Things To Do

Tangwick Haa Museum, Eshaness

Tangwick Haa Museum is in Eshaness, which is in the north-west corner of Northmavine, the most northerly parish of the mainland of Shetland. The Haa of Tangwick was built in the late 17th century for the Cheyne family who owned land in different parts of Shetland, including Tangwick. The last resident laird, John Cheyne, died in 1840. Part of the building was restored by Shetland Amenity Trust and opened as a museum in 1988 and the remainder of the building was restored and opened in 1999.

Northmavine History Group, in conjunction with Tangwick Haa Trust, is responsible for the running of the museum. Different aspects of life in Northmavine through the years are illustrated by using a mixture of artefacts and photographs. Part of the display usually has a new theme every year. Upstairs ‘the laird’s room’ shows what a ‘ben room’ or parlour might have looked like in bygone times. An important part of the museum is the family history corner with its Parish Records and Census Records which can be seen on a microfilm viewer. The custodians will be only too happy to help you with your research. In association with Shetland Islands Tourism, Tangwick Haa is the Neighbourhood Information Point and staff can offer advice and information on the local area, including free leaflets for visitors.

A large variety of souvenirs, hand made gifts and postcards on sale. Self service tea and coffee are available in the museum. Toilets and disabled toilets are available for the use of visitors. The museum has a large walled garden with picnic benches.

Eshaness Lighthouse

Eshaness Lighthouse was built in 1929 by David A. Stevenson of the famous Stevenson family who built most of Scotland’s lighthouses and was automated in 1974. It was formerly owned by an American author, Sharma Krauskopf. 

Eshaness Lighthouse is perched on top of the cliffs, with dramatic views allround – don’t forget your binoculars and camera! There is an interpretative board close to the lighthouse.

It is exciting in a mid-winter storm with huge waves crashing on the rocks below, and attracts numerous visitors on a calm simmer dimevening,(the long light summer evenings, light enough to read a newspaper at midnight) to see puffins and fulmars and watch a glorious sunset on the horizon. 

Surrounding the lighthouse is a vast coastline with interesting walks. As with any coastal walk, great care should be taken. Within easy walking distance of the lighthouse is the blowhole, The Holes of Scraada (the Devil’s Caves) 132 yards end to end, which were formed when the roof caved in at the end of a long and narrow sea cave stretching more than 100 metres in from the coast. The sea flows to a beach at the base of the cliffs through an underground passage some 11 yards long. There were originally two holes, with a natural bridge, but this collapsed on 9th October 1873. A little further on is The Grind o’ Da Navir (Gate of the Borer), a huge vertical sided gateway in the cliffs where the sea rips enormous chunks of rock out of the cliff face and hurls it inland. Calder’s Geo is about 100 yards north-west of the lighthouse and is a deep dark rocky cleft cut into the rock stretching back from the sea.

On your way north to the Eshaness Lighthouse, you will see the dramatic sea stacks, The Drongs, likened from some angles to a ship in full sail, and Dore Holm with its huge arch, big enough for a boat to pass through, like some prehistoric creature bending its head to drink. The blow hole, Fiorda Taing, is 40’ from the cliff edge and 60’ deep.

The mediaeval Cross Kirk was one of the principal chapels of pilgrimage in Shetland and was dedicated to the Holy Rood. Some sections of its wall are still standing nearly 4ft tall in the Eshaness graveyard.

‘Cowie describes how snails living in the derelict walls were “collected, dried, powdered and prescribed as a remedy for jaundice.” And on Candlemas (2nd February) it was customary to walk to the chapel ruin at dead of night with lighted candles, which were duly solemnized and kept to be lit at futures times, “whenever thunder was heard or the malevolence of demons was apprehended.” This tradition so upset a minister of Northmavine, it is said that he arranged for the old kirk to be destroyed. …The church was originally oblong in plan and measured 34ft 10ins from east to west by 20ft 3ins from north to south. The only opening traceable is the entrance centred in the west gable. A 17th 14th century bronze figurinecentury tomb slab with an illegible Latin text survives in the burial ground and a small bronze figurine of a horse found here has been identified as a 14th century Scandinavian scale-weight.’ Walking the Coastline of Shetland, No 4, Northmavine, Peter Guy, 2006. (Shetland, Robert Cowie, 1874. Photo of bronze horse figurine © The National Museum of Scotland)

