Scalloway, Trondra and Burra
Photo: Austin Taylor Scalloway – Shetland’s ancient capital – is dominated by Scalloway Castle and the busy harbour area. This picturesque and interesting village, quite ‘leafy’ (for ‘treeless’ Shetland), is a fine place to have a stroll, browse in the shops and museum, or stop for a refreshment.
As you come round the Scord above Scalloway (ON Skálavágr – bay of the booths or halls/houses), stop a while and enjoy the views of the smaller offshore isles. The bigger islands of Trondra and Burra lie just to the south and are connected by bridge to the Mainland. Some of the offshore islands are the drowned tops of granite hills. Granite was quarried on Hildasay in the 19th century and was carried by wool clippers as far afield as Australia.
The brown heather-covered hills above the village are composed of the metamorphic rock phyllite, and contrast with the green limestone valley of Tingwall with its lochs. Today, the quarry at the Scord provides stone for local road building.
Scalloway Castle was built in 1600 by the tyrant, Earl Patrick Stewart. The Stewarts enforced a change from Norse to Scots rule. The castle was used as a garrison for Cromwell’s troops and an interpretive display relates its history. You can get the castle key from Scalloway Museum.
Photo: Kenneth Shearer The museum features exhibits relating to the village’s unique role in World War Two. The ‘Shetland Bus’ was the name given to operations undertaken by the fishing boat crews who maintained a route between Shetland and occupied Norway to land undercover agents and supplies for the Norwegian resistance movement, and also brought refugees back to Shetland.
The first ‘Shetland Bus’ base was at Lunna (near Vidlin, on the east side), from where over 50 missions took place. In 1942 the operation moved to Scalloway, where those involved became a big part of the village that reminded them so much of home. Losses were high (between September 1942 and March 1943 seven boats were lost), resulting in three submarine chasers – Hessa, Hitra and Vigra – being donated by the USA.
The Shetland Bus memorial on the waterfront commemorates those who lost their lives during the hazardous operations.
The Old Haa by the Burn Beach was built in 1750 while a plaque on a 19th-century cottage in New Street explains mason, inventor and philosopher William Johnson’s theories on the tides and the moon.
Blacksness Pier (1830) was built around the castle. The village declined with the rise of Lerwick, but had a revival of fortunes in the 19th century with the prosperity of the fishing industry. The pier was extended in 1896 to accommodate the steamer from Leith, and again in 1980 to serve the needs of the local fishing fleet. Vessels involved in salmon and mussel farming as well as shipping from the oil industry use its sheltered waters and the facilities of the village.
Community events play a big part in village life and Shetland’s first Up-Helly-A’ celebration of the year is held in Scalloway – the Fire Festival taking place around the second weekend of January. A gala weekend (usually in July) has a range of fun events and activities for all ages, while an annual regatta and various fishing competitions are also popular.
The village hall and the youth centre are well-used facilities, while other amenities include the hotel, pub, restaurants and cafes, takeaway, various shops, a boating club and British Legion social club.
Scalloway’s first football team formed in 1899 and the Fraser Park, used for matches, also has a play park and picnic area. The swimming pool is on the right, next to the school as you enter the village, and is another fine place to use up some energy.
Photo: Yolanda Bruce A walk out towards Port Arthur takes you past the Prince Olaf Slipway and Norway House, which both saw significant activity during the war years.
Scalloway Boating Club welcomes visiting yachts and yachtsmen; a pontoon at the boating club and marinas at both Port Arthur and East Voe are available (see www.shetland.gov.uk/ports/yachting).
The NAFC Marine Centre, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, provides training and research facilities to support the nautical, fisheries, engineering and aquaculture industries. The building also houses a popular restaurant (open to all).
Gallows Hill, or Witches Hill, which sits above the village, saw the last witches – Barbara Tulloch and her daughter Ellen King – burned in 1712.
A fine but fairly challenging walk is from Berry to the valley of Burwick with its lochs and archaeological remains (see www.walkshetland.com).
Trondra and Burra
Leaving Scalloway, a right turn at the bottom of Mill Brae leads you along East Voe and to the bridges linking the mainland with the isles of Trondra and Burra. Built in 1971, the bridges brought to an end the days when both people and goods had to be transported to Scalloway by sea.
On Trondra (ON Þrándarey – probably from the man’s name Þrándr), small areas of limestone have led to the development of fertile crofting land such as that seen at Burland Croft Trail. The trail is a great place to learn about Shetland’s native livestock and crofting history.
Driving through the isle you enjoy lovely views of Clift Sound and to the south.
Crossing the next bridge takes you to Burra (ON Borgarey – broch island). The main settlement is the village of Hamnavoe with its picturesque harbour, boat marina and small cottages. The Burra Hall is on your right as you enter Hamnavoe, and there is a shop and post office near the pier.
Photo: Kim Rendall The Burra Haaf, to the south-west of Shetland and as far west as Foula, was the rich fishing grounds that brought prosperity to this small community.
At Fugla Ness, on the Hamnavoe coastal walk, a storm beach of huge boulders is testament to the awesome power of the North Atlantic. A ‘smugglers cave’, 200 metres inland at the headland of Pundsar, has formed due to the sea exploiting the weakness of a geological fault within the rock face.
The beach at Meal (ON melr – sand, pronounced ‘Mel’) has a parking area and public toilets. A pathway leads to beautiful white sands that are safe for swimming. (Meal, mel and mail names are given to beaches throughout Shetland.)
A bridge joins West Burra to East Burra. Visiting boats can berth at the marina and the Bridge End Outdoor Centre is available for use by voluntary groups. This base is used for canoeing and kayaking and, along with the Bridge End hall, is in use for community events.
Papil, on West Burra, is an early Christian site. The original Papil Stone is in the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. A replica was erected in 2000. The Monks Stone found there can be seen in the Shetland Museum.
The Burra History Group is based in the restored Easthouse crofthouse, at Duncansclate. The project featured in the BBC’s Restoration TV programme.
A footpath takes you to another beautiful sandy beach, Bannaminn, which leads to the headland of Kettla Ness. Seals can be seen and Arctic skuas and Arctic terns nest here.
See travel.shetland.org for public transport timetable.
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