village in Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK

Hillswick is a small village on the Mainland of the Shetland Islands. It's the main settlement on the Northmavine peninsula, connected to the rest of Mainland by the road along Mavis Grind, the narrow isthmus by the village of Brae - so narrow you can almost hurl a stone from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea side. All of Northmavine in 2011 had a population of 741.

Get in

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Hillswick is 35 miles north of Lerwick along A970, say 50 min by car.

Bus 21 runs 3 times M-Sa from Lerwick via Tingwall airport, Voe and Brae, taking 70 min to Hillswick. Bus 23 also runs from Lerwick to Brae then turns northeast to Sullom Voe and Toft.

Get around

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Hillswick is a tiny village, but you need wheels to get around the peninsula.

  • Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, The Booth, ZE2 9RW (next to shop and hotel), +44 1806 503348. Cares for injured seals, otters and other wildlife.
  • 1 Ronas Voe is the inlet north of Hillswick. In 1674 the Dutch East India ship Wapen van Rotterdam was storm-damaged and took shelter here but was trapped by four British ships. The ensuing one-sided artillery battle was the last act of the Third Anglo-Dutch war, with a treaty already signed. An unknown number of Dutch seamen were killed, perhaps as many as 300, and lie in a mass grave by the shore with a small granite marker. Their ship was taken as a prize: it was later just used as a hulk until scrapped.
  • Tangwick Haa Museum near Esha Ness didn't open in 2021.
  • 2 Esha Ness has cliffs notched by the deep Calder's Geo, and with a Stevenson lighthouse. 1 km north is an Iron Age broch by a freshwater lake, and Holes of Scraada a sea-filled chasm that kayakers can enter.
  • Hamnavoe is the inlet north of Esha Ness. The Giant's Stones are a pair 20 m apart on the heath: probably aligned with something, as many were, but it's difficult to place two stones 20 m apart without them creating a line.
  • 3 Dore Holm is an islet with a great natural arch that looks like a horse drinking deeply from the water.
  • Isle of Stenness is the low-lying islet southwest of Stenness beach. It's just grazing land and its main job is to shelter the beach.
  • 4 Beorgs of Housetter or Giant's Garden is the boulder-littered hillside by the road north to Isbister. The two main stones of 2 m and 2.7 m are indistinct at the foot of the hill.
  • Aircraft in a garden: look right half a mile north of North Roe village for this unusual garden ornament, a Potez 840. F-BMCY was a 1960s French single-engine 18-seater plane. On 29 March 1981 on approach to Sumburgh, the landing gear jammed and the pilot opted to make a belly-flop wheels-up landing. It slithered to a halt and the two crew and five passengers were unhurt. It was left on the perimeter as a hulk until 2007 then the fuselage was brought here.
  • 5 Fethaland is the most northerly point of Mainland, though the islands of Yell and Unst stretch beyond. The public road ends at Isbister but rough tracks continue. Fethaland is an abandoned fishing station: it was only occupied seasonally. Fishing was by long line from open boats, easily upset or swamped in high seas, and rendered obsolete by 19th century trawlers. There's also remains of a prehistoric house. Near the tip of the peninsula, the lighthouse is a modern metal tower, functional but not photogenic.
 
Dore Holm
  • Walk around. There are some lovely walks just beyond the village.
  • 1 Ronas Hill is the highest peak in Shetland at 450 m / 1480 ft, a "Marilyn". There's a Neolithic chambered cairn near the summit. These moors are the only place in the UK with Arctic tundra.
  • Hillswick Shop, ZE2 9RW (opposite hotel). M-Th Sa 9AM-7PM, F 7:30AM-7PM, Su noon-5PM. This store sells a selection of groceries, other necessities and fuel. Friendly staff can order in meat and fish on request.
  • St Magnus Bay Hotel (see "Sleep") has a good Sunday carvery.

Drink

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Abandoned fishing station at Fethaland
  • St Magnus Bay Hotel (see "Sleep") has a bar, packed on some evenings, deserted on others.

Sleep

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  • 1 St Magnus Bay Hotel, Hillswick ZE2 9RW (follow A970 to its end), +44 1806 503372, . A century-old hotel which was built in Norway then transported for an exhibition to the mainland before being dismantled and then set up here. Decent restaurant and bar. B&B double from £120.
  • Almara B&B at Urafirth 2 miles north of Hillswick didn't open in 2021.

Connect

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As of Nov 2021, there is a patchy mobile signal in Hillswick from EE but nothing from other carriers, and virtually no signal elsewhere on the peninsula.

Go next

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  • You have to return south through Brae to reach the rest of the Shetland Islands.



This city travel guide to Hillswick is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.