Just like on Unst, we had no trouble getting into the rhythm of the island of Yell, if you can even sense a rhythm. The weather continued its cruel and capricious ways but we moseyed here and there, enjoying the untamed landscape.
I saw that some strong winds were predicted and looked for a bit of shelter while we wait for better conditions.
When the parkup apps fail us I turn to Google maps and follow the roads looking for a layby or car park that’s away from houses and likely to be quiet overnight. In Shetland the small marinas where locals keep their fishing boats often have a level place to pull in, with the bonus of a harbor or sea view. In high winds, being down at sea level can also mean shelter from surrounding hills.
I found us a likely spot in a quiet marina car park with a boat ramp that looked like it didn’t get much use. We parked Escape Velocity to leave as much room as possible just in case someone wanted to launch a skiff in the morning.
Sure enough, after a stormy night we were awakened by a van and utility trailer backing up past us to the ramp.
It was rainy and muddy but I jumped out of the van to talk to the driver.
“Do you want us to move?” I asked.
“Nah, you’re fine. I can get past you,” he said, or the Shetlandic equivalent. “This isn’t my first rodeo.”
He told me he and a friend keep sheep on a small island out in the strait and it’s time to clip them. Rather than bring the sheep back ashore, they set up a mobile sheering station and on this day they’re transporting everything they need out to the island.
“We’ll be back and forth all day,” he said, and we watched as they made trip after trip, transporting ATVs, lengths of fencing, and whatever else they’d need to corral and sheer the sheep. It was bitter cold and wet and their hands grew red and chapped but they carried on cheerfully, working together as a practiced team.
“Now we just have to wait for better weather,” they told us as they left at the end of the day. “Nobody else will be down here. You’ll be fine.”
We stayed a second night to wait out the worst of the weather, then feeling the need for hot showers and laundry, we checked into a campground. It’s payment by honesty box, like so much here, and the amenities block has an old lifeboat for a roof, not an uncommon sight hereabouts.
During the day we saw the Google Street View car drive down to the water and back again. It’s the second time we saw the Google car on Yell and I was happy to see it. I often travel the roads virtually with Street View to make sure a route is suitable for our van or to scope out a potential parkup, and Yell’s coverage needs a bit of an update.
Our Ordnance Survey map and the AllTrails app both recommended a hike up to the nearby cliffs and despite the spitting, gusty weather we determined to do our best imitation of the locals and tramp the soggy sheep meadows.
The payoff was a fun half hour of watching puffins, who seemed as interested in us as we were in them.
Eventually the damp chased us back down the hill to a warm Escape Velocity and clean clothes.
We ended our time on Yell with a visit to the Old Haa Museum, housed in a historic house furnished as it was in the day, and displaying portraits of notable Yell-ers.
I hope they find a photo of Nancy Johnson. We never did see her “poems on da po” though we did see others’ in various public toilets around Shetland.
Weeks ago I made our reservation for the ferry to Orkney but we realized there’s so much more we want to do in Shetland so we rescheduled it. We took the small ferry from Yell back to the Shetland mainland, determined to make the most of the time we have left.