The remaining graveyard has some interesting gravestones, including that of Johnny Notions, local inventor of a smallpox vaccine. Another worth seeing is the tombstone of Donald Robertson who died after taking nitre, as prescribed by Laurance Tulloch of Clothister, instead of Epsom salts. His tombstone reads, “Donald Robertson, born 4 January 1783. Died June 1842. Aged 63 years. He was a peaceable quiet man, and, to all appearance, a sincere Christian; his death was caused by the stupidity of Laurance Tulloch in Clothister who sold him nitre instead of Epsom Salts, by which he was killed in the space of 3 hours after taking a dose of it.” Tulloch moved away to Aberdeen and opened a shop in 1852!

Former Fishing Station, Stenness, Eshaness

The ruins of fishing lodges, sheltered by Stenness Isle, can be seen on Stenness beach reminiscent of the far haaf (Scand. hav or haaf -` the deep sea ‘) open sea fishing which flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Men would be out at sea for days in open rowing boats called sixareens (six oared boat), not returning home until they were laden with fish.

On a hillside nearby is a stone cross (1927), erected by the Commissioners for Northern Lighthouses, to mark the spot where supplies for the Eshaness Lighthouse were landed. Read more about the haaf fishing and sixareens on the Shetland Museum website.

Johnnie Notions House, Eshaness

Northmavine has produced many great characters. One notable character was John Williamson of Hamnavoe (1740-1804), better known as ‘Johnnie Notions‘. Though uneducated, he had an inventive mind and he devised his own inoculation against smallpox. He inoculated 3,000 people, and lost none, saving thousands of local people from this 18th century scourge of Shetland.

His cottage has been renovated and turned into a ‘camping böd’ run by Shetland Amenity Trust as basic low-cost accommodation for visitors.

Cootch Kettles, Hillswick Waterfront

Fishing and trading played an important part in Hillswick many years ago. The local HEARD group have undertaken a project to restore the ruined cootch kettles at the Hillswick waterfront. (along from the shop) Fishing lines and nets were treated in the kettles using cootch to prolong their use. An interpretative board is to be put in place, explaining how cootch was made and how the kettles were used a century ago. Read more about HEARD’s cootch kettle project.

Ronas Hill & Collafirth Hill

The view from the top of Ronas Hill is exceptional – on a clear day! You can see all of Shetland from Fair Isle to Muckle Flugga and on a very clear day you might even catch a glimpse of Fair Isle. The jagged rocks of the Ramna Stacks can be seen to the north-east, with Gloup Holm, North Yell in the background and the Muckle Flugga rocks north of Unst.The Northmavine landscape is dominated by Shetland’s highest hill,the red granite Ronas Hill (1486ft/450m), which is topped by a prehistoric chambered burial cairn. The summit has an Arctic climate, with stony soils and rare arctic and alpine plants. (15 varieties of Arctic flowering plants are to be found here.)

To south-east are the scattered islands and bays of Yell Sound and Shetland’s largest sea inlet, Sullom Voe. South are the islands of Out Skerries, Whalsay, Noss and Bressay, while in clear weather Fitful Head at the south end of Shetland is visible, 43 miles (70km) away.

The island of Foula, with its hugecliffs, rises out of the ocean to the south-west (like a massive iceberg when snow-covered sometimes in winter!), while across St. Magnus Bay are the island of Papa Stour and the Ve Skerries reef.

Allow plenty of time for a walk on Ronas Hill – you may want to linger and take in the atmosphere and vista at the top, as well as possibly going to see Shetland’s largest but least accessible beach at Lang Ayre. Mists can appear on Ronas Hill quite quickly so it is advisable to be well equipped. The climate here can be deceptive, so care should be taken.

