West Burra

Coordinates: 60°4′32″N 1°20′16″W / 60.07556°N 1.33778°W / 60.07556; -1.33778
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West Burra
Old Norse nameBarrey
Meaning of namewest broch island?
West Burra is located in Shetland
West Burra
West Burra
West Burra shown within Shetland
OS grid referenceHU368324
Coordinates60°04′N 1°22′W / 60.06°N 1.36°W / 60.06; -1.36
Physical geography
Island groupShetland
Area743 ha (2+78 sq mi)
Area rank62 [1]
Highest elevation65 m (213 ft)
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Council areaShetland Islands
Population rank17 [1]
Population density104/km2 (270/sq mi)[2][3]
Largest settlementHamnavoe
Replica of the Papil Stone dating from 2000. The original (from 700 AD) is in the National Museum of Scotland.
Shetland ponies grazing near Papil

West Burra is one of the Scalloway Islands, a subgroup of the Shetland Islands in Scotland. It is connected by bridge to East Burra. With an area of 743 hectares (1,840 acres), it is the eleventh-largest of the Shetland Islands.


The nearby south-facing sandy beach at Meal is a popular place on a warm day. At the south end of West Burra is Kettla Ness, with impressive cliff scenery; it is linked to the main island by a shingle and sand tombolo which also provides another attractive sandy beach. At Duncansclett, a traditional thatched cottage has recently been restored for use by the local history group; the building featured in the BBC television series, 'Restoration'.

West Burra is linked to the Shetland Mainland via Trondra by a series of bridges.


Hamnavoe (an extremely common Shetland name) is the main settlement, and there is also Bridge End, so called because it is near the bridge to East Burra.


Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland suggests that the name "Burra" is a corruption of "Borgarey" (island of the broch),[6] and while this is unlikely, and no broch is extant, the place name Brough, on West Burra lends some support to this case. However, the form used in the Orkneyinga saga is "Barrey".[5]

The name Papil in the south of West Burra is a Norse reference to the Papar. This name can be found in the form Papyli in several locations in Iceland. However, it is not just Papil's etymology that suggests the site of an early church, confirmation has been found in the form of the "Monk's Stone", which was dug up in Papil and which is now in the Shetland Museum.[6]

The main village of Hamnavoe in the north of West Burra is unique among villages in Shetland, in having been planned and laid out by the factors of the estate, in much the same way as many estate villages created by 'improving' landlords in Scotland; another parallel, albeit on a larger scale, is Ullapool, created by the British Fisheries Society. The original plan form is still clearly visible, despite the accretion of later development. Hamnavoe was once an important fishing centre. Today, none of the larger Shetland fishing boats is likely to be seen here but smaller vessels catch shellfish. Although full-time fishermen still live in the area, the fishing tradition is nowadays more evident in fish farming; there are several mussel and salmon farms around Burra.

Notable people from West Burra[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands over 20 ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  2. ^ a b National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland's Inhabited Islands" (PDF). Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland Release 1C (Part Two) (PDF) (Report). SG/2013/126. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
  4. ^ Ordnance Survey. OS Maps Online (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure.
  5. ^ a b Anderson, Joseph (ed.) (1873) The Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. Edmonston and Douglas. The Internet Archive. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  6. ^ a b Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. London. HarperCollins.
  7. ^ "Long Gone Lonesome Blues - The Thomas Fraser Story (Page 1)" thomasfraser.com. Retrieved 14 August 2010.

60°4′32″N 1°20′16″W / 60.07556°N 1.33778°W / 60.07556; -1.33778