"Tiny place near wild, wonderful Eshaness." Hillswick by leics
Hillswick Travel Guide: 5 reviews and 28 photos
Hillswick is indeed tiny...just a few houses set around the waterside, a community shop and a rather wonderful Victorian hotel (originally part of the Great Exhibition, dismantled and brought to Hillswick and re-erected as a hotel for the Westside steamers which arrived there from Orkney). And a peacock (which surprised me). But it's the largest settlement in Northmavine
But I really made this page because I wanted to write about Eshaness, part of Shetland mainland's most northerly district: Northmavine.
Northmavine has the fewest people and the fewest settlements. It's almost a separate island...only 100 yards or so of land at Mavis Grind join it to the rest of mainland Shetland.
One side is the Atlantic (with nothing between Northmavine and North America), on the other the North Sea.
The coastline is rugged, and eroded by millions of years of rough seas. Inland is a vast and wild landscape of moorland, peat and lochs with, mostly, only sheep for company. Shetland's highest hill (450m) is in Northmavine, although I didn't climb it...roads are few and I had no time for more than one exploration. Roads in Northmavine are few simply because the population is so small.
Eshaness lies to the west of Northmavine, with a Stevenson lighthouse and long walks along its magnificent cliffs, formed from the lava and ash of eruptions which occurred millions of years ago; you can still see the layers very clearly. Seabirds galore, geos (inlets), stacks, natural arches and caves, blowholes, stormbeaches of huge boulders thrown up 40ft or more by vast waves, superb views and, on most occasions...magnificent crashing sea below. A wild and windy place, usually; not somewhere to get too close to cliff edges!
But on the day I visited there was barely any wind. The previous couple of clear, warm sunny days had led to a haar (sea-mist) and low cloud...Eshaness was strange on that day. Mist appeared and disappeared, creating strange lighting effects as the sun tried to break through. Tendrils of mist rose from the small lochs along the clifftops, making them look as if they were formed of hot springs. Rather eerie, especially as I saw other humans for most of the 5 hours or so I spent walking the cliff.
And yet people have scratched a living here over the millennia. There are still a few farms dotted about, and the remains of many more crofts...and the remains of an Iron Age broch too, overlooking a loch with two causeways leading to a small island. I did wonder if the island was actually artificial...many such 'crannogs' are found in Scotland and Ireland..but I don't think it has been excavated. Certainly its edge seemed unnaturally clearly-defined; perhaps a natural island was simply fortified and enlarged?
Whatever, the broch is worth seeking-out and exploring.
In fact, the whole of Eshaness is worth a day of your time. Walk up to the far headland (probably around 4km, although it's difficult to judge as you have to continually meander around the coastline) and you'll eventually come to an entirely deserted stormbeach, so huge that it blocked a burn and created a good-sized loch behind it. Sit there while, watch the birds, listen to the silence and the waves....
Yes, Eshaness is a must...and, next time, I'll try to explore more of Northmavine as well.
- Pros:Birds, landscape, emptiness, silence.
- Cons:Weather can be horrendous, cliffs can be dangerous.
- In a nutshell:Absolutely unique landscape.
You will have to pass through Mavis Grind if you are coming from anywhere in Shetland mainland other than... more travel advice
It's worth visiting Hillswick just to see the rather magnificent St Magnus Bay Hotel. This wooden-clad building was... more travel advice
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