Esha Ness: On the edge of nowhere


The Shetland Islands are far removed from the rest of Scotland, their political home. Indeed, standing in the main town of Lerwick one is closer to Bergen, Norway than to Edinburgh, Scotland. But at least in the town there is a sense of being somewhere. Just forty miles northwest of Lerwick, across the Mavis Grind and up through rolling hills, one suddenly arrives at what seems to be the end of the world: Esha Ness.


The area is, quite simply, stunning. The shore line is sheer cliff faces stretching up hundreds of feet from the ocean below. The color of the cliffs is amazing as well. They are a red that contrasts beautifully with the green of the fields atop them and the blues of the ocean and sky that surround them.

During the couple hours we spent hiking around along the waterfront we didn’t encounter anyone else. There were a few sheep about but even those were somewhat limited. It was incredibly quiet up on that cliff top except for the wind. Oh, that wind. It was blustery and beautiful up on the cliffs.

The hiking is easy up on the bluffs. The ground is soft and has some spring in it, almost like a gymnastics floor, because of the way the grass turf grows there. There are some hills, but they aren’t really all that bad. And the fences that hold the sheep in do not really get in the way too much; they are easy to climb over or around. We easily could have kept hiking, especially with the great weather we had that morning, but we had more to see on the islands and had to get back on the road. Still, it was a great way to spend a couple hours.

Getting there

Getting to Esha Ness is an adventure in multiple modes of transportation. There are flights into Sumburgh (IATA: LSI) several times daily from major Scottish airports. From Sumburgh it is a 40ish minute drive up to Lerwick, the main town in the Shetlands. From Lerwick it is another hour or so up through the main island to the Esha Ness area. You’re definitely going to want a rental car if you’re visiting, even with petrol running roughly $8/gallon and rentals running roughly $75/day. Without it you’ll be stranded in town and there isn’t enough to really keep you busy longer than a day or so there. The roads are well signed so finding your way up to the region should be pretty easy. There aren’t many side roads to get lost on anyways.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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