Ronas Hill can be reached by driving to the top of Collafirth Hill (230m), where there are the remains of a derelict NATO military communications base and communications masts. (It is a 2 mile hike from Collafirth to the summit of Ronas.)

The huge expanse of boulders resembles a moonscape and, with the echoes of former military activity, it exudes an other-wordly feel. The houses of Hillswick can be seen from the carpark at the top of Collafirth Hill on a clear day plus you can get a good view of Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and Yell Sound on the way back down. There are a few potholes to be navigated around near the bottom, but the rest of the steep road is in good condition. Heading north, take the turning up the steep road to the left before the Collafirth Brig. (bridge) 

Ronas Voe

Ronas Voe is seven miles long, and dominated by Ronas Hill, named for its redness. Ronas Voe is often likened to a Norwegian fjord with its steep sides and is very picturesque. Artic terns nest on the Blade, the beach at Heylor, in the summer and care should be taken not to disturb them when they are nesting. Between 1903 and 1920 there were two Norwegian whaling stations at the head of the voe.

At Dutchman’s or Hollanders’ Knowe is Hollanders Graves, 300 yds along the shoreline from the Ronas Fish Factory – a simple memorial to Dutch sailors killed in action in 1674, during the reign of Charles II. Their Dutch East Indian frigate ‘Wapen van Rotterdam‘ was captured by the RN Frigate ‘Newcastle‘. The Dutch vessel had used Ronas Voe as a winter shelter during one of the Anglo-Dutch wars.

“After an express was sent to the British government, two frigates were despatched which found their prey in Ronas Voe, and after a severe contest effected a capture. ” Manson’s Guide to Shetland, T.M.Y.Manson, 1933.

The Dutch sailors are buried beneath this spot.

Gluss Ayre & Gluss Isle, Ollaberry

Gluss Ayre looks across the entrance of Sullom Voe to the oil terminal, and is a good spot to see seals and otters. ‘The seals can be so tame here they almost clamber onto the shingle beach to make better acquaintance once disturbed from their resting places on the low, red crags….

Otters may be spotted in Dale Voe – they use Dale Burn and have holts between this loch and Maggie Kettle’s Loch and ayre further south. Many years ago, according to folk lore, a certain Maggie crossed from Delting in a kettle and landed here, her ‘ship’ being the first iron vessel to navigate Sullom Voe. What would she make of the thousands of oil tanker movements which have taken place here since 1978?’ Walking the Coastline of Shetland, No 4, Northmavine, Peter Guy, 2006.


There are many interesting beaches in Northmavine but worthy of note are:

  • Westayre, Hillswick
  • Sandvoe, North Roe

Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, Sullom Voe

When oil was discovered in the 1970s, Sullom Voe in Shetland was chosen as the most suitable location for tankers to load oil carried ashore by pipelines. Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, the largest oil terminal in Europe, is well-placed not to dominate the landscape, tucked away where it can only be seen from the road in a few locations in Northmavine. While incongruous in this natural setting, the terminal has settled into its surroundings and takes care to live in harmony with the surrounding wildlife. Otters inhabit the jetties and there is even an otter warning sign on the approach road to the oil terminal.

The terminal can be seen from the road north from Brae, and near Ollaberry, but the best view is from Sullom, across the voe.

At the start of WWII in 1939, the RAF established a flying boat base in Sullom Voe. The main work undertaken was anti-submarine and convoy escort patrols. Catalinas and Sunderlands were the main aircraft types based here, and had considerable success in attacking and sinking U-boats. Scatsta airfield has been reborn as a base for oil-related flights – fixed wing and helicopters.


Northmavine is one of the most spectacular parts of Shetland for coastal walking, it has the highest point in Ronas Hill, and it also offers a host of other possibilities – kayaking, sailing, swimming, sea angling and, in season, trout fishing on dozens of lochs.

Go to the Shetland Anglers Association website for more information, a guide to the lochs of Northmavine and information about obtaining a fishing permit.

Cycling – and electric bike hire is coming – is a great way of getting around, though you should beware the wind getting up when you least expect it. There is a small cliff climbing scene, birdwatching of course, and some off-road mountain bike routes can be explored.

