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Noss, Isle of

Situated to the east of the island of Bressay in the Shetland Islands, the uninhabited Isle of Noss with its Old Red Sandstone cliffs is home to a large number of nesting seabirds including great skua, arctic skua, gannet, kittiwake, fulmar, puffin and guillemot. The island, which has been a National Nature Reserve since 1955, extends over an area of 343 ha (847 acres) and rises to a height of 180m (590 feet) at the Noup of Noss. Now managed jointly by the Garth Estate and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the island's small population was largely cleared in the 1870s. Thereafter, the Marquis of Londonderry leased the island to rear Shetland ponies for his coal mines in County Durham. These were bred to have "as much weight as possible and as near the ground as it can be got" and went on to a hard life underground. This venture ceased in 1900, but most of today's Shetland ponies are descended from Jack of Noss.

Today, Noss provides grazing for Shetland ewes and welcomes summer visitors who come to see the island's birdlife and the farm at Gungstie, dating from the 1670s but restored by SNH as a visitor centre in 1986. This was once tenanted by the father of Dr James Copeland, author of the Dictionary of Medicine published in 1832. Exhibits describe the nature reserve, bird-life and the later use of the farm as a 'pony pund'. Nearby are the remains of a Mediaeval chapel and burial ground.


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