Exploring The Southpunds

 

The South Mainland of Shetland is marked by the people who have lived here for generations. It has rich archaeological remains namely Jarlshof and Scatness settlements the isle of Mousa and its stunning almost intact Broch and the beautiful Ninian’s Isle where the famous treasure was uncovered. Levenwick too boasts a Broch of its own and everywhere are the markings of old fields and ruined homes.

Southpunds itself has a long history of settlement and crofting. The origin of place name, Pund, is a place where animals are gathered or penned. Levenwick has Northpunds and Southpunds. It is the most southerly area of the village of Levenwick situated 17 miles south of Lerwick and lying on the east coast of the Shetland mainland.

Running like a spine up the long peninsula of the south mainland to a ridge of hill and from the village of Levenwick tumbles to its lower slopes looking east and out to sea, Norway being the next stop.

The land between the cliffs and the houses of Southpunds tends to be boggy and wilder than in the rest of the village and has largely been abandoned for agricultural purposes. This has created a natural habitat for wildlife and plants with almost total freedom for visitors to wander and explore.

Take advice however before you set out as some parts can be too boggy to traverse. The ruins of the original croft houses and buildings still remain standing and the “footprint” of the old strip fields for cultivation is clearly visible when viewed from above.

Leaving the houses behind and heading towards the cliffs where the ground is firmer and less boggy. Walking north will take you to the beautiful white sands of Levenwick beach. Then heading south will take you along the dramatic cliff line for miles where you never meet a soul.

Archaeological finds indicate continuous human habitation in Levenwick dating back to the Neolithic age suggesting three thousand years of human activity. The remains of an iron age Broch are still visible at the Southpunds cliff top.

Access to the West Coast of Shetland from Southpunds is a simple 10 minute car journey over the hill on a single track road or a slower more arduous walk. The view from the top is simply breathtaking, looking across to St Ninians Isle, Foula in the Distance and North West of the mainland.

On the East side of the island we experience beautiful sunrises and on the West side stunning sunsets. During the months of April and May new life springs into action with the arrivals of many different breeds of lamb. The migrating birds return to the island to nest such as Puffins (Sumburgh Heads, Noss, Hermaness), Bonxie (Great Skua), Arctic Terns and many more.

As a result the island experiences an influx of twitchers (bird watchers) to catch a glimpse of rare migrating birds that find their way to the islands. Not forgetting the return of hundreds of European Storm-petrels that make Mousa Broch their temporary home during summer, something that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the island.

During the height of summer the hours of darkness are very few and one can enjoy long hours of outside activity. During this period it is never fully dark and we refer to this magical light as the simmer dim (summer twilight). By contrast, in the depths of winter, daylight hours are very few. It takes six months to summer solstice and six months winter solstice making daylight different every week.

All this and so much more make Shetland a very unique island to visit and explore.