West of here, the middle part of Yell is virtually empty. Travellers on the main road north from the ferry terminus at Ulsta will pass by the tiny coastal settlements of Scatterlands, Gardins and West Sandwick with its attractive beach. But otherwise the road passes over the uninhabited peat blanket that characterises so much of Yell.
Most travellers will notice the ruins of 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. Windhouse was built in 1707 and rebuilt in 1880, on a site that shows signs of habitation dating back continuously for several thousand years. Windhouse looks like a caricature haunted house, and it is no surprise to find it is believed to be one.
The tiny settlement of Grimister on Whale Voe used to be a herring fishery, now long disused. Whale Voe is so lonely that it was used as a hiding place by German U-boats during the first world war: today it is, if anything, even more deserted than it was then.
The Vikings founded a settlement beside the inlet they called Reydarfjordur, probably in the 800s. By the 1500s this had become Refurd or Reafirthand, and the name of the settlement was later changed to Mid Yell. Fishing has been important to the village throughout its history, though it had only a wooden pier until the one you see today was built in 1953. The wooden pier had been used by steamers from Lerwick since the 1800s.
Mid Yell Voe is deep and sheltered, and its attractions as a port continue today, though the direct steamers have long since been replaced by the short car ferry crossings. The mouth of Mid Yell Voe is protected from the weather by the uninhabited island of Hascosay. This is believed to have magical soil that deters mice.
In 1962 the depopulation of Yell was becoming a concern and Mid Yell became a focus for the provision of services for the island as a whole. This was a process that really took off when the oil money started to flow into the Shetland economy in the 1970s.
The result is the village you see today, a thriving community that offers a school and medical services, shops and a harbour that includes one of the smallest petrol stations you are likely to see anywhere. More recently a leisure centre has been added, and Mid Yell is also home to two fish processing factories.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map