Sign Up
Newsletter Signup
Free Fodor's Newsletter

Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.

Passport: Your weekly travel wrap-up
Today's Departure: Your daily dose of travel inspiration

Orkney and Shetland Islands Sights

Hermaness National Nature Reserve

  • B9086 Map It
  • Burrafirth
  • Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

Updated 10/09/2013

Fodor's Review

The Hermaness National Nature Reserve, a bleak moorland ending in rocky cliffs, is prime bird-watching territory. About half the world's population (6,000 pairs) of great skuas, called "bonxies" by locals, are found here. These sky pirates attack anything that strays near their nests, including humans, so keep to the paths. Thousands of other seabirds, including more than 50,000 puffins, nest in spectacular profusion on the cliffs, about an hour's walk from the reserve entrance. Hermaness is not just about birds—gray seals gather in caves at the foot of the cliffs in fall, and offshore, dolphins and occasionally whales (including orcas) can be seen on calm days. The flora include the insect-eating butterwort and sundew, purple field gentians, blue squill, and sea thrift.

A path meanders across moorland and climbs up a gentle hill, from which you can see, to the north, a series of tilting offshore rocks; the largest of these sea-battered protrusions is Muckle Flugga, meaning

"big, steep-sided island," on which stands a lighthouse. The lighthouse was built by engineer Thomas Stevenson, whose son, the great Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, used the outline of Unst for his map of Treasure Island. Muckle Flugga is the northernmost point in Scotland—the sea rolls out on three sides, and no land lies beyond.

The visitor center has leaflets that outline a walk; mid-May to mid-July is the best time to visit. To get here from Haroldswick, follow the B9086 around the head of Burra Firth, a sea inlet.

Read More

Sight Information


B9086, Burrafirth, Shetland Islands, ZE2 9EQ, Scotland

Map It



Sight Details:

  • Free
  • Mid-Apr.–mid-Sept., daily 9–5

Updated 10/09/2013


Map View

Map of

What's Nearby

  • Restaurants
  • Sights

See all sights in Orkney and Shetland Islands

Add Your Own Review

When did you go?

Minimum 200 character count

How many stars would you give?




Don't Miss



No Thanks

Love To Travel?

Get FREE e-mail communications from Fodor's Travel, covering must-see travel destinations, expert trip planning advice, and travel inspiration to fuel your passion.

How we use your email

Thank You

Now sit back, relax, and check your inbox to start planning your next travel adventure.

Please tell us more about the type of travel you're interested in. Check all that apply.