Postcards from Shetland – Ronas Hill

Jul 24, 2020

You know that feeling you get after a good long walk, like your body and mind are completely refreshed and recharged? It’s not news that nature is good for us, but sometimes especially when things are busy, it’s easy to forget.

I have been enjoying a newly-found routine of being focused and working hard throughout the week but taking the weekends completely off, spending them working in the garden or setting off on a nice walk.

Believe it or not, but after so many years of living in Shetland I haven’t been to Shetland’s highest summit yet, so last Sunday we decided to climb Ronas Hill (1,475′ / 450m). Ronas Hill is a very interesting place, rising as a broad dome of stony, granite tundra above the great plateau of North Roe. It is a wild, barren and windswept place but the views are superb. And there is a lot to see under your feet too – Shetland’s very own collection of arctic alpines.

The walk starts at Collafirth, climbing a steep track up to the masts on Collafirth Hill.

This summer wildflowers seem to bloom early, as is case for this stunning heather. When Shetland’s hills get covered in purple heather it’s a magnificent sight. But slightly bittersweet too as it signifies the summer is slowly fading away.

You can see the landscape already looks very different.

I couldn’t stop admiring the constantly changing rain clouds. In fact the top of Ronas Hill is seldom seen without a cloud embracing  it. But for most of our walk we were lucky and stayed dry. Well, apart from when we reached the very top and instead of a lunch with lovely views we got soaked to the skin. But that’s what you expect on a walk like this.

It was a steady two-hour climb to reach the top.

The Arctic Alpines

On Ronas Hill summit conditions can be as extreme as at the top of the Cairngorms. Vegetation is sparse and plants have adapted by growing low, creeping or forming hummocks on bare, exposed granite debris. About 15 Arctic-Alpine species grow on the hill, including Alpine Lady’s Mantle and Moss Campion. (source

When we got to the top, the weather changed just like clicking a switch. I found the whole experience mesmerising, as in a very short time we reached from the sea level to high mountain like conditions.

Before the downpour started.

What a fantastic walk it was! I’d throughly recommend it but there are no paths and few landmarks so good navigation skills are needed. Also good clothing and footwear.

  1. Les Allan says:

    We used to go up every mid summer’s day and if the sky was clear one could watch the sun dipping below the horizon briefly in the west and moving around the sky to rise again in the East.
    Also every light house from Flugga to Sumburgh head could be seen flashing.
    Only one of Shetlands many awesome places

  2. Beccy Horder says:

    Stunning scenery and feel so fortunate that even though I live literally a world away from Shetland at the deep southern part of our globe in New Zealand, we have similar areas of remoteness and beauty that throw at us the gorgeous palette of colours found in the geology and flora and fauna, a wonderful postcard selection thankyou Beccy Wanaka New Zealand

  3. Karen Griggs Indiana USA says:

    The stunning photos of historical sites and wildflowers take me away from the pandemic suffering for a few minutes. One question:
    has anyone tried to plant trees there? Did trees use to grow around the homes? In sheltered places? near springs?


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