Hamnavoe Circular

This walk explores part of Burra, one of Shetland's smaller islands, which is accessed by sea bridge, near Scalloway.

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Difficulty LevelEasy To Moderate
Walk Distance4.5km
Duration2 hours
Height Gain20m
Map DescriptionOS Explorer 466: Shetland - Mainland South
Start Point Map ReferenceHU 377 355

Directions to Start

A bus service does operate to Hamnavoe, and the timetable can be found here.

This walk explores part of West Burra, one of Shetland's smaller islands. Start at the car park at Meal, on the outskirts of Hamnavoe. Cross the road and follow the fenced walk way down to Meal Sands, one of Shetland's most picturesque bays. In summer, the marshy ground to either side of the walkway is ablaze with wild flowers. The route descends from the kissing gate to the beach, via a winding path with large stone steps. The last few yards onto the sand can be awkward.

Spend as much time as you like on the beach, and then cross to the far side and climb up the low cliff at the far end, crossing a stile into the pasture land beyond. Follow the coastline along to the broad shingle beach of Urmlee, noticing several old noosts cut into the ground just above it in the grassy bank. Cross the stile above the far end of the beach, making your way along above the low cliffs, to Lu Ness. There is evidence of Neolithic houses and walls here, which, together with the existence of several burnt mounds and an excavated souterrain nearby, indicates a well populated period around 6 thousand years ago.

Nearby Sites of Interest

  • The Burland Croft Trail can be found on Trondra, before you get to Hamnavoe in Burra, and offers the chance to walk around a traditional croft and feed some native animals.
  • As well as the tranquil Meal Beach explored on this walk, Shetland has an abundance of golden beaches to discover. Be sure to visit a few more before your time on Shetland is up.

From Lu Ness climb up the slope to Biargar and take a break to admire the views all round. Foula is visible to the west and Ronas Hill to the far north. Fitful Head is in the south and the small rounded hill of Broch to the east with the valley through Quarff visible beyond it. From here you can see most of your route ahead. Take your time as you circle the coast here, avoiding getting too close to the edges which are steep and can be slippery in wet weather.

There are countless small beaches and geos, with a wonderful variety of scenery and bird life. If you enjoy a scramble, you can easily reach the small lighthouse on Fugla Ness, where the winter seas have torn most of the turf from the rocks along the route of a grassy path which once made for easy walking. There are fine views of the village of Hamnavoe from this point.

Where small patches of shingle are exposed along the shore here, look out for beautiful pink and grey stones here. Porphyritic adamellite bears impressive feldspar crystals, which can be tilted to catch the sunlight, so that they flash brilliantly as they reflect the light. The huge boulders of the storm beach are made up of this attractive rock, which is found in very few places apart from Hamnavoe.

Returning, you can retrace your route, or instead, continue round, through the village of Hamnavoe, circumnavigating the houses in a clockwise direction. A fascinating variety of tiny alley ways and footpaths thread between the older dwellings. Make your way back to the main road and follow it out of Hamnavoe, turning right at the junction, to return to the car park and the start point of the walk.

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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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