Hams of Muckle Roe Circular

The Hams of Muckle Roe gets their names from Old Norse and translates as the Havens (or Harbours) of the Big Red Island. This walk route to The Hams begins at the cemetery, which is accessed by a track from the main road at Scarfataing.

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Difficultly LevelChallenging
Walk Distance14km
Duration7 hours
Height Gain130m
Map DescriptionOS Explorer 469: Shetland - North Roe & Sullom Voe
Start Point Map ReferenceHU 333 642

Directions to Start

A limited bus service operates to this walk location, however we'd recommend taking your car.

The Hams of Muckle Roe gets their names from Old Norse and translates as the Havens (or Harbours) of the Big Red Island. This walk route to The Hams begins at the cemetery, which is accessed by a track from the main road at Scarfataing.

From the cemetery follow the low-lying ground and the Burn of Scarfataing west, then head north-west to climb South Ward, which is the highest hill on Muckle Roe. On a clear day South Ward opens up a panoramic view from Saxa Vord in the north to Fitful Head in the south. Concrete foundations here are the remains of a World War One lookout post that was connected to Naval Headquarters at Busta House, near Brae, by a telephone cable.

Nearby Sites of Interest

Follow the ridge north across Mid Ward to North Ward then turn west past the north of Mill Loch and follow the course of the burn to North Ham. There is a well preserved Norse Mill in the burn complete with a stone aqueduct to channel the water into the ‘underhoose’ of the mill. These Norse, or horizontal, mills were a common type of water mill found in Shetland. The mill used one wheel with blades mounted on a horizontal plane (a tirl), driving a single pair of grindstones. This mill belonged to the now abandoned crofting township the ruins of which over look North Ham.

From the natural harbour of North Ham you can take a detour north to ascend the headland overlooking the Ham which opens up a spectacular view south towards Strom Ness. Retrace your steps back to North Ham then follow the shore past Town Loch. From here to South Ham the walk along the cliff tops reveals a stunning and dramatic variety of caves stacks, skerries and natural arches. The striking red cliffs are mainly composed of a form of granite known as granophyre. The red colour comes from the high proportion of the mineral potassium feldspar within the rock.

Sea Stack

South Ham was a stopping off point in the 19th Century for smacks returning from the Faeroe cod fishery; not to land fish, but contraband. From the shore of South Ham you can continue north around the headland to ascend Strom Ness. From the highest point above the massively stone built croft of Burg you will get a magnificent view north across the Hams.

From the vantage point on Strom Ness descend to the metalled track that begins below Burg. Follow this track east to its junction with the main track, which you can follow south-east to the north shore of Burki Waters. Here leave the track and strike out east to South Ward then down to Burn of Scarfataing and back to the cemetery.

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Difficulty Level

  • Easy Walks: under 4 kilometers, usually suitable for majority abilities.
  • Moderate Walks: under 8 kilometers, usually suitable for most abilities. Walks surface may be loose, uneven and muddy. Sensible footwear required.
  • Longer Walks: over 8 kilometers, usually suitable for those with a good standard of fitness. Walks surface likely to be more challenging, loose, uneven and muddy. Stout waterproof footwear with ankle support required.
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