Burra Ness Circular

This is a circular walk from the Daal of Kirkabister around Burra Ness, the area where the naturalist Hugh Miles shot much of his acclaimed wildlife film 'On the Track of the Wild Otter'. Look out also for passing whales or seals. The ness is largely composed of metamorphic rocks that were originally fine-grained sands; silts and muds deposited in marine basins some 900 million years ago.

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Difficultly LevelModerate
Walk Distance7km
Duration3 hours
Height Gain58m
Map DescriptionOS Explorer 470: Shetland - Yell, Unst and Fetlar
Start Point Map ReferenceHU 532 961

Directions to Start

Yell is accessible by inter-island ferry, and there is public transport available to the ferry terminal and on Yell itself; the bus timetable can be found here.

This is a circular walk from the Daal of Kirkabister around Burra Ness, the area where the naturalist Hugh Miles shot much of his acclaimed wildlife film 'On the Track of the Wild Otter'. Look out also for passing whales or seals. The ness is largely composed of metamorphic rocks that were originally fine-grained sands; silts and muds deposited in marine basins some 900 million years ago.

This walk begins at small road-bridge on the track leading from Cunnister to Kirkabister. Cross the bridge and follow the burn down to shore the Daal of Kirkabister. On 22nd November 1847 a sailing smack bound for Unst with shop goods was driven ashore here. Christmas must have seemed to come early that year for local men as by March 1848 four of them were incarcerated in Fort Charlotte charged with plunder of wreck.

From the Daal follow the cliff tops east past the ruins of Kirkabister farm and continue around the bay to Burra Ness. In 1861 there were 17 families living in the crofting toonships of Burraness and Kirkabister, including the nearby crofts of Bixsetter and Unkadaal. These crofts formed part of Major Cameron’s Garth estate, but by 1871 all the families had been forcibly cleared from the land to make a sheep farm for Major Cameron and his hated factor John Walker. The farmhouse and the distinctive sheepfank were later built at Kirkabister from the stones from the croft houses.

Nearby Sites of Interest

  • Further south on Yell is the Old Haa Museum at Burravoe, where you can explore the history of the local area and enjoy a cup of coffee and a homebake, too!
  • The Shetland Gallery, open from May-September, houses a collection of contemporary Shetland artwork and crafts, and is situated just off the main road through the island at Sellafirth. Well worth a visit on your way to or from this walk.

Follow the cliffs above the south shore of Burra Ness round past the ruins of the Burraness crofting toonship. In 1858 one resident of Burraness, May Moar, was involved in a dramatic rescue of the crew of a capsized fishing boat. Her bravery was recognised by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution who awarded her a silver medal and she also received The Royal Humane Society Medal. Much later residents of the Kirkabister farm were also involved in a rescue when they rowed out to save the crew of a trawler wrecked on the ‘groin’, a reef that lies off Burra Ness.

Just beyond the crofting ruins is Burra Ness Iron Age broch. This broch on the north shore of Burra Ness has walls over 4m thick and is one of the best preserved in Shetland. In summer the gaps and cavities in the walls are home to nesting Storm Petrel.

From the broch follow the north shore past stone built boat ‘noosts’ where open boats were drawn up for shelter from winter storms. Cross the shingle beach by the small loch then head north-west to climb to the summit of the Hill of Burraness. From here there is good views of the coasts of Unst and Fetlar.

Continue north-west to the summit of the Hill of Kirkabister then turn west to descend to the start point, passing the ruin of the croft of Unkadaal. Typical of the Shetland croft house of the day there may well have been 12 souls living in this house in 1858.

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  • Easy Walks: under 4 kilometers, usually suitable for majority abilities.
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