Walk to Heldale Water,
Tor Ness Lighthouse
Start /Finish Park slightly east of the Heldale / B9047 T-junction
Distance 17.7 km / 11 miles Time 6-7 hours
Maps OS Explorer 462; OS Landranger 7
Note Map and compass skills could be required in poor weather.
Start by following the good track northwestwards across the moor from the signposted access track to Heldale Water. The going is easy, and the gradient slight. Keep to the north side of the Burn of Heldale, and you soon reach a building beside a junction. Ignore the track cutting up the hillside to the right, towards Binga Fea, but instead go straight ahead, dropping slightly to cross the burn.
The track continues to the eastern end of Heldale Water. Your route takes you further westwards to the coast, and to get there you must walk alongside Heldale Water.
Go along the south side of the loch, beneath the steep ground of Skird Hill till end up at the western end of Heldale Water. Now cut across the open moor to the southwest, aiming for the rocky hills at Sweinn Geo. Cross a stream just before you reach the cliff tops, then turn southwards along the coast.
Alternatively, when you reach the shore of the loch you can turn right and follow the shore round the loch to approx map ref: 257 926 and then head up the heather for the top of Bakingstone Hill, map ref: 253 928. From here head WNW down to the burn of at approx map ref 245 931. Here you will find a delightful pool surrounded with low bushes, an idyllic picnic spot. Follow the burn all the way to the coast to Little Rackwick and then turn southward and follow the coast.
The walking here is marvelous, and takes you into parts of the island little visited by other walkers: Continue beyond the Needle, a huge spike of rock set in a narrow gulf at the base of the cliffs, then on southwards towards the bay at Ha Wick.
As you approach Ha Wick the ground drops away, and the cliffs on your right become much lower. You get a view of the lighthouse on Tor Ness dead ahead, and a short walk around a lovely sandy bay will bring you up to its base.
The headland itself is a wonderful spot, and just around it to the east big dunes have built up behind Sheep Skerry.
Walk eastwards across these dunes and you'll pick up a track. Follow this northeastwards, turning left at the ﬁrst junction to take you to Melsetter.
Now walk out along the driveway to the farm, past Melsetter House*, to gain the B9047 overlooking a huge beach on North Bay. Turn left along the road and follow it around North Bay back to your car at Heldale.
Note: *It is possible to tour Melsetter House. However, this is only possible on Thursdays and by prior appointment.