Our arrival in Shetland was met with heavy rain, fog, and strong winds, but we ignored these (wisely, as it turned out) and headed down from Lerwick to the southernmost tip of the Shetland mainland, Sumburgh Head. Best known as an RSPB Nature Reserve, Sumburgh Head is a twitcher’s paradise but is also a beautiful area that’s well worth a visit.
The Shetland Islands are home to about 20% of Scotland’s puffin population and 2,000 pairs of these breed at Sumburgh Head. These were out in force on the day we got there and the weather steadily improved, too – we ended up spending the whole morning at Sumburgh Head. (For lots of information about wildlife-spotting in Shetland, visit www.nature-shetland.co.uk)
Our next destination was just up the road but was so perfect that we spent the rest of the day and the night there, too. St Ninian’s Isle is a small island that’s joined to the mainland by Britain’s largest shell-and-sand tombolo (a narrow isthmus).
The island is picture perfect, especially on a sunny summer’s day, and there is parking above the beach opposite, providing a perfect overnight spot with walks on the beach and across to the island, for those who are so inclined. If you walk back up from the beach, there is a shop-cum-post office in Bigton selling all sorts of things (from frozen fish fingers to fresh bread and cakes) – although it was for sale at the time we visited, so it may not be there next time.
St Ninian’s Isle isn’t inhabited anymore and is only used for sheep farming today. It does, however, boast the remains of a 12th century church that can be viewed freely at any time.