Monday 18th & Tuesday 19th July
As a born and bred Yell man I’d been really looking forward to seeing parts of the island that I’d never been to but heard a lot about. Ewan came up to Yell for a few adventures in our youth but it is maybe best to leave it at that.
It had been a pretty poor few days of weather with a lot of rain, which meant we were going to encounter some quite damp conditions. We were both feeling our ankles and knees quite tender after the conditions of the previous few days so we were slightly apprehensive about the week ahead and how our lower limbs would cope.
After we had set up base camp in Otterswick with my Mum and Dad, Alan & Sunniva, we had some food and set off from the head of Mid Yell Voe down around the east coast. We avoided the temptation to stop at the Hilltop bar and headed around to Vatsetter. The walking conditions between Lusetter and Vatsetter were terrible. The ground hasn’t been grazed in a long time and the grass was unbelievably long with a lot of moss mixed in with it and was like walking through deep snow. I managed to find a couple of holes to fall down, one of them was a real killer that swallowed my whole leg. Ewan like a true pal, stopped, helped me up and checked I was okay. When Ewan managed to half dissapear down a hole, it doesn’t say much for me as a person that my first instinct was to take a picture of him!
Once we got around to Vatsetter the ground conditions improved greatly and the walk around the coast to Aywick was really enjoyable with some nice scenery. Although it is a bit back from the coast, the Aywick shop is always worth a visit. The selection of goods never ceases to amaze and they are always one of the cheapest places for fuel in Shetland. Aywick around to Otterswick and on to Gossabrough was great, with the White Wife and the beach at Gossabrough the highlights there. I am obviously completely biased but I always think my parent’s house in Otterswick has one of the best views in Shetland. It sits high on the hill and looks out over the Ness of Queyon and the Ness of Gossabrough with a stunning panorama all the way from Unst down past Fetlar and on to Skerries and Whalsay. This leg of the walk was without a doubt the most nostalgic for me.
A big thank you must go out to Beatrice and David at Gossabrough for their hospitality. Beatrice’s tasty fruit squares provided the energy to push on around to Burravoe and Hamnavoe and David was able to provide some great local history. We’ve really appreciated when people have taken the time to speak to us, feed us and give us some motivation. There have been several occasions that we have not had time to accept people’s offers of hospitality and we hope that we haven’t caused offence to anyone but we have often been on a very tight timescale, in fact we’ve often been behind schedule, so have not been in a position to stop. Nothing goes against our fundamental beliefs as much as having to pass up the offer of tea, cake, bacon rolls or a tin of beer, so the inability to accept these invitations was at times very distressing for us! This often resulted in 2 or 3 hours of moaning about the hardships we faced until we got the next bottle of lucozade and mars bar ingested and ‘manned up’.
The walk from Gossabrough to Burravoe is a must, the Horse of Burravoe is worth the walk alone. There is a new campsite at the Burravoe Marina and it is a great little spot with the crème da la crème of Shetlands public toilet/shower facilities. Heoga Ness should be avoided at this time of year if you have an aversion to being dive bombed by birds, although this doesn’t faze such seasoned walkers as us. We are now completed versed in the defence mechanisms for survival of such vicious attacks. One walking pole is to be either held above the head or wedged in the top of your backpack, a slight and totally ineffective crouching position is to be adopted and a fast walk straight out of Monty Python will guide you clear of all danger.
By the time Hamnavoe was reached it was getting pretty late so we decided to call it a day and heading back to Otterswick for some much needed nourishment, refreshments and entertainment. Yell often gets a hard time for being a ‘bland peat bog’ or the ‘highway to Unst’. If you just travel on the main road from Ulsta to Gutcher you won’t see much fantastic scenery. You really need to get off the beaten track to see the best of Yell and you are without a doubt rewarded in style if you make the effort, the coastal scenery we saw today was proof of that.
We decided on day 2 of Yell that we would finish off the south end of Yell as the Burravoe Hall was doing Pub Lunches as part of the Sail Yell calendar. We set off from West Sandwick and headed south towards Ulsta. The weather wasn’t on our side, with drizzly showers, interspersed by full blown rain being the theme of the day. The walking conditions from the head of Southladie Voe down around West Yell and on to Ulsta were great and I’m sure if the weather was better and our ankles and knees hurt less, the walk would actually have been enjoyable. There are some great views over Yell Sound and you get a completely different perspective on the area walking along the coast than you do from the road.
After we got to Ulsta we decided we were in need of a pit stop and headed to Burravoe for the pub lunches at the hall. We have spent a lot of days so far eating total and utter rubbish, especially days that we’ve been off the beaten path so the delicious feast of Lasagne & Chips and Apple Crumble & Ice Cream was extremely welcome. Thank you very much to everyone at the hall for their hospitality and to everyone that sponsored us.
By the time we got back West Sandwick to tackle the WS to the end of Whale Firth leg my right leg had given up and refused to be subjected to any more so Ewan did this leg by himself. He said that the scenery was fantastic in places, with the West Sandwick beach being an obvious highlight. One aspect of this walk that is worth pointing out is the high voltage electric fences. We took the advisable step of talking to the land owner in the North Haa who was kind enough to switch them off to give Ewan time to get over them. Alternatively you could just walk from the beach up around Graveland. The walking conditions are not as easy going as they were in the first half of the day and it is a good 4 hour walk. It is a worthwhile walk but there are many better stretches of coastline that can be accessed with more ease.
So by the end of day 2 in Yell there had been a good stretch of coast covered and the enthusiasm and energy levels were good, unfortunately the legs were not fairing quite so well. We hoped that the next 2 days would be kind to us and we’d get Yell finished off by Thursday and get down to start the next mainland legs by Friday so we could see some of the Tall Ships….as they say…watch this space.