On 17th August, John, Derrick and I set out on the ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland in an attempt to ascend all 19 Shetland Marilyns within a period of 8 days. We codenamed this trip, “Operation Shetland Pony”.
As of yesterday morning, we had successfully ascended 18/19 including ten on Mainland Shetland and eight on the islands of Unst, Fetlar, Yell, Noss, Bressay and Foula. Our one remaining Shetland Marilyn was Ward Hill on Fair Isle.
To get to Fair Isle, we took the 25 minute flight across from Tingwall.
It was originally our intention to visit Fair Isle on Thursday, however, the Thursday flight was cancelled owing to strong winds. The disadvantage of re-scheduling to Saturday was that we would only have two and a half hours on the island instead of five. We actually only got two hours on the island as the pilot wanted to leave early.
Hill: Ward Hill (Fair Isle)
Date: Saturday 25th May 2013
Company: Myself, John and Derrick
Tingwall to Fair Isle aircraft:
GPS info en-route to Fair Isle:
Approaching Fair Isle:
With such a short period of time available I walked very quickly, almost to the point of jogging, to ensure I could i) ascend Ward Hill, ii) visit Sheep Rock and iii) see puffins before having to fly back to Tingwall.
From the runway we ascended the good track leading to the transmitter at Swey, below Ward Hill.
Track leading to transmitter below Ward Hill:
From the outset, Sheep Rock looked the most impressive geological feature.
John and Derrick ascending the track with Sheep Rock in background:
As per every other hill we visited in Shetland, Bonxies were not in short supply.
Looking towards Ward Hill:
Ward Hill is unfortunately a bit of a mess with lots of old cement buildings and blocks and various iron contraptions just left there to rust. The MoD, if responsible for this mess, should spend some time removing all their “litter” from this hill.
Old buildings below Ward Hill:
It took only 25 minutes from the runway to reach the summit of Ward Hill.
Junk at the summit of Ward Hill:
Concrete mess at the summit of Ward Hill:
Looking along the West coast of Fair Isle from just beyond the summit of Ward Hill:
After taking some celebratory group photos, at the summit of our 19th Shetland Marilyn, I shot off to also see Sheep Rock and hopefully some puffins.
John, Myself and Derrick at the summit of Ward Hill:
Whilst crossing the flat grassy area at Burnt Mound, en-route to Sheep Rock, I was subjected to my first full-on Bonxie attack of the entire trip. Four Bonxies attacked me at the same time, repeatedly flying within feet of my face whilst screaming at me. Surprisingly, they continued to attack for around ten minutes despite having walked a fair distance off from the initial attack. Holding a pole above your head keeps them from making contact.
Heading across Burnt Mound area towards Sheep Rock:
En-route to Sheep Rock, I stopped to take a photo of a Fulmar.
I was glad that I made the effort to visit Sheep Rock. At 132m, it is thankfully too low to make it into the Marilyn list. It is however a HuMP (Hundred Metre Prominence hill).
Sheep Rock (132m) from 100m unnamed hill opposite:
Looking along the East coast of Fair Isle:
From Sheep Rock, I made my way towards the Bird Observatory in the hope of seeing some puffins.
Heading towards the Bird Observatory and South Haven:
Looking back towards Sheep Rock:
Looking back towards Sheep Rock:
After passing the bird observatory, I thought I could see some puffin burrows at Mavers Geo and so headed out for a look.
Looking back towards Sheep Rock from Mavers Geo:
It was fantastic to see and get very close to a couple of dozen puffins. At one point I lay down on the grass to take photos. When they realised I wasn’t a threat, they inquisitively came closer and closer
Puffin photos taken at Mavers Geo:
After seeing the puffins, I had to hastily make my way back to the runway to catch the flight back to Tingwall. I had a huge smile on my face all the way back - puffins are wonderful birds
Fair Isle is a real gem of an island (as are Foula and Noss).
If I have the opportunity to re-visit Shetland, I will definitely focus my visit on Noss, Foula and Fair Isle.
The above is just a two-hour flavour of what Fair Isle has to offer.