Muckle Roe - South Ham
10.6km / 6.5 miles
4hrs including stops
Start - car parking on grass verge at end of public road at West Ayre
Grid ref HU322629
OS Explorer 469; Landranger 3
Muckle Roe is an island in the Northmavine area of the northwest Shetland Mainland. It's found at the end of long single-track road and is joined to the mainland by a small bridge.
The path is signposted between two houses for the Hams (4km) and for the lighthouse (2km) - I followed the path for the lighthouse which immediately dropped onto a little beach. Then it climbed up the other side and followed the coast along. After a while it moved slightly inland and took me to the very still Gilsa Water, a small loch.
Heading upwards and away from the loch back towards the coast I passed pink and red granite rocks until reaching the small lighthouse. After this, rather than a clear path, there seemed to be just an expanse of boggy peat and heather with a criss-cross of sheep trails. According to my walk book I should have stayed close to the coast, but picking my way through the least boggy bits of the bog took me between several small lochs instead. I got divebombed by a frantic skua for a while and must have got quite close to its nest as it got very threatening and came really close. By the time it stopped I was getting arm ache from holding my stick above my head.
I could see Papa Stour really clearly as I walked along and when I got to South Hams at the far end of my walk I could also see the drongs in St Magnus Bay far off in the distance. The drongs are three huge stacks looming out of the sea which can be seen from Braewick cafe and campsite. I don't know where the name 'Hams' comes from, but like to think it might be because all the big pink rocks look like slabs of ham.
I dropped down onto the small pebbley beach and could hear seals as I descended. A couple I'd met earlier said they had seen seals here. I made a lot of noise as I clamboured over pebbles and settled myself down to have lunch. Sure enough, the seals, which were in rocks to the right of me (the rocks were in the water so I couldn't get to them) got curious and swam out to have a look at me. In all I saw three common seals and they came quite close.
Leaving the beach, after half and hour, I took the clearly defined track back to West Ayre. It climbed up and down a bit, but was very easy walking and passed another couple of small lochs.