Stuis of Graveland, Yell

by Elizabeth Atia -

The island of Yell, to me, has always been this flat, brown, uninteresting (except for Windhouse) stretch of road one rushes through to catch the next ferry to the island of Unst.

I've felt a bit guilty for thinking this, for awhile, especially after being told quite frequently that Yell has many beautiful places to explore if you deviate from that main stretch of flat road up the middle of it.

So, yesterday a friend and I made plans to go and explore a stretch of the coastline - the Stuis of Graveland, on the north west tip of Whale Firth.

Our trip began at the village of Gremister, down a short track turning off just before Windhouse. We parked the car and headed down the dirt road identified on our OS map. We walked up past Grommond, stopping for a bite of lunch before carrying on over the snow covered heather terrain by the loch of Graveland.

This stretch of land was pretty wet and unremarkable, although the views back over snow covered Gremister were pretty spectacular.

It wasn't until we got nearer to the Stuis of Graveland itself that things really started to get interesting. The hill rises up into a point with dramatic sheer cliffs dropping into the sea. Ern Stack juts up out of the sea like a dragon tooth and the views out over the North Sea are simply breathtaking. This was made even more pleasant by the fact the sun was shining brightly down upon us and there was barely a breath of wind. Ern Stack was one of the last known nesting sites of the Shetlandlandic sea eagles, recorded in 1910.

We didn't go all the way out to the point as we had originally intended as the short legs of our walking companion were complaining about the elevation, so we turned back south along the west coast to Mass John's House (there's no sign of a house here) and, to our delight, The Eigg - a stunning sheer cliff facing due west.

This place was simply magical - there is something exhilirating, breathaking (and vertigo inducing!) about standing on the top of a sheer cliff looking out over the sea and it was nice to see a few fulmars nesting in the cliffs. I've missed the sound of the seabirds during winter walks and it's nice to see them returning after a winter at sea.

Dramatic sea cliffs and stunning scenery? What dramatic sea cliffs and stunning scenery - there's ice to be smashing with my walking stick! Priorities, right?

The sun was just setting as we returned to Grimister with smiles on our faces. It was fantastic to have explored a new, unfamiliar area, and standing on The Eigg was definitely one of the highlights of the walk.

This is the route we had originally intended on taking, but we cut it a bit short crossing back to the village east of Virdi Water (where we watched an oil tanker coming in to Sullom Voe) and around The Herra.

All in all it was a pretty fantastic day's adventuring. With thanks to Chris McGinlay (of Nordic fire log fame) for planning out the route and inviting us along for the adventure and teaching us how to use a map and compass properly!

I have now fallen in love with Yell. I will be back - there's so much more to explore!