Shetland | VOLCANOES

A volcano in Shetland? Well yes, but a very ancient and now extinct one. After all, Shetland has been 3 billion years in the making.
Take in the exceptional geological features of Eshaness, Hillswick, Mavis Grind, Keen of Hamar, Foula, Fair Isle… To quote Shetland Heritage Trails: “Journey through an ancient landscape and discover a blast from the past.”

 

Eshaness: The best section through the flank of a volcano in the British Isles

“The Eshaness peninsula is formed from the remains of a large volcano that was active between 400 and 350 million years ago. Now one of the highest energy coastlines in the world, the sea has exploited cracks in the volcanic bedrock to carve out the dramatic array of stacks, geos and blowholes you can see today.

The cliffs between the lighthouse and the Grind o da Navir  show a sequence of lavas, tuff (volcanic ash) and agglomerate that were laid on top of another to form the volcanic cone.”

Explore Calders Geo, Drid Geo, Muckle Ossa, Hols o Scraada and the Grind o da Navir.

More info and self-guided volcano trails: www.shetlandamenity.org/trails-and-exhibits.

Calders Geo, Eshaness

Calders Geo, Eshaness

 

Lava flow (red) at Calders Geo, Eshaness

Lava flow (red) at Calders Geo, Eshaness

 

Calders Geo, Eshaness

Calders Geo, Eshaness

 

Moo stack with the volcanic plug Muckle Ossa in the distance, Eshaness

Moo stack with the volcanic plug Muckle Ossa in the distance, Eshaness

 

Moo stack and stacked lava flows at Drid Geo, Eshaness

Moo stack and stacked lava flows at Drid Geo, Eshaness

 

Hols o Scraada, a partially collapsed sea cave, Eshaness

Hols o Scraada, a partially collapsed sea cave, Eshaness

 

Storm beach, Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

Storm beach, Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

 

Sea-cut amphitheatre, Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

Sea-cut amphitheatre, Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

 

Sea-cut amphitheatre, Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

Sea-cut amphitheatre, Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

 

Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

Grind o da Navir, Eshaness

 

Grind o da Navir, off the south coast of Eshaness

Grind o da Navir, off the south coast of Eshaness

 

Grind o da Navir and the volcanic plug Muckle Ossa (left), Eshaness

Grind o da Navir and the volcanic plug Muckle Ossa (left), Eshaness

 

 

Mavis Grind: In the heart of the volcano

“Northmavine possesses some of Shetland’s best geodiversity and some of the UK’s oldest known rocks.  These 20 rock types (see photo below) represent over 2 billion years of turbulent activity which inlcuded mountain building, volcanism and the formation of deserts, rivers and tropical seas.

Almost an island in its own right, only the narrow isthmus at Mavis Grind joins it to the rest of the mainland of Shetland. It has often been said that here you can stand on the shore of the North Sea and throw a stone into the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. As such, the narrow strip of land has often been used as a shortcut from one side of Shetland to the other, also know as the boat draa. This way, mariners avoided the long, and at times dangerous, journey around the mainland by hauling their vessel overland instead.” Shetland Heritage | Northmavine

Geology Wall at Mavis Grind, thought to have once been a magma chamber

Geology Wall at Mavis Grind, thought to have once been a magma chamber

 

Mavis Grind, thought to have once been a magma chamber

Mavis Grind, thought to have once been a magma chamber

 

 

Braewick Beach & Da Drongs: Carved by the sea from granite that formed deep in the earth

“Da Drongs are a collection of spectacular granite stacks in St Magnus Bay, of which the highest is 60m (c 200ft). From certain angles they can resemble a ship in full sail.”

Braewick beach & Da Drongs sea stacks

Braewick beach & loch and Da Drongs sea stacks

 

Da Drongs, granite sea stacks

Da Drongs, granite sea stacks

 

 

Dore Holm: One of the finest natural arches in Shetland

Dore Holm is Old Norse for ‘doorway islet’. It is 36m high at its highest point.

Dore Holm, the Drinking Horse off the south coast of Eshaness

Dore Holm, the Drinking Horse off the south coast of Eshaness

 

 

Ronas Hill: The great granite ‘whaleback’

“Ronas Hill is a Shetland landmark, distinctive as the highest point on the islands (450 m).  The hill has a distinctive red colour derived from its granite geology. Ronas Hill is the main peak of a broad, rounded ridge running east to west, and topped by an expansive rocky plateau.”

