island of the Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK

Yell is one of the North Isles of the Shetland Islands, north of mainland Scotland. It's 20 miles long by 5 miles wide, thinly populated: 966 as of 2011. Most visitors just race across it to catch the ferry to Unst, and from the main road they'll see little reason to linger, just miles of moorland and peat bog. More attractive is the B-road along the east coast passing small farms and crofts, through communities such as Burravoe, Otterswick, Mid-Yell the largest, Gutcher and Cullivoe. Here too are good beaches, with otters, seals and seabirds.

Get in edit

Churchyard at Mid Yell

By boat is the only way in, there's no air service. A ro-ro ferry plies between 1 Toft on Mainland Shetland and 2 Ulsta on the southwest corner of Yell. Toft is 25 miles north of Lerwick, simply follow A968 (signposted "North Isles") to its end; but if the weather looks doubtful, check the ferry status display or enquire at the office in Lerwick harbour before setting out. The Yell ferry takes 20 min and sails daily, roughly hourly, from 6:30AM to 10PM. A later sailing is available only if booked, but with that exception you seldom need to book. Until April 2025, the return fare is £2.80 per adult, child or conc £0.80, car £16.50, pay on board outbound. This covers an onward journey same day to Unst or Fetlar, so hang onto your ticket.

Once on Yell, chances are you intend to continue to Unst. Your task is therefore to traverse the 18 miles north to 3 Gutcher in time for the onward ferry. The main road A968 up Yell's west coast is narrow but by car 30 min should be plenty, factoring in stray sheep and that you need to be on the pier at least five min before sailing. You'll be in a pack of vehicles all trying to do the same thing, acting as a snowplough through the bleating, skittering flocks. By bike, say an hour with the prevailing southwesterly behind you, but maybe two hours if it's in your teeth. If time allows, take the leisurely back road along the more populated east coast.

At Gutcher, queue in Lanes 1 / 2 for Unst, or 3 / 4 for Fetlar. The Bluemull ferry takes 10 min to cross from Gutcher to Belmont on Unst, M-Sat sailing every 45 mins or so, Sun every 90 minutes to 2 hours, from 6:15AM to 20:15AM. However some five or six ferries per day follow a triangle: from Gutcher to Hamar's Ness on Fetlar (20 min) then onward to Belmont, or the reverse pattern. Assuming you started from Mainland Shetland that day, your ticket is already paid; if you started from another island it's the same fare as Mainland-Yell above.

The ferry terminals at Toft, Ulsta, Gutcher and Hamar's Ness are all pretty basic, just small waiting rooms with toilets and a timetable.

Bus 24 runs once M-F afternoon from Lerwick to Toft (via Tingwall, Voe and Mossbank) then crosses on the ferry to Yell and traverses the island to Gutcher, for the ferry to Unst. The southbound bus is around 8:30PM, so residents of the North Isles can day-trip to Lerwick for their necessities, but a day-trip out from Lerwick is not possible by bus. Consider joining an organised tour from Lerwick if you don't have your own wheels.

Get around edit

The A968 main road runs up the west side of Yell from Ulsta ferry pier via West Sandwick then northeast to Mid-Yell and Gutcher ferry pier. B9082 continues north to Cullivoe and Gloup. The other route from Ulsta is B9081 to Burravoe then along the east coast to Otterswick and Mid-Yell. All these roads are in good condition and usually very quiet, apart from a little surge around the ferry times. The B-roads and lanes are unfenced single tracks with passing places.

Bus 24 / 24Y runs M-F along the main road to Gutcher and Cullivoe. The morning bus is from Ulsta, three midday buses are from mid-Yell, and the afternoon bus is from Lerwick connecting to Unst. Other buses occasionally venture into the back lanes but these are just dial-a-ride or school buses.

