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...

Walking the Coastline of Shetland No.4 - Northmavine by Peter GuyThe 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 B - Ness of Hillswick

Ness of HillswickArches, 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 F - Collafirth/Ronas Hill summit/Collafirth

Collafirth/Ronas Hill summit/Collafirth6 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.