Vidlin - Whalsay

The ferry terminal for Whalsay is at Laxo 2 miles (3km) from Vidlin on the B9071. The route presented here is the 13.5 miles (21.5km) on Whalsay.

Distance: 21.5km / 13.4 miles  (Circular route)

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Just 5 miles (8km) long and 2 miles (3km) wide the island’s heritage is rooted in fishing and has a busy harbour at Symbister where there is a shop and post office. At the shop you can pick up the key to the little 18th Century waterfront Pier House, which is a museum to the German merchants of the Hanseatic League. Nearby is Grieve House Böd; one of Shetland Amenity Trust’s network of camping böds (camping barns).

A little over 1 mile (1.5km) out of Symbister our route takes a left turn towards Newpark. This takes you down to the coast and opens up terrific views of West Linga and Lunna Ness beyond. At Creediknowe the route turns to the right, but to the left is the dramatic view of the church at Kirk Ness which sits on its own island linked by a causeway.

Whalsay also has:

  • Britain's most northerly golf course
  • A leisure centre with heated swimming pool
  • A bar and restaurant at the Oot Ower Lounge at Livister
  • The island has important archaeological sites and a wealth of birds, seals and wild flowers make it a fascinating destination for a day trip.

The road heading further north to Skaw is a ‘dead-end’ and there is a 2 mile (3km) ride to reach what is the Britain’s most northerly golf course with views to Out Skerries to the north east of Whalsay. Returning to Brough make the left turn to Isbister on the west of the island. At the Loch of Isbister, the road turns around sharply and heads back towards Symbister. Along the hillside, north east of Isbister, there is some fascinating evidence of Whalsay’s ancient history, including at least 4,000 years of habitation. Traces of former settlements include nationally significant sites such as the two spectacular Neolithic houses of Yoxie and the Beenie Hoose.

On arrival back in Symbister the route skirts past the Whalsay Leisure Centre and Symbister House. In the 17th Century, the Bruce family acquired most of Whalsay and oppressed the islanders for over 300 years. Symbister House was built in 1823 by the sixth Robert Bruce of Symbister from a fine, distinctive granite quarried at Stava Ness on Mainland. This was the finest Georgian mansion throughout the Shetland Islands and cost the enormous sum for the day of £30,000 (despite the use of forced labour) that almost bankrupted the family. It is said Robert Bruce’s aim in building the mansion was to ensure that his heirs would not be able to inherit his fortune; in that he succeeded. The last resident laird died in 1944 and since then the house has served as a school. The grounds of Symbister House also offer excellent views of Symbister and are home to an attractive wooden boat sculpture.

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