Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Papa Stour; a first whizz round the best of the west

I could hardly sleep with excitement last night. When I did I kept waking up fearful that I'd slept through my alarm. So, I was up and out earlier than planned for a leisurely drive to West Burrafirth to catch the ferry to Papa Stour.

Heading out west can seem a bit of a chore at times, it's just so wiggly and windy going round the voes. But it is a beautiful drive, especially on a crystal clear, still and freezing cold morning like this morning. I was in no rush so enjoyed the drive, which can easily be done from Scalloway in 45 minutes.

My plan for the day was to park at the airfield on Papa and head off North-West to Virda Field (the highest point) and then wander down the west coast, around Hamna Voe and back to the car. After that I'd just see what time I had left. As it happened I had time for another little wander later over on the east side parking near the kirk.

Here is the Snolda waiting in West Burrafirth...

As I arrived at the harbour an otter was busy doing what otters do, usually clearing off when some plonker with a poorly endowed camera shows up!

Opposite the harbour are the remains of a broch, worth a look at a later date I reckon, as is the rest of the area...

To the north Ronas Hill looking lovely in white...

And to the south Foula glows between Shetland and Forewick Holm...

But soon we're heading in to Housa Voe on Papa...

Just got to round Maiden Stacks and we're there...

Yum... what a start to the day!

The ferry terminal on Papa Stour is most accommodating with a kettle, tea and the likes, plenty of reading material, information, payphone and even a wall heater. Who needs a B&B?

It even has a picture window!

Anyway offski I went to the west end of the island to park near the airstrip. Yes, this is the airstrip, not the moon. Ironically the service road for it is nicely tarmaced, the landing strip is... erm...not!

Heading north-west past Hamna Voe Foula peeks her head out again...

Looking north-east over Gorda Water Ronas Hill is still spying on me too!

The view south-west from the top of Virda Field (87m) over Acker Geo and Hund Geo with Snolda Stack peeping up...

Thar she blows, quite a sight...

Heading south is the impressive arch on Aesha Head. I passed so many wonderful headlands and features I just couldn't post them all. Here is a great account of them

Looking south to Sandness Hill on Shetland. That stack below is actually 3 pillars joined at the top! Or a stack with three holes through it, what ever...

Looking back north with Fogla and Lyra Skerries beyond Aesha Head...

Now Kirstan's Hole was something I was hoping I might be able to get down, obviously not!

And not Kirstan's other hole either! God I wish I had some climbing gear or a boat...

This geo I could get down in though. I hoped for a cave running into Kirstan's hole and there was one along the wall, but I'd need to be prepared to swim to get there. Not today, I'd already had a bit of snow coming in and the weather was changing.

The view from the bottom of the rope...

More amazingly sculptured chunks of rock! I could spend a month here with a sit on top kayak and a wet suit.

The inlet for Hamna Voe is to the left, Hill of Feilie ahead and Sandness in the distance. A wander round the voe and I'll be back to the car.

Well I did get back to the car. I was very wet and cold! I had waterproofs, obviously, but the weather took a fairly sudden turn for the worse. It wasn't all bad though as I managed to spot another elusive otter and my second heron of the day.

I sat in the car for a while, had a cuppa and wondered if the rain and sleet would stop so that I could get out again. It did, but it was enjoying coming down heavy just when I least expected it!

Eventually I parked up near the Kirk of Kirk Sand to walk around the headland past Forwick/Forvik to Maiden stacks. Here's the lonely hut on Forwick Holm, not at all far off Papa's shore really.

Looking back across Fore Wick to The Hill of Feilie...

Brei Holm, allegedly the site of an 18th century Leper colony, though how they got up onto it and survived god only knows!

Maiden Stacks and lots of stacks around Brei Holm...

If you're on Papa Stour you can't fail to notice large cross on a hilltop as you come in on the ferry. As I was near I went up to see it. It's marked on the map as a cairn. Very bloody odd with an iron spike for your feet, bolts for your hands and a few wraps of barbed wire for your head! I just glad I didn't come across on Good Friday or may be I'd be stuck up there, not that I think I'm worthy of it.

And with a final trudge through the sleet back to the car and a rougher crossing back to Shetland that was my first trip to Papa Stour and pretty magnificent it was too! I can't wait to go back on a fine day with Beren and Clare and just spend some time pottering on the beach or in a geo.

I do have a lot of video to edit together of my trip. I'm not sure when I'll get that done though as my brother, his family and my Mam will be arriving Friday morning and tomorrow I think I'm cleaning and anti-fouling my friend's yacht with him. Still we'll see...


  1. A superb photo blog that took me instantly back to my trip to Papa in 2005 when I was researching my Shetland travel book, BETWEEN WEATHERS, Travels in 21st Century Shetland. I spent five weeks travelling around Shetland, and my short stay on Papa Stour remains a highlight, never mind that I didn't get anything like as photo-friendly weather as Kev was lucky enough to enjoy.

    Papa Stour is a wanderer's delight, and Kev's photographs show that beautifully. Stunning topography, astonishing coastal scenery - and the whole island awash with history. How I want to go back, right now.....

  2. Thanks for those kind words. I really enjoyed your book and read it a couple of times before we moved up here. It doesn't seem like the film will have much to do with it, but I know many have high hopes for it.

    Looking at your site it looks like you've got much more to check out that'll interest me!

  3. Sorry, just read that again...I have high hopes for it too!

  4. Hi Kev,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the book. The film shares a title, but not much else. It is a totally fictitious feature film that I have been involved in from the start, working on the original storyline and helping with the development of the script. I share your high hopes for it!


  5. Glad you got a decent day for you trip Kev. Great pics as always.. You covered most of the area I haven't seen of Papa yet so really enjoyed that.
    It's a place I really must visit again... I was even thinking about Papa yesterday when I was buying a new pair of wellie boots (essential for all the sheep poop) ;)

  6. Hehehe the sheep poop wasn't and issue Auld Een, not where I was anyway. Looking forward to a return visit, but I'm tired today!

  7. Awesome stuff, Kev. What an adventure! Don't think I'd have gone down that rope in a hurry for fear of not being able to get back up!
    Liked the pic of the 'picture window' too :-)

  8. Yeh it's an ace place PA, can't wait to get back.

  9. Dear Kevin, Thanks for the beautiful views of Papa, reminds me to be grateful I live here. Call round for a cup of something next time you're in our neck of the woods, Regards, Andy Holt (North House)

  10. Hi Andy, glad you liked it, I'd live there in an instant if I could but work and family ... I'll take you up on the offer of a cuppa next time I'm over, Ta!

  11. These photos are truly incredible! Thank you for sharing your day. I'm planning to go to Papa Stour next year ... This definitely wets my whistle!

  12. Hi Ranita, check out my second visit too, hope you get there as it's a fantastic place