Brae - Sullom, Gunnister and Nibon

This route follows the A970 north-west from Brae into Northmavine; once described as ‘the largest, wildest and most beautiful parish in Shetland’, a description which still fits the area well.

Distance: 24km / 14.9 miles  (Circular route)

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Northmavine is part of Mainland, but only just! Not far north of Brae is Mavis Grind where a narrow isthmus joins Northmavine to the rest of Mainland. The narrow neck of land that separates the North Sea from the Atlantic is just 90 yards (80m) wide so you can indulge in one of the shortest coast to coast walks anywhere. An interpretive geology wall built by Geopark Shetland describes the stunningly diverse geology of the area while a panel tells something of the history of the area.

Travelling north on the A970 through amazing road cuttings that contrast grey gabbro rock with bright red granite, there are wonderful views over Mangaster Voe. Generally all along the route the glacially moulded landscape meeting the fierce Atlantic coastline makes for scenic cycling. Just 0.5 miles (1km) beyond Mavis Grind the route turns right towards Sullom. After a sharp climb there are great views across the Bight of Haggrister where small patches of woodland overlook a lagoon and salt marsh across to Voxter and north through the long inlet of Sullom Voe.

Turn left at the junction near Sullom and Gunnister Public Hall to cross some wild moorland with lochs before the route rejoins the A970. Turning right and immediate left takes you onto the road to Gunnister and Nibon. It is a ride of just over 2 miles (3.5km) to reach the end of this road, but it must rank as one of the most beautiful for cycling anywhere in Shetland. At Gunnister Voe the rocky scenery combines with a road which twists and turns following the contours of the hillside. The road is a roller coaster ride with blind corners which inevitably turn into another spectacular view when you round them.

At the end of the road stands the Isle of Nibon and some dramatic cliff scenery, with views to both Papa Stour and West Mainland. You can continue by walking along the shore of South Sound and cilff tops to Wilson’s Noup and Mill Geos; the cliffs here have been cut by veins of pink granite and moulded by ice to spectacular effect.

The ride back to Brae is some 7 miles (11km) taking the A970 on the more direct route. There are splendid views above Mangaster Voe on the route south.

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