Wild Shetland Tour information and Itinerary
Shetland is a fantastically wild place and is home to several world-renowned seabird colonies. To stand on the cliffs above Hermaness and Noss and look across the towering sea cliffs thronging with gannets and other seabirds is indescribable, it truly is a wondrous sight. I would say to any nature photographer these are places you have to see and experience at least once in your life.
The Shetland archipelago is made up of over a 100 islands, 15 of which are inhabited, Mainland, Yell, Unst and Fetlar being the largest. To maximise our opportunities in each location we will stay in two different locations, firstly we travel to the northern most island, Unst, for 4 nights, this is where Hermaness is located. After that we will move south again to Mainland island and spend a further 2 nights in Lerwick which gives us easy access to Noss and Sumburgh Head.
On the first part of the trip in Unst we will look to make 2 visits to Hermaness such is the spectacle of this truly amazing place. I can assure you when you arrive at the cliff top and look down you will simply be blown away with what lies before you. Hermaness has two sides, if you go left at end of the path up you come to the huge sea cliffs know as the Neap, home to thousands of gannets and puffins occupy the upper slopes. Go right towards the area know as Herma Ness and more Gannets fill the sea stacks off shore and again even more Puffins line the grassy sea pink covered slopes. You quite literally do not know which way to point your camera such as the wealth of opportunities. I have forgotten to mention the walk up to Hermaness takes around an hour or so but it is largely on a board walk and will be done at your own pace. You will want to take your time anyhow as hundreds of Bonxies (Great Skuas) can be seen from the path often at close quarters, so make sure you have your camera at the ready for these intriguing pirates of the skies as they can offer some amazing image possibilities.
Unst is also renowned for its waders like Snipe, Redshank, Curlew and Golden Plover so outwith our visits to Hermanness we will be patrolling the local roads on the look out for these splendid birds. Of course Otters are also very much part of Shetland natural heritage so again where time allows we will be on the look out for any possible Otter encounters.
After our Unst side of the trip we will head south to our Lerwick base. From there we will visit the Island of Noss, which is very different from Hermaness but no less spectacular. Again the sights and sound of this amazing place are breath taking. Around 20,000 gannets occupy the ledges around the towering cliff known as the Noup. To stand at the view point and look across this scene is in my opinion one of the great natural wonders we have on the planet, its simply incredible. Puffins also breed on the grassy tops and some wonderful pictures can be achieved with the Puffins amongst the glorious sea pink that covers the cliff tops.
In contrast to the cliff top view for our next outing we will take to the seas with our own private boat charter to witness Noss from the sea. This will give you an amazing perspective of the colony, looking up these massive cliffs rising 594ft straight up covered in seabirds will truly amaze you. After exploring the cliffs we will then be in for another thrill when we will have a Gannet feeding frenzy. Having diving Gannets bullet into the water, emerging fighting and squabbling only a few meters away will blow you away. Such is the spectacle of this I would recommend putting your camera down and just watch for a few minutes at least as it is a sight to behold. So clear is the water you can see the Gannets beneath the surface.
During the rest of our time on Mainland we will fit in a visit to Sumburgh Head. With stunning views this location offers some great opportunities for Puffins, Fulmars, Shags and if we lucky some delightful little Twite.
Both locations will have a strong emphasis on the spectacular seabird colonies but be assured we will intend to cover as many other species that we think are possible to ensure you get a real feel of the amazing wildlife diversity Shetland offers.
Below is a basic itinerary of how the week will play out but please remember this may change due to weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances.
Day 1– Arrive Lerwick early morning ferry, or if you flown up previous day meet at Ferry Terminal 8am. We will then board our 9-seater mini bus which will be our transport for the duration of trip. After everyone is comfortable aboard we will start making our way North to Unst stopping off mid way for a few hours to photograph Black Guillemot and Artic Terns. We will then continue to our base in Unst at the Saxa Vord resort arriving mid to late afternoon. A few hours to get unpacked and to get some dinner and we will then head out for evening drive to explore the island looking for, Golden Plover, Snipe, Curlew, Bonxies and tide dependant some Common Seals.
Day 2, 3 & 4 – Over the course of these days we will make or way to Hermaness on at least 2 occasions to photograph this wild spectacular nature reserve. As I mentioned above there are 2 totally different parts to Hermaness so we do need at least to visits to explore them properly. Depending on what time of day we choose to visit Hermaness as early morning and evening are best we will try and fit in more drives about similar to the evening on day one. For those of you interested in landscape photography there will be opportunities for this up at Hermaness. On each of these days we will plan to have early dinners around 5-30pm which will allow us to be out at the best time in the later evening
Day 5 – An early morning departure from Saxa Vord we will catch the first ferries South and make our way down to Lerwick where we will catch another short 5 minutes ferry across to Bressay, then a short drive across the island where we will get the small boat onto Noss. We will spend the day photographing on Noss before returning to our new base in a large comfortable house in Lerwick where you can have a well-earned rest for the evening and have dinner in a nearby restaurant.
Day 6 – Up early for our private boat trip out round the cliffs off Noss and then the Gannet feeding frenzy. We will then head back to Lerwick for some breakfast and a short rest before heading out again to explore some of the mainland island, like Sumburgh head or some quiet bays in the hope of an Otter (tide dependant).
Day 7 – Departure day, however we will still have time for one more explore around, there will be 2 options, you can choose a further visit to Sumburgh Head or you can explore the charms of Lerwick the Shetland capital to perhaps visit the Shetland Museum or take in the local shops before your departure mid afternoon.
Please note that boat trips are subject to weather and sea conditions and any changes or cancellations are outwith our control.
Contact me with any questions.