The croft-dotted island of Bressay is ideal for walking and cycling, with fascinating geology, wildlife, beaches and sites of historical interest.
Ask an Islander
We asked locals on Bressay to tell us why their island is special. Here’s what they said:
Chris from Garths Croft said: “The best place to enjoy a walk on Bressay is the quieter east side of the island – a wonderful landscape of natural and cultural heritage. There’s also a great café, restaurant and Heritage Centre on the island.”
“The narrow waters of Noss Sound separate Bressay from the Nature Reserve of Noss, and in the summer months, wardens can transport you across by boat. On Noss you’ll see spectacular seabird colonies and if you’re lucky you may spot a cetacean too! The remains of an Iron Age broch, Viking longhouse and old crofting landscape can be seen on the Bressay shoreline, making Noss Sound a great place to enjoy the day.”
And there’s plenty more to do in Bressay, as Chris tells us. “Bressay Heritage Centre is owned and operated by Bressay History Group with great exhibitions showcasing many aspects of Bressay’s past. The Heritage Centre houses an extensive archive of historic island materials including photos, maps and genealogy. An exciting attraction is the reconstruction of the central core of a Bronze Age Burnt Mound, which Bressay History Group rescued from being washed away by the sea. There’s great information on site which explains more about this unique mysterious construction.”
And if all that leaves you peckish? “Speldiburn Cafe (community-run, through Bressay Development Ltd) and the Maryfield House Hotel both take great pride in serving local produce. Bressay is a crofting and farming island producing beef, lamb, pork, eggs and veg sold from the farm gate or from local shops and restaurants and establishments in Lerwick too.”
For Chris, the island’s most memorable event has to be the island’s Up Helly Aa celebrations. “Bressay Up Helly Aa is the culmination of months of hard work. Over the winter months, the Jarl Squad make their outfits by hand in preparation. A day of festivities commences in a celebration of Viking heritage with visits to the school, island hall and sheltered housing before a torchlit procession and long night of singing & dancing!”
So that’s winter taken care of, now what about summer? “At midsummer, it never truly gets dark,” Chris tells us. “Taking a walk up to the summit of the Ward Hill, you have a fine panoramic view from north to south across Shetland and out west as far as the island of Foula. The view overlooks the mid-Victorian Bressay lighthouse, built in 1858. Situated on a rocky headland at the south entrance to Lerwick Harbour, Bressay Lighthouse is an iconic image for any visitor to the island.”
When he’s not busy working the croft, Chris tells us about his perfect sunny summer day on the island. “A walk out to Culliesbrough is a great way to spend the day. This sheltered bay has attracted settlers for millennia and there’s plenty to see as a result. A Bronze Age burnt mound, Iron Age broch, early Christian chapel, replica Pictish stone and Viking longhouse are visible alongside the crofting remains. Have a break for lunch and sample the local produce at the Speldiburn Cafe or Maryfield House Hotel.
“You can also book a tour at Garths Croft Bressay – a smallholding on the island focusing on native and heritage breeds of colourful Shetland sheep, lambs, pigs and piglets, hens, fruit and vegetables and self-sufficiency.”