Farming and nature on Noss National Nature Reserve

Breaking news- the first Noss lambs were born on 16th May!

Noss lamb ... Less than a day old!

Noss lamb … Less than a day old!

Noss has been a sheep farm for hundreds of years, and is inhabited by sheep throughout the year; long after the wardens depart, their season’s work completed. At one ewe per hectare, the 350 sheep do their bit to manage the habitat on the island by grazing the maritime grassland to maintain a suitable sward for many species of ground nesting birds.

It stands to this day as an excellent example of conservation and farming working side by side. Ongoing sea bird population monitoring takes place and visitors are able to access one of Scotland’s fantastic National Nature Reserves; while Garth Estate are able to lease the land for profitable sheep farming and the continuation of this hardy breed.

The ewe keeps her lamb close

The ewe keeps her lamb close


Little more than daily checks are required during lambing season

Little more than daily checks are required during lambing season

Shetland sheep are renowned for their independence and ability to lamb themselves, making them an extremely desirable breed for farmers in more remote and rugged locations. Lambing season requires little more than regular checks, as opposed to the much more intensive efforts required for other breeds.

Dog Violet

Dog Violet

The maritime grassland habitat that dominates most of the island provides excellent nutrition for them, and also brings with it a riot of colour as spring rolls in to summer. We’re beginning to see the start of this festival of colour, with dog violet flowering all over the island, smatterings of spring squill and thrift beginning to bloom, and the cliffs coming alive with scurvy grass, red campion and sea campion.

Spring Squill budding

Spring squill budding

Spring Squill blooming

Spring squill blooming

Soon, we’ll also see the beautiful pink heath spotted orchids emerging to complement the abundance of yellow flowers from silverweed. For the sheep, the assortment of wild vegetation adds to the grazing feast available to them, and they certainly appear right at home munching away on the hill top!

 Happy sheep up by the Noup

Sheep up by the Noup


Further information on Noss is available at

Images by Craig Nisbet

We will carry regular updates from Noss National Nature Reserve throughout the summer season. Sign up to our Scotland’s Nature blog to keep in touch with events on Noss.


This entry was posted in Flowers, National Nature Reserves and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.