The western Mainland of Shetland, stretching west from Weisdale to Sandness, is known as The Westside. This part of Shetland is notable for its varied landscape of spectacular sea cliffs, rolling green hills, bleak moorland, peaty freshwater lochs and numerous long sea lochs, or voes. This is excellent walking country, with many fine coastal routes, especially around Culswick and Dale of Walls. It is also great for birdwatching and trout fishing, and there are many opportunities for spotting whales, dolphins and otters.
Local Sights & Activities for The Westside
Northwest of Walls, the A971 crosses bleak moorland before descending to the crofting township of Sandness (pronounced 'saa-ness'), surrounded by fertile land and facing little Papa Stour, about a mile offshore. There's a good beach here and also a woollen spinning mill, where you can watch how they spin the famously fine wool into yarn. Info - Mon-Fri 0800-1700, free.
A ferry sails from West Burrafirth on the Westside, near Sandness, to the little island of Papa Stour, only a mile offshore. The island, which has a population of around 30, is mostly made up of volcanic rock which has been eroded to form an amazing coastline of stacks, arches and caves, most spectacular of which is Kirstan's Hole. The island is home to large colonies of auks, terns and skuas, and also has a fascinating history of its own. Pick up the island trails leaflet from the tourist office in Lerwick.
Walls is the departure point for ferries to the remote island of Foula, whose name derives from the Norse fugl ey, meaning 'bird island'. Lying 15 miles west of the Shetland Mainland, tiny Foula is the second most remote inhabited island after Fair Isle. It supports a population of around 40 people, who are greatly out-numbered by the many thousands of seabirds, including a small colony of gannets and the rare Leach's petrel. There are also about 2,500 pairs of great skuas, the largest colony in the UK. The island is dominated by its sheer cliffs, which reach their most awe-inspiring peak at The Kame (1,220 ft), the second highest sea cliffs in Britain after St Kilda.
An interesting feature of the island's people is that they still observe the old Julian calendar, replaced in 1752 in Britain by the present Gregorian system which deleted 11 days from the year. Remote areas of the country kept to the old calendar, adding an extra day in 1800, which was a leap year, and some parts of Shetland continued to observe festivals 12 days after the dates in the new calendar. The most remote areas kept to the old calendar longest, and the people of Foula still celebrate Christmas on 6 January and New Year's Day on 13 January.
The Westside Hotels & Accommodation
There are daily buses to Walls from Lerwick, Mon-Sat, with Shalder Coaches, Tel. 01595-880217. A minibus runs to Sandness from Walls once a day (except Sun). Contact Mr P Isbister, Tel. 809268.
Those wishing to celebrate 2 Christmases or New Year's Days, or to stay and admire the bird life, can stay on the island at E Leraback, Tel. 753226, which includes dinner in the price. There is also self-catering accommodation available on the island, £90-150 per week for a cottage sleeping 4-6 people. Contact Mr R Holbourn, Tel. 753232.
You can stay on the island at D North House, Tel. 873238, which offers full board. There's no shop on the island. Ferries should be booked with W Clark, Tel. 810460.