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The Bluemull Sound Ferry at Gutcher
The Bluemull Sound Ferry at Gutcher

Yell is Shetland's second largest island, a rough rectangle measuring about 17 miles north to south by 6 miles east to west. The population in 1991 was just over 1000, down from a maximum of over 2600 at the time of the 1841 census.

Beach at Mid Yell
Beach at Mid Yell
Marina at Burra Voe
Marina at Burra Voe
The Windhouse
The Windhouse

Much of the inland areas of Yell are under a blanket of peat up to 10ft deep. Yell is the least cultivated of Shetland's inhabited islands. Its settlements tend to lie around the coastal fringe.

Farm at Gloup
Farm at Gloup
The Yell Ferry at Toft
The Yell Ferry at Toft

Shetland Islands Council suggest you can cross Yell from the terminus for the ferry from the mainland at Ulsta to the terminus for the Bluemull Sound ferry to Unst and Fetlar at Gutcher, a distance of 18 miles, in 25 minutes. In good weather this is probably true, which is an indication both of the very high quality of the roads and the low level of traffic you are likely to find on them. But crossing Yell in 25 minutes shows you very little of what this fascinating island has to offer.

The one feature the direct route does reveal is the ruin of the Windhouse, looming above the main road on a hillside close to where the island is almost bisected by Mid Yell Voe from the east and Whale Firth from the west. The site of the Windhouse has been occupied for thousands of years and this creepy, forbidding ruin is said to haunted.

If time permits, you should avoid the main road and cross Yell via the minor, single track road, that leads west from Ulsta to Burravoe. This lies close to its south east corner of the island. The road then heads north past a series of small coastal settlements to the village of Mid Yell, the largest on the island.

North from Mid Yell brings you back onto the main road to Gutcher and the ferry to Unst. But if you still have time you should take the minor road north along the east coast of the island. This passes the settlement of Cullivoe before meeting the north coast of the island at Breckon.

Two miles west of here is Gloup, where the deep and steep sided Gloup Voe cuts into the north coast. Here too is the Gloup fishermen's memorial, recording the loss of 58 men, the entire male population of the area, when a sudden storm overwhelmed the fishing fleet on 21 July 1881.

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