But walking is what Northmavine lends itself to best. If you can find a copy of the late Peter Guy’s excellent Walking The Coastline of Shetland – Northmavine, snap it up. Meanwhile, here’s a brief selection from it:

Walking in the Land of Giants and Trolls...

The following walks are taken from the book, ‘Walking the Coastline of Shetland No.4 – Northmavine’ by Peter Guy and are reproduced with his kind permission and best wishes. You can buy the book for £9.99 from the Shetland Times Shop in Lerwick.

“This most northerly part of mainland Shetland offers dramatic cliff scenery, abundant wildlife and notable pre-historic sites. There is also the chance of climbing Ronas Hill, Shetland’s highest. This guide describes routes to suit every level of walker and is a mine of information on the area past and present.” Shetland Times

Dr Mortimer Manson (1932) said of Northmavine, “The whole land is suggestive of giants and trolls and makes walking a matter of interest and excitement.” Peter Guy suggests that the “red rocks, precipitous cliffs, hills and voes all remain visible; giants and trolls, trows and brooding spirits of ancient gods can no doubt be summoned in the imagination by us all…” If you look very carefully when you are out walking, you may just catch a glimpse of a trowie asleep in the hill….

Circular Walk F - Collafirth/Ronas Hill summit/Collafirth

Arches, stacks, and cliff scenery. Beautiful displays of wild flowers in midsummer, variety of birds including bonxies. If you’re lucky you might see an otter! The old traditional lighthouse at the point has gone to be replaced by a rather ugly automatic one.

5 miles (8km) 3 hrs

OS Maps:
Landranger Sheet 3 Shetland – North Mainland
Pathfinder Sheet HU 27/37 Hillswick

The walk starts at the Booth, the vegetarian café and seal sanctuary in Hillswick, and follows the coastline in a clockwise direction, going away from the shore to look at Neolithic ruins. These are at the Loch of Niddister (a notable burnt mound), the remains of a chambered cairn and the homestead site at Grevasand.

The views from the lighthouse (now a modern structure) at Baa Taing, and of the Gordi Stack and the Drongs are all memorable.

A walk not to be missed and, although the hotel in Hillswick is presently closed, refreshments can be had at the end of the walk at the Booth Café (open May-Sept) or hot drinks can be purchased at the Hillswick Shop.

Circular Walk B - Ness of Hillswick

6 miles (10km) 3 hrs

OS Maps:
Landranger Sheet 1 Shetland – Yell & Unst or
Landranger Sheet 3 Shetland – North Mainland
Pathfinder Sheet HU 28/38 Ronas Hill

A return walk from sea level to the top of Ronas Hill 1475 ft (450m).

From the junction of the A970 and the road up to Collafirth Hill it takes about half an hour to reach the former army buildings and masts at the top of Collafirth Hill. The tarmac road runs out here so one can bring a car this far and park it here. Another hour’s walk via Man O’Scord and the cairn on Mid Field will bring one to the summit of Ronas Hill, where there is a cairn-protected trig point. To the SW is a well-preserved chambered cairn into which one can crawl. Descend by the same route as the ascent.

Other walks

Hillswick and Braewick – secluded beaches, seabird cliffs and superb views of the sea stacks, The Drongs.

Heylor out to the mouth of Ronas Voe – for some of the most beautiful cliffs in Shetland and fine view of the pink granite massif of Ronas Hill.

North Roe to Fethaland – where you can see the ruins of summer bothies once used by 19th century fishermen who rowed and sailed open boats up to 40 miles from land.

Sand Voe to Uyea – a grand walk with plenty of seabirds and seals.

Nibon to Stenness – a Shetland landscape in miniature, ending in the great shingle beach of Stenness, another 19th century haaf fishing station with remains of fishermen’s bothies.

Mangaster – a pretty bay with a lovely view of the isle of Egilsay and one of Shetland’s best-preserved, prehistoric heel-shaped cairns.

Gluss Isle and Bardister, near Ollaberry – a sheltered spot on a windy day and a good place for shorebirds, seals and otters.

Find out more about our community...

Scroll to Top