MSP Tavish Scott tells readers about his favourite place this week. Although he spends much of his time in Edinburgh, he always enjoys returning to Shetland.
What is your favourite place in Shetland?
What about it appeals to you?
The contrast. The Noup in the middle of winter looking east, next stop Norway, with the seas crashing on hundreds of feet of rock, is a breathless place. The views are splendid on any clear day, south to Sumburgh, north to the North Isles and across to Whalsay and Skerries.
Yet in the height of summer, there is a beach in the lea from any angle of wind. From west to east is a good hour’s walk direct or two if you stick to the banks, which in the birds’ breeding season is the only way to go. When I manage a game of golf at Skaw in Whalsay, the view back to the Noup as it rises out of the sea is striking.
How often do you go there?
Not enough now. I’ve been involved in gathering sheep in Noss since I was a boy. I lambed the 420 ewes the farm used to carry there on a number of occasions staying in the Gungstie house with the Noss wardens.
I was occasionally allowed home for a shower but not often. Ewen Anderson and I did the lambing one year when we were just out of school. On one occasion the wardens had gone to Lerwick for supplies.
We could find nothing to eat at lunchtime. Hunger was acute. But Ewen came across chicken supreme in the cooker and we scoffed the lot. Only to find later that day that it was meant to be for tea!
How many times have you been over the years?
Too many to count but in my early years it always involved sheep work. The highlight was lambs oot in September. The technology changed one year. We used to row 400 plus lambs, 100 cast ewes and tups out in a Shetland model. She was a beautiful sea boat with great stability so 16 lambs aboard or worse still, four cheviot tups was no trouble. But then the 20 foot inflatable arrived with an outboard. No more sore backs from a day’s rowing.
What time of day is best?
The early morning during lambing was always the best. The late Peter Manson, who did the lambing in Noss for years, used to say that the first light streaming through the skylight would have him up and out to the lambing park. I used to enjoy the same, on a dry, bright morning. It was a little different if the rain was hammering on the roof.
What time of year is best?
I enjoyed the winter visits. Noss looks splendid in summer, with the blues of the sea, the greens and shades of grass and heather. But there is something very powerful about crashing seas on cliffs which I think takes a bit of beating.
Do you seek solitude there or is it a place you take family and friends to?
For me Noss was always about people. The wardens, the visitors but mostly the farm craic. Again old Peter used to declare smoko time when he puffed on Old Navy tarry cigarettes and put the world to rights. His views on bonxies, especially after an awkward caa of the hill would not be suitable for repeating in Parliament. But I remember them, and so many other great memories, tales and funs that were had in the incomparable island of Noss.