Muckle Fugga

Shetland is a group of islands located in the North Sea, North of Scotland and West of Norway. Unst, the most northerly populated island in Britain, is often known as the island above all others. Population: 600.

The Hermaness National Nature Reserve, up top Unst, has magnificent views during its walk in the high cliffs. This walk is also full of up close encounters with sea birds, especially the Great Skua (or Bonxie as the locals know it) as here is a breeding ground for them. These birds can be quite aggressive in breeding season, so sticking to the path is the best caution whilst walking.

Even further North than Unst is the Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, built on a pinnacle of rock in Oost (Out of Stack) that rises 61m above the sea, and is frequently overtopped by unbroken waves. This is Britain’s most northerly lighthouse. Three people manned this remote spot, ferried with supplies when they could.

The lighthouse was known originally as North Unst Lighthouse. In 1964 its name changed to Muckle Flugga — derived from the Old Norse for ‘large steep-sided island’.

Tammie Norries

Puffins, or clifftop clowns, have one of the biggest colonies here, in a tucked away British island somewhere between Scotland and Norway.

As advertised, Shetland is a birdwatchers paradise and these little fellows share the impressive cliffs with gannets, fulmars, guillemots, razorbirds, kittiwakes and shags.

Their beaks full of colour remind me of toucans, but puffins are not graceful landing nor flying. If anything they are rather clumsy and quite comical. They use their colourful beaks and powerful legs to dig out the same burrows where each spring puffin couples return to procreate.

How many can you count?

The key to Scotland

Stirling Castle was the key to the kingdom of Scotland. So much that the popular saying is that “if you hold Stirling Castle, you hold Scotland”.

This stone castle witnessed some of the most dramatic and important events in Scottish history, including the infamous murder of the earl of Douglas by James II. The castle later became an important military base until the 1960’s.

When the soldiers left, the castle has been subject to major restoration projects to return the main buildings to their original glory for just £12 million. The castle re-opened to the public in June 2011 and aims to take visitors back in time to the 16th century life. Impressive work was done to the Great Hall. Its hammer-beam roof and parapet were replaced using the same traditional way than centuries ago. An interesting fact is that not one nail was used in this upside-down boat like structure; the woodwork is held together with 2328 oak pegs.

Part of making visitors feel in the era is impersonating people from the time. If you are lucky you might get a chance to play House of Fortune. A gambling game originally called Glückshouse; though the brits later changed its name to House of Fortune or Lucky Pig.

A visit will tell you even more stories from the castle’s long history as a special place in Scotland.

Big paws and big teeth

Just a short drive from Narvik, the Gateway to the North, there is a park with generous-sized enclosures for a range of Arctic animals: bears, wolves, lynx, deer and elk: the Polar Park. An ideal place for all to learn about the native species, including of Norway’s only wild cat.

Four different types of medium cats are given the name of Lynx. Their coats of fur vary in colour according to their climate range. This Eurasian (or Siberian) lynx lives in Northern regions so their coats are thicker and lighter in colour (for camouflage). The Eurasian lynx has wide, harelike paws to help them skim through deep snow without sinking in: a handy characteristic this far up North the world.