Fair Isle Bird Observatory & Guesthouse

Scenery and landforms

Fair Isle is one of the seven National Scenic Areas (NSA) of Shetland, as defined by the Scottish Government.

Fair Isle is a combination of green fields, moors and sandstone cliffs, with nothing ever far from the coast. Remote from the mainland of Shetland, it has a great diversity of cliffs, geos, stacks, skerries, natural arches, isthmuses and small bayhead beaches. While it lacks great absolute relief, it has the distinctive features of Sheep Rock and the several eminences of its west coast which add further variety to the coastal scenery.

There are over 20 stacks on Fair Isle - almost all on the west and north coasts. Stacks are pillars of rock which (by informal definition) must exceed 10 m in height and be rocky on all sides. Also, if its top is further across than the height then it is an island - or a low rock. © Northern Lace
This series of caves occur on the cliffs around Heads of Pietron between Furse and Wirvie. © Ian Fulton
Not long ago, the Raevas (middle distance) were two adjacent gloups; the northern one (right) collapsed in 1916 and has now become a geo - the term given to a gully or a narrow and deep cleft in the face of a cliff, especially on Orkney and Shetland. © Ian Andrews

Most of the island is also an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), SPA (Special Protection Area) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation). These designations cover the area north of the Hill Dyke and extend to include all the coastline, cliffs and offshore stacks and skerries. The offshore area has also been proposed as a potential MPA (Marine Protection Area).