Welcome to Foula, Britain’s most remote inhabited island, where the wind blows at gale force most of the time and there are no shops or pubs
Twenty miles or so off the west coast of Shetland is an island. It measures three and a half miles long by two and a half miles wide and consists, to the west and north, of five mighty hills that rise at their peak to more than 1,300ft and end, abruptly, in the highest cliffs in the country: lob a pebble off the top and it will hit the waves below 11 seconds later. To the south and east there is a bleak lowland strip of rock, bog, peat banks and coarse, wind-flattened brown grass. When the Atlantic storms blow, which at this time of year is almost all the time, it is almost unbelievably windy here; the kind of wind that makes your eyes water as you lean into it and lifts you half off your feet when you turn your back. The sky, consequently, is filled with startled-looking seabirds, many of them flying backwards.
There are reasonable, although not conclusive grounds for supposing that this could be the place the ancients called Ultima Thule, the edge of the known world. It lies on the same latitude as St Petersburg in Russia, and Anchorage in Alaska, and is roughly as far from Aberdeen as it is from Bergen in Norway. London, mercifully, is closer than Reykjavik. But not by much.