“Len, you can’t go in there with the sheep. It’s all fenced in and the gate is locked.”

“Ah, that fence is over a hundred years old, and the gate is just latched, not locked, and look at those sheep. They look friendly enough, I think they want to play,” I replied, as we were approaching the end of our hike on the island of Foula, which is at the southern extremities of the Shetland Islands.

This was day 10 of our Scotland Slowly expedition with Adventure Canada. Foula is a very remote, lonely place; my kind of place, actually. With a population of 33, there are more sheep and ponies than humans.

Chantal and I left the group today, to explore the island on our own. It was an easy hike, and our most enjoyable of the entire trip. On an island with such a small population where everyone knows each other, there is no need for fences. Wide open fields and soaring sea cliffs were ours to inhale. The sway of the  cotton grass like the swell on the sea.

Everyone’s heard of the Shetland Islands, probably because of the famous Shetland ponies. Didn’t you ride one at a carnival when you were a child? Well, I never imagined that I’d be hiking on the Shetland Islands, but here I was, strolling over the rolling landscape. With the clean, salty North Sea wind blowing into my face, it was easy to be totally present.

So, I went through the gate and made my way over to the small herd of sheep. But as I approached, they started moving aggressively towards me. There was one, especially, who looked like the leader. He, or was it a she, had a funny look in her eye. “Yes, it’s easy to be brave when all your friends are right behind you,” I said to her. But she just ignored that, probably because of my Canadian accent.

I backed away nervously, using my camera as a shield, thinking that I read somewhere that sheep are able to recognize human faces. It seems that this group knew that I didn’t belong here. I managed to get back to and out of the gate; my body unscathed, but not my pride, as Chantal and other travellers on the roadway laughed.

Often, when you break the rules, or enter a forbidden gate, you gain the most unforgettable memories. This was one of those times for me. Adventure Canada has that word in its name for good reason; I’ll never forget my adventure on Foula.


[Click on any photo for the slideshow. Please leave comments at the bottom of the page]

Zodiac leaving the Ocean Endeavour for a Foula landing. Foula is the southern-most of the Shetland Islands of Scotland

The famous Shetland Ponies

An ancient farmhouse in Foula. Most income on this island is from sheep farming.

The rolling landscape of Foula

The landing pier at Foula

Cotton grass on the hills, the Ocean Endeavour upon the swell

The cliffs of Foula falling into the sea

Cloud formations in the big sky

Shetland ponies are much friendlier than the Foula sheep

Out of service, but Foula has internet (sometimes)

The playground. Foula has a population of 33, mostly farms, with a community centre that includes the school.

Yeah, you’re the boss- when all your friends are behind you.

Getting back to the Ocean Endeavour with 1 meter swells

The Fool on Foula

The Shetland Islands