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When: Open every day 11am - 5pm including weekends, 1st May - 30th Sept (out of hours opening by prior arrangement)
Cost: Free, although donations are very welcome
Tel: 01806 503 389
How to get here: Tangwick is approximately 40 miles north of Lerwick and can be reached by taking the A970 and then on to the B9078.
Tangwick Haa Museum is in Eshaness, which is in the north-west corner of Northmavine, the most northerly parish of the mainland of Shetland. The Haa of Tangwick was built in the late 17th century for the Cheyne family who owned land in different parts of Shetland, including Tangwick. The last resident laird, John Cheyne, died in 1840. Part of the building was restored by Shetland Amenity Trust and opened as a museum in 1988 and the remainder of the building was restored and opened in 1999.
Northmavine History Group, in conjunction with Tangwick Haa Trust, is responsible for the running of the museum. Different aspects of life in Northmavine through the years are illustrated by using a mixture of artefacts and photographs. Part of the display usually has a new theme every year. Upstairs ‘the laird’s room’ shows what a ‘ben room’ or parlour might have looked like in bygone times. An important part of the museum is the family history corner with its Parish Records and Census Records which can be seen on a microfilm viewer. The custodians will be only too happy to help you with your research. In association with Shetland Islands Tourism, Tangwick Haa is the Neighbourhood Information Point and staff can offer advice and information on the local area, including free leaflets for visitors.
A large variety of souvenirs, hand made gifts and postcards on sale. Self service tea and coffee are available in the museum. Toilets and disabled toilets are available for the use of visitors. The museum has a large walled garden with picnic benches.
Photos of interior & garden © Tangwick Haa
Eshaness Lighthouse was built in 1929 by David A. Stevenson of the famous Stevenson family who built most of Scotland’s lighthouses and was automated in 1974. It was formerly owned by an American author, Sharma Krauskopf but is now self-catering accommodation and owned by Shetland Amenity Trust.
Eshaness Lighthouse © Hans Stöteknuel
Eshaness Lighthouse is perched on top of the cliffs, with dramatic views allround - don't forget your binoculars and camera! There is an interpretative board close to the lighthouse.
Eshaness storm © Hans Stöteknuel
It is exciting in a mid-winter storm with huge waves crashing on the rocks below, and attracts numerous visitors on a calm simmer dim evening,(the long light summer evenings, light enough to read a newspaper at midnight) to see puffins and fulmars and watch a glorious sunset on the horizon.
Surrounding the lighthouse is a vast coastline with interesting walks. As with any coastal walk, great care should be taken. Within easy walking distance of the lighthouse is the blowhole, The Holes of Scraada (the Devil's Caves) 132 yards end to end, which were formed when the roof caved in at the end of a long and narrow sea cave stretching more than 100 metres in from the coast. The sea flows to a beach at the base of the cliffs through an underground passage some 11 yards long. There were originally two holes, with a natural bridge, but this collapsed on 9th October 1873. A little further on is The Grind o' Da Navir (Gate of the Borer), a huge vertical sided gateway in the cliffs where the sea rips enormous chunks of rock out of the cliff face and hurls it inland. Calder's Geo is about 100 yards north-west of the lighthouse and is a deep dark rocky cleft cut into the rock stretching back from the sea.
The Drongs © Alistair Williamson
On your way north to the Eshaness Lighthouse, you will see the dramatic sea stacks, The Drongs, likened from some angles to a ship in full sail, and Dore Holm with its huge arch, big enough for a boat to pass through, like some prehistoric creature bending its head to drink. The blow hole, Fiorda Taing, is 40’ from the cliff edge and 60’ deep.
Dore Holm © Hans Stöteknuel
The ruins of fishing lodges, sheltered by Stenness Isle, can be seen on Stenness beach reminiscent of the far haaf (Scand. hav or haaf -` the deep sea ') open sea fishing which flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Men would be out at sea for days in open rowing boats called sixareens (six oared boat), not returning home until they were laden with fish.
