Saturday, April 10, 2010

Noss and Noss Sound

The isle of Noss off the east side of Bressay is a previously inhabited island which has been a National Nature Reserve since 1955. Noss is separated from the island of Bressay by the narrow Noss Sound and has been crofted for sheep since around 1900.

Noss had a population of 20 in 1851 but has had no permanent inhabitants since 1939. The main focus of the settlement on Noss was around the low lying west side of the island at Gungstie (in old Norse meaning  a landing place). Gungstie was built in the 1670's and is currently used by the seasonal Scottish Natural Heritage wardens. Another settlement at Setter, on the south east of the island was inhabited until the 1870's and now lies derelict.

The best time to visit is from mid-May to mid-July for breeding seabirds. Seals, otters and flowers may be seen until end of August. To get there take the hourly car ferry from Lerwick to Bressay and follow the Noss signs for three miles to the car park. Then take the SNH inflatable boat (incurring a charge, currently £3 for adults & £1.50 for kids), to cross Noss Sound to the island. The SNH boat operates between 11am and 5pm each day in summer (except Mondays and Thursdays), but may not run if it is too windy - phone the Noss Ferry Line on 0800 107 7818 to check.

A walk around the island takes about three hours over moderate ground that can sometimes be steep.  Attractions on Noss include a visitor centre, the Pony Pund built to breed Shetland Ponies, the Holm of Noss rock and the Noup cliff. The sandstone cliffs of Noss have weathered into a series of horizontal ledges making ideal breeding grounds for gannets, puffins, guillemots, shags, Black-legged Kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars and great skuas.

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