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A Bressay & Noss Adventure

A Bressay & Noss Adventure

Postby iangpark » Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:06 pm

Route description: Island of Noss National Nature Reserve

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Noss Head (Noss), Ward of Bressay (Bressay)

Date walked: 27/07/2016

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 25 km

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Being a student often results in a lack of wealth and so to ameliorate this, we often get summer jobs. Working as a stock-taker over the summer has inadvertently meant I have been to places in Scotland I would otherwise never have been - Shetland (in particular, Lerwick Tesco) on this occasion. A wonderful, all-expenses-paid (how-do-they-actually-make-money-from-this-?) NorthLink ferry greeted us for the 14 hour trip to Lerwick. As we arrived, the hotel booking was taking ages and as I had known about this trip for a while, I had pre-planned a hill-bagging expedition to Bressay and Noss. No need for a map - I had it all memorized! Although I did have some map photos on my phone for helpfulness. Quickly gave up waiting about in the reception and allowed whoever was in charge to sign me in.

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Wandered along to the Bressay ferry which sails from 7 in the morning to 11 at night (usually every hour). While waiting, I phoned the Noss "ferry" service (the warden's motorised dinghy) on 0800 107 7818 to make sure the sailings were on, which given the weather I had assumed they would be. Indeed they were. The Bressay ferry was delightful. I was confused at first as I've never been on a ferry in which you just wander on - I was told a man would come to collect the £5.30 fare from me - this didn't happen. The Ward was almost fantasy like in appearance on the crossing - peering above the clouds like a heavenly spire.

Lewick from the Bressay ferry:

Bressay lighthouse from later in the week:
Lighthouse form Lerwick.jpg

Ferry window:
Ferry Hole.jpg

I arrived at the other side to find myself awe-struck by the sheer fact that I was on an island, by myself, with the sun shining, in Shetland, with the intention to climb some hills! I couldn't wait. I followed the main Heogan Road down along the coast: beautiful buttercups, fields and houses on the left, views to Lerwick glistening in all it's grey-coloured glory on the right, contrasted by the machair-like terrain of Bressay. My intention had been to first make my way along the coast to the Bressay Lighthouse but my hotel holdup had meant that it was straight to the Ward of Bressay.

The Ward:

I was on the lookout for a newsagent-like place as I had had nothing to drink, nor anything to eat. Picked up a Lion bar from the Mail Shop on Uphouse Road and continued on. Follow the sign for 'Upper Glebe', as I walked passed a bit then realised my mistake. The path starts very nicely, with picturesque sheep every few seconds. The puddles looked clean enough for a small drink so I helped myself to nature's faucets. The path begins it's ascent almost instantly and by the time you're half way up, you're wishing for a little break! The sheep managed it fine.
The steepest point is just as you're nearing the top, before turning left to the final curve of the path. The top was shrouded in clouds and it was spitting down so I took a few phone photos and made my way round the other side of the hill.

Ward from below:
Ward From below.jpg

Back to Lerwick:
Lerwick from Near Summit.jpg

The stunning view:

Now the next segment of the walk was arguably the most fun I had all day. Instantly after coming off the radio tower path, I made my way down to Wadbister (the remains of an Iron Age croft) souterrain, grinning from cheek to cheek as I galloped through the heather and rather deep soil formations. This area was nothing like I had expected - tiny streams with huge 'chasms', martian-like soil, and even a minuscule beach with black peat! This was also where I started properly seeing the Great Skuas (Bonxies) - imagine a huge, majestic collaboration between a buzzard and a juvenile seagull. I was being dive-bombed quite spectacularly, and was making sure to stay away from any possible nesting or fledgling sites. The noise they made while flying over head was unbelievable.

A low-flying bonxie with beautiful Noss in the background and the Loch of Grimsetter behind Wadbister:

I made my way down until I was at a barbed fence and carefully traversed it, in the hopes of getting up into Wadbister. I now realised why the fence and wall were there - the whole place was very boggy underfoot. I light-footedly made my way up the tiny little hill up to the croft remains, frightening the waders out of their resting places and scaring myself more than I did them. The settlement was brilliant and I had to refill my film camera with some more Agfa 200. My camera suddenly became temperamental and wouldn't turn back on and this irritated me as I made my way over to the Loch of Grimsetter. A massive flock of bonxies were at the right hand side and, not wanting to cause any unnecessary fuss, passed along through the short grass up to the coast once more, raging at my camera.

Wadbister gable end:
Wadbsiter Gable end.jpg

Near Wadbister:
Near Wadbister.jpg

The coastline was beyond words - a tiny burn made its way off a cliff and into the air. There was a very precarious outcrop just before the 'Point of Milltaing' that I made my way onto to better see the south cliffs of Bressay:

After this I followed the thin path through Muckle Hell and passed over a fence stile, with tourists passing me on the way south. There was some very interesting geological features at this part of the island, however, it was sad to see so much washed up litter strewn across this side of the island (There's no way it came from Norway!) Finally passed back onto the road just in time to leave it again for the 'ferry' to Noss. Other folk had just arrived on the other side, so I took a photo for 3 German ladies and waited, looking at a seal and the fulmars basking in the sun. The colour of the water on the Sound of Noss is worth the 3 mile drive from the Bressay ferry. The clouds had cleared again and Noss looked marvellous.

