There are few National Nature Reserves in Scotland that present as much of a challenge to visit as Noss NNR. The rewards however are a sense of achievement and satisfaction in what you discover. This is clearly reflected in some of the comments that are left in the visitors’ book. ‘This is exactly what an NNR should be’ was the latest comment that emphasises how worthwhile the effort to get to Noss is.
The ferry or plane to Shetland is just the beginning of your adventure. From Lerwick it is necessary to catch the short ferry across to Bressay. Boats are regular throughout the year and details can be obtained through the Shetland Islands Council website. Once you are on Bressay, it is a 10 minute drive, or a 45 minute walk through the island. Look out for breeding waders as you pass through Bressay- lapwings are particularly visible from the road, and you may be lucky to catch a glimpse of a red-throated diver or even a whimbrel.
When you arrive at the Noss car park, with an elevated view, the full extent of the island opens up before you. As you walk down the track toward the steps, you’ll spot one of the two seasonal wardens on their way over Noss Sound to greet you. The Noss ferry operates throughout the summer season between 10am and 5pm, excluding Mondays and Thursdays, sea state permitting. The Sound is a bottleneck of tidal water with the undisturbed North Sea to the east, so crossings can vary greatly depending on the sea state. To avoid disappointment it is worth calling the Noss information line on 0800 107 7818 prior to departure from Lerwick.
The warden will assist you with your life jacket, before boarding the Zodiac to set off for the island. As you cross the Sound you may be treated to views of grey and harbour seals, perhaps an otter or two and if you’re even more likely a passing pod of harbour porpoises! Through the summer months there’s sure to be the usual Arctic tern welcome from overhead.
Once ashore, you are led to the visitor centre, where a short introduction to the island is given by the warden after the ferry fare has been taken care of. You are then free to go and explore the nature reserve and see what surprises are in store. Whatever you find, you won’t fail to be astonished at the seabird skyscrapers to the east, and the island in full bloom through the summer months.
Truly a remarkable reserve, and well worth the journey that is required to visit, you are sure to leave with unforgettable memories and experience of a life time.
SEE FOR YOURSELF ? Noss Open Day on Saturday 5th July is the perfect opportunity to visit the island. It’s an ideal chance to learn more about what goes on at the reserve and participate in fun activities for all the family
All sorts of activities are planned, including guided walks, marine viewing, badge-making, face-painting, kids’ activities and loads more. Please call the Lerwick office on 01595 693345 for more information, and remember to check the information line prior to departure.
Find out more about Noss NNR @ http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/noss/
Images: Lorne Gill / SNH (black guillemot) and Craig Nisbet