On a hillside nearby is a stone cross (1927), erected by the Commissioners for Northern Lighthouses, to mark the spot where supplies for the Eshaness Lighthouse were landed. Read more about the haaf fishing and sixareens on the Shetland Museum website.
Northmavine has produced many great characters. One notable character was John Williamson of Hamnavoe (1740-1804), better known as 'Johnnie Notions'. Though uneducated, he had an inventive mind and he devised his own inoculation against smallpox. He inoculated 3,000 people, and lost none, saving thousands of local people from this 18th century scourge of Shetland.
His cottage has been renovated and turned into a 'camping böd' run by Shetland Amenity Trust as basic low-cost accommodation for visitors.
The mediaeval Cross Kirk was one of the principal chapels of pilgrimage in Shetland and was dedicated to the Holy Rood. Some sections of its wall are still standing nearly 4ft tall in the Eshaness graveyard.
'Cowie describes how snails living in the derelict walls were "collected, dried, powdered and prescribed as a remedy for jaundice." And on Candlemas (2nd February) it was customary to walk to the chapel ruin at dead of night with lighted candles, which were duly solemnized and kept to be lit at futures times, "whenever thunder was heard or the malevolence of demons was apprehended." This tradition so upset a minister of Northmavine, it is said that he arranged for the old kirk to be destroyed. ...The church was originally oblong in plan and measured 34ft 10ins from east to west by 20ft 3ins from north to south. The only opening traceable is the entrance centred in the west gable. A 17th century tomb slab with an illegible Latin text survives in the burial ground and a small bronze figurine of a horse found here has been identified as a 14th century Scandinavian scale-weight.' Walking the Coastline of Shetland, No 4, Northmavine, Peter Guy, 2006. (Shetland, Robert Cowie, 1874. Photo of bronze horse figurine © The National Museum of Scotland)
The remaining graveyard has some interesting gravestones, including that of Johnny Notions, local inventor of a smallpox vaccine. Another worth seeing is the tombstone of Donald Robertson who died after taking nitre, as prescribed by Laurance Tulloch of Clothister, instead of Epsom salts. His tombstone reads, "Donald Robertson, born 4 January 1783. Died June 1842. Aged 63 years. He was a peaceable quiet man, and, to all appearance, a sincere Christian; his death was caused by the stupidity of Laurance Tulloch in Clothister who sold him nitre instead of Epsom Salts, by which he was killed in the space of 3 hours after taking a dose of it." Tulloch moved away to Aberdeen and opened a shop in 1852!
Fishing and trading played an important part in Hillswick many years ago. The local HEARD group have undertaken a project to restore the ruined cootch kettles at the Hillswick waterfront. (along from the shop) Fishing lines and nets were treated in the kettles using cootch to prolong their use. An interpretative board is to be put in place, explaining how cootch was made and how the kettles were used a century ago. Read more about HEARD's cootch kettle project.
The interpretative board at the top of Collafirth Hill, on the way to Ronas Hill.
The Northmavine landscape is dominated by Shetland's highest hill,the red granite Ronas Hill (1486ft/450m), which is topped by a prehistoric chambered burial cairn. The summit has an Arctic climate, with stony soils and rare arctic and alpine plants. (15 varieties of Arctic flowering plants are to be found here.)
The view from the top of Ronas Hill is exceptional - on a clear day! You can see all of Shetland from Fair Isle to Muckle Flugga and on a very clear day you might even catch a glimpse of Fair Isle. The jagged rocks of the Ramna Stacks can be seen to the north-east, with Gloup Holm, North Yell in the background and the Muckle Flugga rocks north of Unst.
To south-east are the scattered islands and bays of Yell Sound and Shetland's largest sea inlet, Sullom Voe. South are the islands of Out Skerries, Whalsay, Noss and Bressay, while in clear weather Fitful Head at the south end of Shetland is visible, 43 miles (70km) away.
The island of Foula, with its hugecliffs, rises out of the ocean to the south-west (like a massive iceberg when snow-covered sometimes in winter!), while across St. Magnus Bay are the island of Papa Stour and the Ve Skerries reef.