Old Red Sandstone erratic:
Crazy Old Red Sabdstone Erratic.jpg

The view:

We put on our lifejackets and made our way across to the Information Centre, which doubles up as the warden's home for 6 months of the year (April-September if I remember correctly). The ferry charge was £3 for adults and £1.50 for students and the over 60s I believe. Andy, which I think was the warden's name, described the populations of seabirds on the isle. Quick fact: (I won't tell you too much) - the island houses the 4th largest colony of bonxies in the world at over 400 pairs! He also explained the other wildlife possibilities available, mentioning otters, porpoises and even orcas. I bought some water off him for 50p, took some of the great leaflets and was the first to be on my way. We were told not to stray from the path so as to not disturb any bird chicks/eggs/nests - understandable for the islands NNR status.

I made my way down the path in ecstasy, reaching the first dry stone dyke and following it as asked to. The wildflowers were great and the views over to Bressay from the Voe of the Mels were awe-inspiring.

Over to Bressay:

I passed another group of walkers as the islands southern point, Feadda Ness, opened up and the jaw-dropping cliffs were revealed for the first time. A warning sign is positioned here, mentioning the steep cliffs. What it doesn't mention is that they are also very well hidden. They appear as maybe a little joint in the rock but actually descend as a crevasse all the way to the bottom - I would advise everyone to be extra cautious in this area.
The geology becomes more and more spectacular by the moment - opening up into the Cradle Holm or Holm of Noss. This stack had a connecting bridge for over 200 years as a means to access the bird eggs (the birds clearly knew they weren't being disturbed there!).

Holm of Noss:

Caves of Holm:
Holm Nick Caves.jpg

Back to Bressay S coast and mainland:
Holm back to Bressay and Mainland.jpg

I made my way further up the coast, gaining height considerably, passing a lovely little stream that has been there for hundreds of years and flows off the edge of the cliff to instantly go into the eyes of anyone passing by. After enjoying the Holm from every possible angle, I finally made it up to the cliff overlooking Rumble Wick - the 'amphitheatre' of an inlet that shows all 180 metres of cliff-face, descending straight down from the Noup of Noss, the islands highest point. Now, it's not very often that I am rendered utterly speechless but the sight of 20,000 gannets, 25,000 black and white guillemots and endless fulmars, combined with the noise of what that actually sounds like as well as the sheer majesty of such a spectacle made me a little lightheaded. The warden said this was by far his favourite part of the island and I can see why. There was just about nothing I could say to myself as I followed the cliff-face up to the top.

Pictures don't come close to doing any justice but here's the best one I've got:

Flabbergasted, I made my way up to the summit to gaze across the whole island and much of Bressay, the noise of the seabirds still reverberating in my ears.

View from the summit:

Vanessa trig:
Vanessa Trig.jpg

I was now the furthest point away from Lerwick in my day out and quickly began making my way back down. I passed an American man coming up in from the other way, saying he wished he hadn't. We had a quick chat and kept going. My lack of food throughout the day had meant that I was now beginning to feel quite dizzy and tired so I made my way down rather hastily, veering off the path a few times but always managing to find it again. I followed the North Croo back down into the sheep fields while sighing in despair at how far back it was, even to Bressay. Even getting up the 30m monster of Hill of Papilgeo felt like a significant effort. It was a short walk back to the warden's house. I went inside the information hut and smelt some extremely satisfying food but waited at the steps regardless. Andy blasted us across in the dinghy again and I thanked him for the day. It was at this point that I had to decide what to do with myself. I had planned to go all the way out to the Aith Ness peninsula on the north part of the island but that seemed impossible by now. I instead made it my last challenge to get up the Ander Hill (a whopping 144m!)

I made it to the top after feeling as if I was about to pass out but the little WWII lookout station was not much of a reward - just a hollow cemented building with some rubbish inside. I did however get my best picture of Noss:

Aith Ness peninsula from Ander Hill:
Airds Peninsula from Ander Hill.jpg

At this point I'd pretty much given up on the pictures. I figured out my plan of action and made my way very steeply down onto a path to the right of Everby. I followed it up to Setter, past the endless meadows of sheep on either side of me and back to the shop I had first gone to. It was closed unfortunately and I was really looking forward to eating anything I could think of - a loaf of bread perhaps?I did get to see a Shetland pony though so I can't complain.

Sheep on way back:
Sheep on Way Back.jpg

I followed the street back to the ferry terminal - there was a 20 minute wait so I had a doze on a rock. Just as the ferry was arriving, the man I'd met on Noss showed back up - he was walking too, but along the road and not the hill I went up! He mentioned that he'd lost his cap and I said that I had seen it but left it in the hopes that the owner would have noticed and ran back. I don't think he expected me to have actually seen it. We went onto the ferry again, having a chat and as, once again, we weren't charged for the ride back.

I said my goodbyes to the man and made my way to the nearest cafe in sight (Peerie Shop Cafe - it was brilliant). Overall, a superb day out that went much, much, much, better than I had thought it would, gave me a great insight into the stunning landscapes of Shetland and will stay with me for many years to come - all for the price of a Lion bar!
Last edited by iangpark on Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:10 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: A Bressay & Noss Adventure

Postby John Doh » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:41 pm

Good stuff. I was there last year and have to agree that the amphitheatre ist one of nature's greatest sights 8)
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Re: A Bressay & Noss Adventure

Postby iangpark » Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:30 pm

John Doh wrote:Good stuff. I was there last year and have to agree that the amphitheatre ist one of nature's greatest sights 8)

It really is - I haven't been to many sea cliffs so that might play a part in my amazement too :lol:
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Posts: 283
Munros:24   Corbetts:15
Grahams:24   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:60   Hewitts:13
Wainwrights:16   Islands:9
Joined: Dec 29, 2015
Location: Greenock

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