Foula  Shetland


In 1882-4, Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland described Foula like this:

Fowla or Foula, a Shetland island belonging to Walls parish, 16 miles WSW of the nearest part of the Shetland mainland, and 35 NNE of the nearest part of Orkney. It measures about 3 miles in length by 1½ mile in breadth; and, as viewed at a little distance, appears to consist of five conical hills, rising steeply from the water, till the highest attains an altitude of 1300 feet. ...

It is easily seen on a clear day from the northern parts of Orkney; and, tested by Tacitus' words in speaking of the utmost limits of Agricola's victories, it has better claims than any other island to be deemed the Ultima Thule of the ancients. Only one spot, the fishing station of Ham, situated on its E side, is available as a landingplace; the coast all round, except at that spot, is almost one unbroken precipice, rising sublimely and terribly to the shoulders or tops of the hills; and the brink of these cliffs, 1100 to 1200 feet high, commands a most giddy, impressive, and magnificent view over wide expanses of the encircling Atlantic. The single landing-place is much frequented as a fishing-station; the cliffs are denizened with myriads of cormorants, kittywakes, gulls, and other sea-fowl; and the rocks are sandstone, except where claystone slate occurs near Ham. 'Fowla,' says a writer in Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc. (1874), 'seems to be chiefly valued as a fishing and curing station, and the only agriculture practised in it is that of the Shetlander pure and simple. Yet, in our opinion, it is capable of producing finer crops than any other island in the group. Much of the soil is naturally good, and the climate is manifestly more largely affected by the Gulf Stream than that of any other part of Scotland. Nowhere else have we seen crops of bere, oats, and potatoes grow so luxuriantly; while the natural pasture of the steep but grassy hills is rich and varied in the nature of its component plants. On the other hand, nowhere are the ruinous effects of the ''scalping'' system more conspicuous, a whole district of the island, between the tillage and the mountain, being laid utterly bare, the turf carried off, and the naked rocks left to glare in the sunshine.' Fowla belongs to the proprietor of Melby estate, on the western coast of Mainland. Its islanders are remarkably hardy, have few wants, and feel strong attachment to their rugged home. Pop. (1837) 202, (1861) 233, (1871) 257, (1881) 267.

Foula through time

Foula is now part of Shetland Islands district. Click here for graphs and data of how Shetland Islands has changed over two centuries. For statistics about Foula itself, go to Units and Statistics.

How to reference this page:

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Foula in Shetland Islands | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.


Date accessed: 24th January 2020

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