Lunnasting and Delting

Photo: Kim Rendall Zoom Photo: Kim Rendall The areas known as Lunnasting and Delting are diverse in that some of Shetland’s most unspoilt natural attractions lie side-by-side with the oil and gas industry infrastructure that provides a living for many islanders. From wonderful wildlife and peaceful historical sites to the daily bustle of energy-related business, there is plenty to see and experience in this part of Shetland.

Heading north on the main road from Lerwick, take a right turn onto the B9071 and visit the Lunnasting area. Several plantations of trees make this a rewarding place for bird watchers and there are many good picnic spots and pleasant places to wander. Otters are fairly common along the shorelines.

The ferry to Whalsay leaves from the terminal at Laxo (ON laxa salmon, and á – river) and the ‘must visit’ Cabin Museum is sited just along the road. Vidlin has a shop and well-used public hall.

The side roads are worth exploring and the pier area in Vidlin (ON Vaðilland, from vaðill – a ford or shallow place in water where it is possible to cross) is a fine place to stretch your legs before heading to Lunna.

The lovely old Kirk of Lunna, St Margaret’s (1753), is one of the oldest churches still in use in Shetland. The graves of three unknown Norwegians are in the churchyard. There is a well-preserved stone harbour and a small, beehive shaped, lime-burning kiln nearby. 

Lunna House (1660) was the former seat of the Hunter family, and the original base for the daring ‘Shetland Bus’ operations during World War Two. The folly on the opposite hill was a lookout to see that tenants did not trade to advantage with other merchants.

The name Lunna is from ON hlunn-eið, from hlunnra roller for drawing ships onto land, and eið – an isthmus, or neck of land: a place where ships could be pulled across; a portage point.

This region is formed mainly from metamorphic rocks between 900 and 500 million years old that were once part of the Caledonian Mountain Chain that existed before the Atlantic Ocean opened. Valayre augen gneiss at Grut Wick contains striking ‘eye-shaped’ feldspar crystals, and the huge boulders on Lunna Ness, known as the Stanes of Stofast, were transported by the glacial ice that sculpted much of the area. Park in the lay-by at Outrabister and walk east over the hill to see the ‘stanes’.

Photo: Peter Parker Zoom Photo: Peter Parker Delting begins around Voe, the pretty Norwegian-looking village at the head of Olna Firth (leaving Vidlin turn right (north) back at the main A970). The Voe Sail Loft down near the pier is now a camping böd. A pub/restaurant, bakery and shop are other amenities in Voe. Carry on into Gonfirth and Grobsness for some fine views.

The annual Voe Agricultural Show is held on the first Saturday in August and is a great day out for all the family.

Leaving Voe on the A968 leads to Mossbank and Toft (the ferry terminal for the North Isles of Yell, Unst and Fetlar).

A detour into Collafirth, with its ‘interesting’ road, offers a glimpse of life in former times, when this was an active hamlet.

The Ayres of Swinister, which might seem an unusual location today, was a sensible site when transport was by sea rather than road.

A tribute to the 21 fishermen lost in the Delting Disaster in December 1900, stands at the Toft/Mossbank road junction. The memorial was unveiled 100 years after a storm blew up resulting in the loss of four boats out of seven that set out to fish off Fetlar that morning. The stones used for the memorial were taken from the now derelict houses of those lost.

The village of Mossbank expanded to cope with the large influx of oil-related workers who arrived in the islands for employment at the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal in the 1970s and 1980s.

Photo: Kim Rendall Zoom Photo: Kim Rendall Heading back south on the B9076 you will pass the oil terminal – Europe’s largest. Built in 1978, it cost £1.2 billion. Many of the 7,000 construction workers were housed in ‘camps’ at Firth and Toft. The flare stack burns off the excess gas and can be seen from afar. A more recent development in the area is a gas plant for the Total oil company.

Sullom Voe is the longest voe in Shetland and means ‘a place in the sun’. During the Second World War this was a RAF Coastal Command station for Sunderland and Catalina flying boats, and Graven was home to the many squadrons which served. A memorial to RAF Sullom Voe and all those who served and gave their lives can be seen in the large car park on the approach road to the Sullom Voe Terminal.

Sella Ness is an industrial and administrative base for many companies involved in ‘the oil’. Continuing south you pass Scatsta airport which handles most of the flights related to the industry.

Sandy layers visible within the peat at Scatsta bear witness to the Storegga Slide Tsunami that swept across Shetland 7,500 years ago.

Voxter House is a well-equipped residential outdoor centre for the exclusive use of groups. There is a good walk up the Burn of Valayre where you will find a valley with native trees.

Shetland’s second largest village is Brae (ON breið-eiðbroad ithsmus), expanded during the 1970s to house workers at the oil terminal and still busy with the ongoing developments. A good range of amenities is located in the village, including hotels, shops, leisure centre with swimming pool, and the multi-award-winning Frankie’s fish and chip shop and other eateries.

Photo: Dale Smith Zoom Photo: Dale Smith Heading towards Muckle Roe, you pass Delting boating club. The well-used marina offers a safe harbour for local and visiting craft alike and a caravan park is also sited here.

Busta House, now a popular hotel, was built in 1714, but the earliest parts of the building date from 1588. Gargoyles from past restoration at the House of Commons can be seen in the gardens. The house is steeped in history and there are many tales of past inhabitants to hear.

Access to the isle of Muckle (big) Roe (ON Rauðay – red island) was by stepping stones a hundred years ago. Consisting of red granite some 350 million years old, the isle was first connected by a narrow bridge in 1904. In 1948, at a cost of only £1020, the 360ft long bridge was widened to five feet! The modern bridge opened early in 1999.

Muckle Roe was once the breeding ground of the sea eagle (ern). The Hams – the pink granite cliffs in the north-west – are well worth the walk in and make a splendid picnic spot. South Ward Hill (557ft) is almost in the centre of the island.

The last of Shetland’s annual Up-Helly-A’ festivals is held in Delting, usually around mid-March.           

Heading back south to Lerwick on the A970 through the Lang Kames – a glaciated valley – affords a vista through to Hamnavoe on Burra Isle.

As is common in most of Shetland, seals, otters, birds and wild flowers can be seen at many spots throughout the Lunnasting and Delting area. Having a cast for some trout in the many scattered lochs is also worth a try.

Marinas/pontoons are available at Vidlin, Voe and Brae. See for details.

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