The great granite whaleback of Ronas Hill

The great granite whaleback of Ronas Hill

 

The great granite whaleback of Ronas Hill

The great granite whaleback of Ronas Hill

 

Keen of Hammar: Serpentine outcrops in National Nature Reserve

“A barren almost desolate landscape dominated by bare stony scree, this reserve supports a unique collection of plants. Here plant life is specially adapted to survive on the rare serpentine rock found on Unst, the most northerly island in Britain.  Star attraction is Edmondston’s chickweed, which is found nowhere else in the world. Several more common plants show peculiar serpentine growth forms. Visit in spring/early summer to catch the blooms.” WildlifeExtra.com

Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve

Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve

 

Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve

Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve

 

Edmondston chickweed at Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve

Edmondston chickweed at Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve

 

 

Hillswick: Exposed rocks reveal amazingly colourful strata and folding

Rock structures, Hillswick

Rock structures, Hillswick

 

Rock structures, Hillswick

Rock structures, Hillswick

 

Rock structures, Hillswick

Rock structures, Hillswick

 

Hillswick stack with Da Drongs in the background

Hillswick stack with Da Drongs in the background

 

The Lang Ayre as seen from Hillswick

Ness of Hillswick

 

 

Fethaland:  once Shetland’s busiest haaf fishing station

“Scotland and Shetland were once part of the American continent until Europe and America collided around 500 million years, forming a range of mountains. Around 50 million years ago the continents separated as the Atlantic Ocean formed, leaving Scotland attached to England and Europe.

Fethaland lies on the edge of this collision zone. Within a couple of kilometers you can find rocks representing a longer time scale than anywhere else in Scotland: ancient Lewisian gneiss, quartzite and schist, Dalradian group rocks, and red sandstone and conglomerate.” Shetland Heritage

The Haaf fishing station, Fethaland

The Haaf fishing station, Fethaland

 

The Haaf fishing station, Fethaland

The Haaf fishing station, Fethaland

 

 

Foula: The remotest island in Britain

“Foula means ‘Bird Island’ in Old Norse and is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds, a National Scenic Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its plants, birds and geology.

Glaciers and the sea have carved some dramatic features in Foula’s layered sandstone, including the breathtaking 1,200 ft (366m) sheer drop of the Kame, Britain’s second-highest sea cliff. Gaada Stack’s three pillars tower over the rugged north coast of the island, with its stacks, steep-sided geos, and a storm beach called Da Stanes. Da Sneck ida Smaallie is a rock fault over 100 feet (30m) deep.”  Visit Shetland 

Peat cuttingss on Foula

Peat cuttingss on Foula

 

Highest sea cliffs in Britain at Da Kame, Foula

View from the second highest sea cliffs in Britain at Da Kame, Foula

 

Highest sea cliffs in Britain at Da Kame, Foula

Looking up at the second highest sea cliffs in Britain at Da Kame, Foula

 

 

Fair Isle: Old red sandstone carved during the most recent glaciation

“Famous for its birds, knitwear and historic shipwrecks, Fair Isle is a tiny jewel of an island, half-way between Orkney and Shetland, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Just 5km long and 3km wide, the isle’s impressive cliffs rise to almost 200 metres on the west coast.”  Visit Shetland 

The island has a dramatic coastline with many geological features.

“Sheep Rock is Fair Isle’s most distinctive feature, four hectares of steeply sloping grass on top of a rocky outcrop connected to the east coast of the island. Its name comes from the days when grazing land was scarce and islanders climbed the rock and hauled sheep up by chains to graze there.” Undiscovered Scotland

The distinct shape of Sheep Rock, Fair Isle

The distinct shape of Sheep Rock, Fair Isle

 

Sheep Rock, Fair isle

Sheep Rock, Fair isle

 

Sheep Rock, Fair isle

Sheep Rock, Fair isle

 

Sea-arches, looking across the Wick of Furse, Fair Isle

Sea-arches, looking across the Wick of Furse, Fair Isle

 

Sea-arches, Fair Isle

Sea-arches, Fair Isle

 

The Sheriff / Da Sherif rock formation (Old Red Sandstone sediment), Fair Isle

The Sheriff / Da Sherif rock formation (Old Red Sandstone sediment), Fair Isle

 

Stack (?) as seen from on top of Malcolm's Head?

Stack (?) as seen from on top of Malcolm’s Head?

 

Stack of Malcolm's Head (?) from Reevas, Fair Isle

Stack of Malcolm’s Head (?) from Reevas, Fair Isle

 

Lonely Stack

Lonely Stack

 

Western coastline of Fair Isle from Hoini, Fair Isle

Western coastline from Hoini, Fair Isle

 

St. Ninian’s Isle: A small tied island connected by the largest active tombolo in the UK

“Spits, bars and ayres or tombolos are characteristic of the inner coast and voes of Shetland. They are typical of submerging coastlines. Today in Shetland you are never more than 5km from the sea but it wasn’t always like this. During glacial times, a large amount of water was locked away as ice, making sea levels considerably lower. Only when the ice began to melt some 12,000 years ago did the seas begin to rise.

Much of Shetland became a flooded landscape as the lower ends of its valleys drowned beneath the rising waters. Numerous sea inlets – the ‘voes’ now characteristic of Shetland – were formed. In addition, rising sea levels reworked sediments to produce stunning sandy or shingle beaches, bars and tombolos like St. Ninian’s.”  Shetland Heritage

St Ninian's Isle is a small tied island connected by the largest active tombolo in the UK

St Ninian’s Isle is a small tied island connected by the largest active tombolo in the UK

 

More info: Geopark Shetland