In Scotlands' remote northern Shetland Island lays a long-forgotten tiny island called Mousa. It has been uninhabited since the nineteenth century and is particularly famous for the Broch of Mousa - a large Iron Age round tower (the best preserved in Scotland).
Even more remote, Scotland's Orkney Islands boast some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic ruins in Europe dating back 5,000 years ago. There are many ancient archeological sites dotted around Great Britain - Stonehenge is not the only mysterious stone circle in these isles.
About The Shetland's Mousa Island
Mousa Island is also known for more modern ruins as well for being designated a Special Protection Area for its storm-petrel breeding colonies.
- Population: 0 - Uninhabited Since The 19th Century
Mousa is situated just off the east coast of Mainland Shetland and is almost split in two by inlets. This tiny island is only around 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) long and just under a mile (1.6 kilometers) at its maximum width. The soil is fertile and supports a rich diversity of plants and has herb-rich grassland despite the harsh sea winds and sheep grazing.
- Name: Old Norse for Moss Island
The only way onto the island is by boat and there is one company offering regular sailings and tours of the isle. They offer their Daytime Island Trip, their Late Evening Storm Petrel Trip, and their Short Cruises around the local waters. There is no accommodation on the island.
The Iron Age Preserved Mousa Broch
The Mousa Broch is the best preserved of these mysterious Scottish Iron Age structures. Brochs are found only in Scotland and in the greatest concentration in the Shetland and Orkney Island and the Scottish Highlands.
It is one of a pair of brochs guarding the Mousa Sound, the other one is at Burland on the main island but is far less well preserved. These in turn may have been a part of a large chain of brochs in this part of Shetland (they may have been used for defensive purposes). These brochs would have been visible from each other as beacons. There remains much to be understood about the role that these brochs had.
The broch at Mousa is the only broch today that survives more or less at its full height. Fortunately, it managed to escape being pilfered for its stone as most other structures suffered. The stone was often used to build stone walls and croft houses.
The broch of Mousa is some 15 meters (yards) wide at the base but only 6 meters (yards) in the interior due to the huge thickness of the walls at the base. Within these walls is a range of chambers that were probably used for storage.
Archeologists are still trying to figure out what Scottish Brochs were for - they have been dubbed the Iron Age "skyscrapers of Scotland".
Daytime Island Trip
Embark on their boat called Mousa Boat. This trip begins at the historic Sandsayre pier. Sail over to Mousa and enjoy a fascinating and memorable trip on the island.
The main attraction is the Iron Age Mousa Broch, but also the RSPB Nature Reserve and home to many breeding wildlife, colonies of seals, and birds as well as other more modern ruins.
- When: Daily (Except Saturday) From April 1st to the End of September
- Times: Depart 11.30 am, Return 2.30 pm
- Booking: Advanced Booking Are Not Required for The Daily Mousa Island Trip
- Note: All Sailings Are Weather Dependent
- Fare: Adult £18.00 ($24.00); Children Aged 5 to 16 - £8.00 ($11.00)
If one is visiting Shetland, don't leave this to the last day as the crossing is weather dependent and one could miss out.
Storm Petrel Dusk Trip
One of the main attractions on this island is its storm petrels. This tiny island is home to the largest colony of storm petrels in the United Kingdom - with around 12,000 pairs.
- Storm Petrel Colony: The Largest In The United Kingdom
- Population: Around 12,000 Pairs
- Range: They Breed On Rodent-Free Islands From Iceland to The Canary Islands
In addition, there are other iconic northerly seabirds including Arctic and great skuas, Arctic terns and black guillemots, as well as both grey and common seals, and otters.
European storm petrels feed far out to sea during the day and only come ashore to their breeding colonies under the cover of darkness. In the winter they migrate south and spend the season roaming the seas off southern Africa.
On Mousa, several hundred pairs of these birds also nest inside the stone walls of the famous Iron Age broch. They have nocturnal and burrow-nesting habits.
- Total British Isles Population: 83,000 pairs in 95 Surveyed Colonies
- Season: From Late May to Mid July
During the season, one can go on the boat trip to witness the stunning spectacle of storm petrels flying around the broch and hear their eerie cacophony of calls.
- Booking: Required
- Fare: Adult £30.00 ($40.00)