Allow plenty of time for a walk on Ronas Hill - you may want to linger and take in the atmosphere and vista at the top, as well as possibly going to see Shetland's largest but least accessible beach at Lang Ayre. Mists can appear on Ronas Hill quite quickly so it is advisable to be well equipped. The climate here can be deceptive, so care should be taken.
Ronas Hill can be reached by driving to the top of Collafirth Hill (230m), where there are the remains of a derelict NATO military communications base and communications masts. (It is a 2 mile hike from Collafirth to the summit of Ronas.)
Collafirth Hill, looking towards Hillswick with the Drongs behind and the islands of Papa Stour and Foula in the distance. Click for a larger version.
The huge expanse of boulders resembles a moonscape and, with the echoes of former military activity, it exudes an other-wordly feel. The houses of Hillswick can be seen from the carpark at the top of Collafirth Hill on a clear day plus you can get a good view of Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and Yell Sound on the way back down. There are a few potholes to be navigated around near the bottom, but the rest of the steep road is in good condition. Heading north, take the turning up the steep road to the left before the Collafirth Brig. (bridge)
Ronas Voe is seven miles long, and dominated by Ronas Hill, named for its redness. Ronas Voe is often likened to a Norwegian fjord with its steep sides and is very picturesque. Artic terns nest on the Blade, the beach at Heylor, in the summer and care should be taken not to disturb them when they are nesting. Between 1903 and 1920 there were two Norwegian whaling stations at the head of the voe.
At Dutchman's or Hollanders' Knowe is Hollanders Graves, 300 yds along the shoreline from the Ronas Fish Factory - a simple memorial to Dutch sailors killed in action in 1674, during the reign of Charles II. Their Dutch East Indian frigate 'Wapen van Rotterdam' was captured by the RN Frigate 'Newcastle'. The Dutch vessel had used Ronas Voe as a winter shelter during one of the Anglo-Dutch wars.
"After an express was sent to the British government, two frigates were despatched which found their prey in Ronas Voe, and after a severe contest effected a capture. " Manson's Guide to Shetland, T.M.Y.Manson, 1933.
The Dutch sailors are buried beneath this spot.
Gluss Ayre looks across the entrance of Sullom Voe to the oil terminal, and is a good spot to see seals and otters. 'The seals can be so tame here they almost clamber onto the shingle beach to make better acquaintance once disturbed from their resting places on the low, red crags....
© Hans Stöteknuel
Otters may be spotted in Dale Voe - they use Dale Burn and have holts between this loch and Maggie Kettle's Loch and ayre further south. Many years ago, according to folk lore, a certain Maggie crossed from Delting in a kettle and landed here, her 'ship' being the first iron vessel to navigate Sullom Voe. What would she make of the thousands of oil tanker movements which have taken place here since 1978?' Walking the Coastline of Shetland, No 4, Northmavine, Peter Guy, 2006.
There are many interesting beaches in Northmavine but worthy of note are:
Sandvoe, North Roe
A tourist crossing the style to the West Ayre - on the bend in the road behind the seal sanctuary.
When oil was discovered in the 1970s, Sullom Voe in Shetland was chosen as the most suitable location for tankers to load oil carried ashore by pipelines. Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, the largest oil terminal in Europe, is well-placed not to dominate the landscape, tucked away where it can only be seen from the road in a few locations in Northmavine. While incongruous in this natural setting, the terminal has settled into its surroundings and takes care to live in harmony with the surrounding wildlife. Otters inhabit the jetties and there is even an otter warning sign on the approach road to the oil terminal.
The terminal can be seen from the road north from Brae, and near Ollaberry, but the best view is from Sullom, across the voe.
At the start of WWII in 1939, the RAF established a flying boat base in Sullom Voe. The main work undertaken was anti-submarine and convoy escort patrols. Catalinas and Sunderlands were the main aircraft types based here, and had considerable success in attacking and sinking U-boats. Scatsta airfield has been reborn as a base for oil-related flights - fixed wing and helicopters.
If you know of other places of interest within Northmavine that we could include here, please contact us.
Photos © as listed, others © Fiona Cope