Foula (Old Norse Fugley, "bird island") is one of the Shetland Islands, some 20 miles out into the Atlantic west of Shetland Mainland. It's roughly pear-shaped, 3.5 miles north-south by 2.5 miles east-west. A lane runs up the east side, which is farmland and has the ferry landing at Ham Voe. The west side has dramatic cliffs swirling with bird life.
Foula along with all of Orkney and Shetland was Norse until the 15th C when they were ceded to Scotland. But this remote place was bypassed, and its residents continued to speak Norn until the last native speaker died in 1926. They still celebrate Christmas and New Year by the Julian calendar, now 13 days adrift from the Gregorian calendar adopted on the mainland in 1752.
Foula vies with Fair Isle for the title of Britain's remotest inhabited island - it depends on your definition. The 1937 Michael Powell film The Edge of the World, a melodrama loosely based on the evacuation of St Kilda, was filmed on Foula.
A ferry, the New Advance sails from Foula to Walls on Shetland Mainland at 09:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, returning out to Foula at 13:30, a two-hour trip. May-Sept there's also a Saturday sailing. The ferry only has room for 12 passengers and cars are not carried so park up at Walls. Adult single fare is £5.70, booking is essential on +44 1595 840 208. There's not much shelter in Ham Voe, so the boat is hauled out of the water between trips.
In summer cruise ships occasionally call here, transferring visitors to dinghies to get ashore. It appears none are scheduled to call in 2020.
- 1 Foula Airfield (FOA IATA). Airtask fly between Foula and Tingwall near Lerwick, Shetland, once on Monday and twice Tu W & F, taking 15 mins. This means a day-trip is often possible, with 6 hours on the island. The timetable from Nov 2019 is not yet posted. Adult return fare is £86 and there's a 15 kilo total baggage limit. For bookings call +44 1595 840246 - you can't book online, as they need to prioritise travellers such as residents and visiting GPs.
Walk, it's not worth bringing a bike.
- Sea birds, half a million of them nest here every year.
- Cliffs and rocks include the 366 m sheer drop of the Kame, and Gaada Stack a sea-arch at the north end.
- Shaalds o' Foula: ah, but in calm weather you don't see this dangerous submerged reef two miles east of Ham Voe. And that was the end of the RMS Oceanic in 1914, a White Star liner converted for wartime use.
- Take a guided walk with the ranger. This is essential if you want to see the bird colonies in Da Sneck ida Smaalie - it's a sheer-sided 60 m chasm, so you must have a guide to get in and out safely.
Eat & Drink
Bring all your supplies, there's no shop on the island.
- 1 Leraback Guest House, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. does B&B.
- 2 Ristie Cottage, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. has self-catering in a double studio, £35 / night, and a croft house for £50 a night.
- Burns Cottage, ☏ . sleeps six, self-catering for £55 / night
Watch out for Skuas, they will dive-bomb you if you get too close to their nests
Back to Shetland Mainland it must be.