Hamnavoe Circular

Walk Information

Central Mainland
height-gainHeight Profile
hikingDifficulty Level
Easy To Moderate
walk-distanceRoute Distance
2 hours
height-gainHeight Gain
map-locationMap Description
OS Explorer 466: Shetland - Mainland South
locationStart Point Map Reference
HU 377 355
locationStart Point Map Reference (what3words)
downloadGPX File
downloadKML File

Directions to start

A bus service does operate to Hamnavoe, and the timetable can be found on the Shetland Travel Information website.

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

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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