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Walk and Travel with Alvina

Southern Shetland

Southern Shetland

And I could not have been further from the razzmatazz of Jubilee day, London and pouring rain. The seemingly endless day was picture postcard perfect. There was a plan to take a boat trip round Mousa in the afternoon, so we set off south from Lerwick to Sandwick, to walk round one of the recommended cliff spits (grid ref hu436236) and again in Cicerone, walk 33, though you hardly need a book or map. Just a case of following the coast around the narrow headland.

It was windy and so we were pretty well wrapped up in windproofs, hats and my new Shetland gloves but the reflection of the sun on the sea and the clear air gave a unused to clarity. The green cliffs are decorated with pink, blue and yellow of sea champions. They cling to the sandstone making rock gardens for the fulmars of far greater beauty than any at Chelsea.


The updrafts of the wind posed problems when the fulmars had a shift change. They appeared to have far more trouble getting down to their nests than flying out. Twenty or thirty metres up from the ocean they were only a metre or two from the top of the cliff at shoulder height for me, cradled by an invisible force field which would suddenly release them and they would drop without warning to their mates below.


The water is completely clear and even from high on the cliffs we were able to see below the surface. A grey seal bobbed about watching us watching him curiously, for a while. It was possible to see his fins as he treaded water below. Close to where we had parked the car at Sandwick church, is a tiny beach with dunlin and snipe picking their way about the seaweed. The sand is fine, soft and had lunch stop clearly etched on it. As we sat and ate the entertainment began. Two small seals appeared, again appearing as curious about as us as we of them. Boredom set in quite quickly and they began to play, rolling and splashing in the gentle surf, as our lunch stop was extended beyond the planned ten minutes.


Dragging ourselves away to the boat launch for Mousa was an initial disappointment, leaving the seals yes, but then the boat was cancelled as the water was too choppy. Quick change of plan and we went across the island to Bigton. There is a tombolo; yes it is spelt correctly, to the tiny St Ninian’s Isle. (Grid ref HU374208). The surprise as you drop down from Bigton to the beach is one of those ‘awe inspiring’ moments. The tombolo is a sand spit joining the island to the mainland. It is only a few hundred metres long and because of the fabulous sunshine the view was one of a tropical paradise with the white sand and the blue sea of Scarfie and St Ninian’s Bay.


The sandstone cliffs of St Ninian’s have been eroded into fantastic stacks and sculptures, again giving high rise homes to the seabirds. It was easy to drift into a kind of reverie with the spectacular sea scape but the eroded cliffs meant keeping our wits alert. The apparent continuous green baize was cracked and crinkled around the edges and a careless stride was not to be recommended.


There were no seals but the turns were busy dropping like stones, the fulmars struggled with the wind and great skuas sat unconcerned and nonchalant on the cliffs before soaring up to find neglected nests.

Remember, look for walking and travel books here! Maps too!

More photos will follow here and my facebook page, keep checking.


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One Comment

  1. wow looks great
    love the last photo of st ninians.

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