Coastal Walks – Brunt Hamarsland to Railsbrough – Walk 59

2nd March 2014

Good grief, that was a hard morning’s walk – and cycle.

With the weather typically doing it’s own thing, and merrily blowing about a force 7 decreasing to about 6,-  did I not go and decide to use the bike rather than the tea-man to get me from A to B. This was my attempt to leave the poor man in bed at a silly hour on Sunday morning, and of course – lower my carbon footprint.


I managed to fold the handlebars back in order to stuff the bike in the Tea-man’s car (it is bigger), before driving to, and parking at, Railsbrough. I extracted the bike to cycle up to the South Nesting junction before fighting a south-easterly wind along  the A970 beside the loch of Girsta. I then turned into Brunt Hamarsland, tied my bike to a fence at the last house, and with rather wobbly legs took off along the Long Hill towards Nesting. It was not a particularly uplifting walk to begin with, as the wind, showers and rather grey skies made everything look rather bleak and far away. I was initially worried that I had bitten off more than I could chew, especially as I could see most of the coastline that I had decided to walk – and it looked quite a distance.

I spent a good bit of the first part of the walk sheltering  from the driving rain showers behind old derelict croft houses, thankfully there were plenty of these buildings around the coast and they sported various styles of improvement – from heightened croft walls  with shingly concrete (which added another floor), or the addition of the ubiquitous porch.

Coming towards the burn of Crookadale, the rain held off, so I rested and sketched. I sat across from one of Shetland’s remaining native Hazel trees, which apparently occupies  the smallest SSSI in Shetland. With a sudden change in the light, the landscape became quite beautifully highlighted. From a bleak grey to a fantastic golden glow with the sun breaking through a leaden sky. After a moderate rest I continued along the shore to the site of the northernmost military seaplane base in Britain in the First World War. The Catfirth sea base was established on the east side of the Firth in the summer of 1918 and incomplete, it was closed in the winter of that year. The wireless direction-finding station closed in 1919.

From the Canmore – the website for Ancient and Historic monuments, I found a very interesting article.
‘Covering an area of 36.5 hectares, there was a single seaplane shed, measuring 61m by 30.5m, two slipways and a large range of workshops and stores behind the hangar, and even a loft to house the homing pigeons that were carried in the seaplanes. The establishment of the station was 445 officers and men, who were to be accommodated in three groups of huts along the eastern side of the base. It is possible that the huts marked on the RAF survey plan north of the Mill Burn were never built – there is no physical trace now and no huts appear on a 1939 aerial photograph of the site. The RAF survey plan indicates what seem to be the planned locations of a further five hangars, further areas of hard-standing and a third slipway, which were never built. The base area included the area of the Loch of Freester, to the east, perhaps as a water supply. The Catfirth base was considered unsuitable for the types of seaplanes being operated in the Second World War, and a new base was built at Sullom Voe. The southern accommodation complex was still substantially intact in November 1939, when the base was photographed by the Luftwaffe.’ ((

Just below Muness, I startled a large otter who unfortunately slipped into the water before I could get my camera to click. I didn’t spend much time looking around at nature on this walk as I spent most of the time watching where I was putting my feet, trying to avoid the heathery black holes or the very boggy puddles. I was delighted on looking up to spot the car on the opposite side of Vassa Voe and figured that it would take about another half and hour.

Passing the houses on Vassa Voe I think I passed the charred remains of either November’s Guy Fawkes celebrations, a small Up helly Ah, or one huge barbecue.  Before turning at the Voe head towards Railsbrough accompanied by a hungry flock of sheep.

It was quite a satisfying walk, but not as relaxed as some of my previous meanders.



© Copyright Diane Garrick