Central Mainland Tour
The Central Mainland is one of the furtile and bonniest parts of Shetland, due to the limestone nature of the soil. It is also steeped in history, Scalloway castle with its own story of intrigue and corruption, originally the ancient capital of the islands. Close by Tingwall Valley was home to the Norse parliament for over 300 years.
The tour usually begins by a visit to the islands of Trondra and Burra, connected to each other and the mainland by bridges. These islands are a photographer's paradise! At secluded spots, one can regularly see North Atlantic Grey Seals hauled out of the water at low tide. Also, there are Shetland Ponies in abundance. The churchyard at Papil has produced several Christianised Pictish stones, in particular the 'Papil Stone' and the 'Monk's Stone', the originals now in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. A short drive and an even shorter walk give a breath-taking view of the Minn Beach.
Returning to Scalloway we visit the castle, built in 1595 by Earl Patrick Stewart, a relative of Mary Queen of Scots, although very much a ruin now there is still much to explore.
The importance Scalloway played in the Second World War through the brave exploits of the 'Shetland Bus' operation has forged a link between Scalloway and Norway a link which remains strong today, with many Norwegians coming to visit the museum and other areas in the village that tell the story of events during these troubled times.
From Scalloway we head north through the fertile Tingwall Valley which in the summer months, abounds in wild flowers. The Asta and Tingwall Lochs are favourites with anglers due to the excellent Brown Trout population. Whooper Swans which normally breed in Iceland are commonly seen migrants but Tingwall can boast its own breeding pair.
At the north end of Tingwall Loch is the site of the ancient 'Ting', the Norse word for 'parliament'. Here the Lawting took place annually for more than three centuries.
At the head of the Ting Loch stands Tingwall church and the old Manse the home of the Reverend Turnbull and his family, a story of tragedy and faith.
We then head westwards to the district of Whiteness stopping at the Wormadale viewpoint with its stunning view south over Whiteness Voe. The road winds its way north to the parish of Weisdale. A viewpoint high up on the west side of Weisdale Voe.
Our tour then takes us eastwards up the Weisdale valley passing the old Weisdale Mill, now restored and housing a shop, café and the Bonhoga Gallery, a venue for art exhibitions. A great place to stop for a cup of coffee. Around us is evidence of the clearances which took place in the 19th century to make way for sheep farms. We also pass the house which was the Executive Headquarters for the 'Shetland Bus' operation during the Second World War. Here also is Shetland's forest!! The Kergord plantations boast the greatest number of trees in Shetland. If your mind is on some other matter, even for a couple of minutes, then the likelihood is that you will miss your tree experience!!
A short distance further on there is a distinct change in the topography, the limestone giving way to metamorphic rock, thus the greenery giving way to the brown tones of heather-moorland and peat. We join the main north-south road taking the turn south that will eventually lead us back to Lerwick. On the way, we pass the Loch of Girlsta. A geological fault runs through this loch. Not only is it the deepest loch in Shetland but it is the only one that supports the Arctic Char, a fish related to Trout and Salmon. The loch is named after a Norse girl, Geirhildr, who drowned in its waters some 1,900 years ago.
A short distance from Lerwick, we pass the 18-hole golf course at Dale, a popular place for locals and visitors, especially in the long days of summer when we have forgotten what darkness is!
As with any tour in Shetland, flexibility is inbuilt, not least because of the weather. Although there are no long walks on this tour, it is advisable that visitors have adequate footwear and warm, waterproof clothing.
Tea, coffee and biscuits can be had at the Scalloway Museum which also has toilet facilities.
NB. Tours in association do not involve any long walks. However, good footwear is advised. For your own safety, please keep well clear of cliff edges and if walking on rough grassland, watch out for holes, especially rabbit burrows as they can cause nasty injuries to the ankle.