North Roe is almost as far north as you can go in Mainland Shetland. It lies near the northern tip of Northmavine where Sand Voe and Burra Voe almost turn the rocky headland of Fethaland into an island.
North of the turn-off to Hillswick the road to North Roe is single track. Shetland's roads are the best in Scotland, and even their single track roads are maintained to a standard that other, less oil rich, local authorities could only dream of. For more information about Scotland's single track roads and how to drive them, visit our feature page on driving single track roads.
On arrival in North Roe you find a crofting township that was well established complete with a church in the late 1500s. It is a widely dispersed settlement around east-facing Burra Voe. It is home to a shop, school and two churches, including the Church of Scotland built in 1870.
The main road continues a little beyond North Roe, where it ends at the farm at Isbister. A track running north from Isbister leads to the rocky bay at Fethaland, where the remains of twenty lodges can be seen from the fishing station that was built here at the end of the 1700s. Up to sixty six-oared "sixareens" were based here at the height of activity, needing 360 fishermen to crew them. These open fishing boats often stayed at sea for many days at a time.
In 1839 a visiting Danish diplomat remarked upon the absence of women from the hamlet, which he said was occupied only by weatherbeaten seamen. It is perhaps not surprising that so little remains of it today. The Point of Fethaland, just to the north of the remains of Fethaland, is home to an automatic lighthouse placed here in 1977 to help guide the way into Sullom Voe.
Another road from North Roe leads across the isthmus on which it sits to Sandvoe, a farming settlement that lies just beyond the beach at the head of Sand Voe, a north-facing rocky inlet.
North Roe retains a pier and the odd boat can be seen hauled out of the water. But most fishing activity has now moved a couple of miles south to Collafirth Pier, opened in 1988 at the north end of Colla Firth on the site of an old Norwegian whaling station.