See edit

  • 1 Old Haa Museum, Burravoe, Yell ZE2 9AZ. Apr-Sep: M-Th Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 2-5PM. Local museum in 1672 merchant's home. With tearoom. Donation.
  • Windhouse is the picturesque shell of an 18th century house, built for the local fishing industry. The gatehouse survives as a böd or hostel, see "Sleep".
  • Wildlife: On any stretch of coast, look for birds, seals, whales and otters. The village of Otterswick is well named as they're common here, best seen at low tide as they scamper amidst the seaweed.
  • 2 The White Wife, a ship's figurehead, is seen by hiking east to Ness of Queyon. That ship was the Bohus, a barque (three-masted sailing ship) built in Scotland and sold to Germany. In 1924 she was put to use as a sail training vessel but it looks like the students flunked, as she was wrecked here. Her original wooden figurehead has rotted away so what's here now is a fibreglass replica.
  • 3 Gloup is the little village at the end of the road on the north coast of Yell. "Gloup" is Old Norse for a ravine, suggestive of the sloshing of the sea in the base of a cleft in the cliffs. There's a memorial to the 58 fishermen of Gloup killed in July 1881 when their boats were overwhelmed by a storm. Ten boats were lost, mostly sixareens, small open boats with a crew of six each taking a single oar. They were frail craft yet often used far from land, and this was not their first such disaster; they fell out of use in the following years. The island seen half a mile offshore is Gloup Holm, with the smaller Clapper partly hidden behind; they're uninhabited.
  • 4 Fetlar is a sparsely populated island 5 miles east of Yell. A lane runs the length of it: you'll want a car, as the island Bus 29 only runs 3 times a day. It's wild and lonely, with seals and sea-birds. A curious feature is the Funzie Girt, a prehistoric stone wall (probably Neolithic) dividing the island into east and west: its northern section is the best preserved. Stone of the Ripples at Houbie is 2.3 m tall and of unknown date. No fuel or other facilities on the island, self catering accommodation may be available at Fetlar Lodge but for most visitors a day trip will be plenty. See "Get in" above for ferries from Gutcher on Yell to Hamar's Ness on the northwest tip of Fetlar. There are no direct ferries between Fetlar and Mainland Shetland, and no air service.

Do edit

Cliffs of Birrier
  • Beaches: two of the best are West Sandwick, and Breckon Sands north of Gutcher ferry pier on the lane towards Gloup.
  • Hikes recommended by Walk Highlands are Burravoe to Heoga Ness, to the White Wife of Otterswick, to Burra Ness broch, to Breckon Sands and Gloup Ness, to Gloup Voe and Scordaback, and to Stuis of Graveland.

Buy edit

  • Aywick Shop east side is open M-F 8:30AM-8PM, Sa 8:30AM-6PM, Su 2-5PM.
  • Hilltop in Mid Yell is open M-Sa 9:15AM-5:45PM, Su 10:15AM-3PM.
  • 1 Brough Store, Meadow Bank Rd, Burravoe, Shetland ZE2 9AY. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Small kiosk with groceries at the pier, next to The Old Haa.
  • 2 R.S. Henderson - Shop, +44 1957 744248, . M-W 9AM-5PM, Tu-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-4PM, Su closed.
  • Buy a castle, anyone? Brough Lodge on Fetlar is a Gothic shambles built in 1820. It's derelict and in 2023 is for sale for £30,000, but whoever snaps up this bargain will need to spend £12 million to restore it.

Eat edit

  • LJ's Diner, Mid Yell ZE2 9BN, +44 1957 702349. May-Sep: Th-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Bright cafe with burgers, pizza and similar diner-type fare.
  • Old Haa Museum has a tearoom.

Drink edit

The White Wife: her students flunked


Sleep edit

There's little accommodation on Yell.

  • 1 Windhouse Böd, Yell ZE2 9BJ, +44 1595 694688, . A Böd is a Shetland fisherman's seasonal cabin. Several have been converted for self-catering: this one sleeps 8 in 3 rooms and is open March-Oct. Bring lots of £1 coins for the electricity meter. (Closed in 2022.)
  • 2 Burravoe Caravan Site and Marina, Burravoe, Yell ZE2 9AY. Open all year, with small camping and caravan hook-ups, marina with hook-ups. Small service building, two toilets, one shower, washing machine/ tumble dryer. No booking. Camping: £7/tent, £15/caravan.
  • 3 Quam B&B, West Sandwick, Yell ZE2 9BH, +44 1957 766 256, . Friendly well-run B&B with two doubles and one twin room. Can provide dinner. B&B double £80.
  • Old Post Office, Gutcher Ferry Pier, Yell YE2 9DF, +44 1957 744 293, . B&B with two singles and one double room. B&B double £90.

Stay safe edit

Fetlar: a day-trip is long enough

This is a remote rural area with few man-made hazards. Dress for the weather and take care of dogs and children near cliffs.

Connect edit

As of Nov 2021, the mobile signal is very patchy 3G, strongest with Three.

Go next edit

Ferries from Yell go north to Unst and east to Fetlar, but eventually you have to return south to Mainland Shetland.

This city travel guide to Yell is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.