170m high cliffs. This is a great place to see puffins as well.

Returning to to the minibus, we’ll spend the rest of our time on Unst visiting a replica Viking longhouse and longship at Haroldswick and the Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve to look for the rare Edmundson Chickweed, a flower found at this site on Unst and nowhere else in the world.

About 4 miles/6.5 km and about 560ft/150m of ascent

Steatite quarry, Fethaland, Shetland Islands

Soapstone quarry, Fethaland

Tuesday: Fethaland
Today’s walk takes us to the northernmost tip of Mainland, to North Roe and Fethaland. Jutting out into the Atlantic, Fethaland was an ideal location for a 19th century Haaf (meaning ‘open water’) fishing station, a dangerous enterprise which entailed six man teams rowing 50 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean to set lines for ling and cod.

Reaching the ruined station involves an easy 2 mile walk along a good track. The station is sited on a stunning tombolo, between two rocky beaches.
There is plenty of time to explore the remains of about 20 fishing bothies, and to watch the numerous inquisitive seals that hang out here.

Beyond the fishing station, easy walking on short grass takes us to a small lighthouse and dramatic views. You can see the Rama Stacks, Unst and Yell to the north and east, Ronas Hill, Shetland’s largest hill, rising up to the south and the vast expanse of the Atlantic to the west.

The best Viking soapstone carvings in Shetland can be found not far from the lighthouse. Big bowl shapes can easily be made out on the slopes of Cleber Geo. We return the way we came, enjoying views of the great bulk of Ronas hill to the south.

5 miles/8km, 1310ft/400m of ascent

Wednesday: Papa Stour
Papa Stour - ‘big island of the priests’ - is formed from volcanic lava and ash. Exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, some of the most impressive coast line in Shetland can be seen here with caves, arches, stacks, skerries and subterranean passages.

Only 15 people live permanently on the island, but it was an important place in Neolithic, Bronze Age and Viking times with evidence of this all over the island.

The ferry crossing is 40 minutes and we will have 6 hours on Papa Stour. Our walk will go around the wild and remote western part of the island.

6 miles, 330 ft of ascent


 

Noss, Shetland Islands

Noss

Thursday: Noss and West Burra
After having been on top of many seabird cliffs during our holiday, today we will view them from the sea. Our boat takes us around the islands of Bressay and Noss. Noss - 'nose' - is a National Nature Reserve. The old red sandstone cliffs of Noss are carved by the sea into thousands of ledges. These are ideal sites for seabirds' dream-houses and competition is intense. We will get a close look at the cliffs packed with seabirds and our senses will be assaulted by the sight of thousands of birds, their deafening noise and the overpowering smell.

Our last walk on Shetland will be on Burra Isle. Connected to the mainland by bridges, it doesn’t take long to get there from Lerwick. We begin by walking along a beautiful white sand beach called Banna Minn. Beyond that we continue along cliff tops on short grass taking in lovely views of Foula, south mainland and the Westside. The profusion of sea pinks and other wildflowers give Burra a friendly and gentle feel.
4.5 miles/7km, little ascent

Returning to Lerwick we board the ferry for our journey back to Aberdeen.

Friday: Aberdeen - Glasgow
After having breakfast on the ferry we disembark at Aberdeen and catch our train back to Glasgow arriving around midday.


Shetland Islands walking tour photos

Arriving in Lerwick

Arriving in Lerwick

Jarlshof, Mainland Shetland

Jarlshof, Mainland Shetland

Papa Stour

Papa Stour

Papa Stour: walking across an arch

Papa Stour: walking across an arch

Gannet colony, Unst

Gannet colony, Unst

Muckle Flagga from Hermaness, Unst

Muckle Flagga from Hermaness, Unst

Giant's Leg, Bressay

Giant's Leg, Bressay

West Burra

West Burra


Orkney and Shetland walking tours combined

Every year we schedule Orkney and Shetland Island walking tours back-to-back, so you can combine the tours into a two-week holiday with 6 walking days on the Orkney Islands and 6 on the Shetland Islands.

Itinerary
You will start your holiday joining the Orkney walking tour group. On Friday, when the group boards the ferry back to Aberdeen in the evening, you will stay another night on Orkney. You will fly to Shetland on Saturday  morning, where the Shetland walking tour group will meet you at the airport.

Orkney and Shetland as a 10-day private guided tour
You can also do the Orkney and Shetland Islands as a 10-day private guided walking tour. During this tour you will walk 3 days on the Orkney Islands and 5 days on the Shetland Islands. Being a private guided tour, the programme is flexible and we can amend the itinerary depending on you interests.
Accommodation is either in good quality Bed & Breakfasts/Guest Houses or Hotels. The tour can start any date.
Please get in touch if you would like to do this private guided tour with your own party.


