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Almost but not quite a separate island, Northmavine is joined to the rest of the Shetland Mainland at Mavis Grind ('The Gate on the Narrow Isthmus') where the Atlantic Ocean has nearly cut through to the North Sea.

Northmavine - The Spectacular Peninsula

The parish of Northmavine has some of the finest views and best hill and coastal walking in Shetland, although you can reach many of its most beautiful corners by car. Tucked in between the rugged coastline and wild hills are dozens of small crofting settlements, making this one of the most picturesque corners of the islands.

From Mavis Grind you enter a vast and magical landscape dominated by Shetland's highest hill, Ronas Hill (1475ft/450m), topped by a prehistoric chambered burial cairn. The summit has a sub-Arctic climate, with patterns created by freezing and thawing in the stony soils and some rare Arctic/Alpine plants.

The view from Ronas Hill is on an epic scale, showing all of Shetland and in exceptionally clear weather even the top of Fair Isle. To the north lies an ice-carved wilderness of low hills and dozens of freshwater lochs - including some of the best trout fishing in Shetland.

Ronas Hill is Shetland's highest peak measuring 1475ft / 450m

To the north-east are the jagged rocks of the Ramna Stacks, with background silhouettes of the Gloup Holm in North Yell and the Muckle Flugga rocks north of Unst.

An entirely different landscape opens to the south-east over the scattered islands and bays of Yell Sound and Shetland's largest sea loch, Sullom Voe. Well beyond them are Out Skerries, Whalsay, Noss and Bressay, while in clear weather the noble outline of Fitful Head is visible, 43 miles (70km) to the south.

Foula's mysterious outline rears out of the ocean to the south-west, while just across St. Magnus Bay are Papa Stour and the Ve Skerries reef. Immediately below Ronas Hill is the fjord-like inlet of Ronas Voe, fringed by stupendous cliffs, offlying stacks and magnificent beaches such as Da Lang Ayre.

Leave plenty of time for your Ronas Hill walk - for even local folk tend to linger for a long, long while on the summit, just taking in this world-class panorama.
Da Lang Ayre is a wonderfully isolated mile of red beach at the back of Ronas Hill.

The Power of the Ocean

The Atlantic has carved an astounding display of cliffs, stacks, coves (geos in Shetland dialect), blowholes (gloups), natural arches and caves along the rock-bound coast from the Ness of Hillswick north to the uninhabited isle of Uyea and the Ramna Stacks.

If the coastal walk seems a bit strenuous, one of the best places to enjoy the cliff scenery by road is Eshaness lighthouse, perched above a precipice of volcanic lava. A short walk away is an impressive collapsed cave, Da Hols o' Scraada ('the Devil's Caves'). Nearby is Da Grind o' da Navir ('Gate of the Borer'), a huge gateway in the cliffs where the sea has ripped out a huge chunk of rock and hurled it inland, and the Loch of Houlland, where the ruin of a one of the parish's many brochs provides an excellent example of Iron Age architecture.

Northmavine today is a thriving community with a lively social life based around its community halls and three small local primary schools. The history of the area is told in displays at the Tangwick Haa Museum - where you can also get a lovely cup of tea!

Another good place for a refreshment stop is the popular Braewick Café, on the road to Eshaness. As well as teas, coffees and tasty meals, it offers stunning views of the coastline and there’s also a fully-equipped caravan park, including electric hook-up points. There are also some excellent bed & breakfast houses and self-catering cottages.

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