Am I fit enough?

This walking tour is an excellent introduction to hiking in Scotland for people with good basic fitness. The holiday combines walking with visits to places of interest. Daily distances won't exceed 6 miles/10km plus varying amounts of ascent, and we don't expect to hike for longer than 4 hours (plus stops). Most of the hiking will be on paths, tracks or quiet roads, although the surfaces can be wet and rough. There will be some steep sections along the way, but no climbs greater than 1200 feet/365m, even in total.

If you're still not sure whether or not you can cope after you've read this along with the details of the week's programme, please get in touch to discuss it further.


Accommodation

This is either in carefully selected Bed & Breakfast accommodation or Guest Houses. You can rely on the quality of the accommodation that we find for you - its comfort, its food and the professionalism and welcoming nature of those who run it. The B&Bs and guest houses we use are more personal and the quality of the accommodation is as good or even better than of hotels in the same category. Double and twin rooms that are occupied by two people always have an en suite or private bathroom.
If you have particular requirements or prefer to stay in a 4-star hotel, please let us know so that we can do our best to meet them.
Details of where you will be staying will be sent to you well in advance of your holiday.

Evening meals
Dinner is not included in the price, but your guide will take you out for supper every evening. We usually eat in a different place each evening, giving you the opportunity to try a range of Scottish dishes and ambiences.


Dates & Prices

Description 8 days (2017: Saturday to Saturday; 2018: Friday to Friday), accommodation in Lerwick in carefully selected B&Bs (5 nights) and 2 nights on the ferry.
Walking An attractive, well thought out walking programme; never more than 6 miles (10 km) in a day, and mostly on paths or tracks - though paths may be wet and/or rough in places. An equally attractive programme of visits to places of interest complement the walks.
CodeDatePriceRemarks
ST73 23-30 September 2017 £1195 Single room in B&B: £62.50 extra
Single cabin on the ferry: £110 extra
ST81 25 May - 1 June 2018 £1210
ST82 15-22 June 2018
ST83 13-20 July 2018
ST84 24-31 August 2018
We may be able to book groups of 4 or more on other dates, please ask.

Orkney & Shetland Islands combined

Description 14 days (Saturday to Friday), accommodation in Kirkwall in carefully selected B&Bs (7 nights), Lerwick (5 nights) and 1 night on the ferry.
Walking An attractive, well thought out walking programme; never more than 6 miles (10 km) in a day, and mostly on paths or tracks - though paths may be wet and/or rough in places. An equally attractive programme of visits to places of interest complement the walks.
CodeDatePriceRemarks
OS81 7-20 July 2018 £2115 Single room in B&B: £150 extra
Single cabin on the ferry: £55 extra
OS82 18-31 August 2018
We may be able to book groups of 4 or more on other dates, please ask.

The price includes:

  • The services of our well-qualified, well-informed and welcoming guide.
  • Small group - usually between 4 and 8.
  • An attractive, well thought out walking programme; never more than 6 miles or 4 hours in a day, and mostly on paths or tracks - though paths may be wet and/or rough in places.
  • An equally attractive programme of visits to places of interest to complement the walks. Some of these visits may themselves involve a short walk from the nearest available parking.
  • Train journey Glasgow - Aberdeen v.v.
  • Ferries:
    • Shetland Islands: Overnight ferry Aberdeen - Lerwick v.v., sharing a 2-berth cabin.
    • Orkney & Shetland Islands combined: Ferry Aberdeen - Kirkwall and overnight ferry Lerwick - Aberdeen, sharing a 2-berth cabin.
  • Accommodation:
    • Shetland Islands: 5 nights in carefully selected Bed & Breakfast accommodation in Lerwick in twin/double room plus picnic lunch on walking days.
    • Orkney & Shetland Islands combined: 7 nights in Kirkwall and 5 nights in Lerwick in carefully selected Bed & Breakfast accommodation in twin/double room plus picnic lunch on walking days.
  • Orkney & Shetland Islands combined: flight Orkney - Shetland
  • Transport by minibus, trains, ferries, boats and planes, as needed, throughout your holiday and from / to Glasgow Queen Street Station, at its beginning and end.
  • Entrance fee to museums, if visited.
  • Short evening get-togethers to set the scene for the next day's walking.

and most especially

  • Personal care and attention in all that we do for you.

For general information and booking, please click here.