Breckon

Yell's furthest north beach at Breckon is often sheltered from Shetland's prevailing south westerly winds. Take the track to the right, just past the Strawberry Farm and visit the ancient ruined church of St Olaf, the old Kirk of Ness. Little remains now of what would have been a small, but sturdy stone building. The cemetery has been recently enlarged and much of the history of the island can be learned from the gravestones.

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Difficultly LevelModerate
Walk Distance3.8km for shorter walk; 9.2km for longer walk
Duration2 hours (short walk) or 4 hours 30 minutes (longer walk)
Height Gain40m
Map DescriptionOS Explorer 470: Shetland - Unst, Yell & Fetlar
Start Point Map ReferenceHP 531 049

Directions to Start

Yell is accessible by inter-island ferry, and there is public transport available to the ferry terminal and on Yell itself; the bus timetable can be found here.

Yell's furthest north beach at Breckon is often sheltered from Shetland's prevailing southwesterly winds. Take the road to the right, just past the Strawberry Farm and visit the ancient ruined church of St Olaf, the old Kirk of Ness. Little remains now of what would have been a small, but sturdy stone building. The cemetery has been recently enlarged and much of the history of the island can be learned from the gravestones.

Between the old kirk and the loch which took its name, another ruin stands among tumbled walls and plentiful nettle beds. Toft was a busy working croft, with rigs, narrow strips of cultivation, and the loch for a water supply. Now sand has blown and weeds have grown high all round it. The whole area is full of wild flowers in spring and summer.

From here, you can follow the line of the burn that drains between deep banks and sand dunes to the Sands of Breckon. As the banks level out, you can see fascinating alignments of big boulders in several places. People have built homes and worked the land, here, from the earliest periods of human settlement in Shetland. Sadly however, so much storm damage and sand blow has occurred, that systematic archaeological analysis has been said to be impossible, as all the periods have been jumbled up.

Nearby Sites of Interest

  • The Old Haa in Burravoe is worth exploring to relive the tales of the shipwrecks in the area. You can grab a coffee and homebake whilst you’re there, too!
  • The Sands of Breckon beach is one of the five beaches in Shetland to hold a ‘Keep Scotland Beautiful’ Seaside Award; two of which can be found on Yell. The West Sandwick beach, on Yell’s west coast, in a tranquil stop-off you should try not to miss before leaving the isle.
  • The Shetland Gallery, open from May-September, houses a collection of contemporary Shetland artwork and crafts, and is situated at Sellafirth, just off the main road through the island. Well worth a visit on your way to or from this walk.

Beyond the settlement remains, the narrow headland of Ness of Houlland stretches out to the northwest, ending in the ragged rocky Outsta Ness, much frequented by seabirds of all kinds. A scramble out here used to be an exciting challenge, but further erosion by winter seas has made it dangerous now. There are fine views from here to the west side of Unst and along the north coast of Yell.

There have been many shipwrecks along this stretch of coastline. If you have time to visit the local museum in Burravoe, you can read some of the harrowing accounts and see artefacts washed up or retrieved by divers. Ask about the Lastdregger and the Diana in particular.

From the Ness of Houlland, make your way back to the fine sandy beach, with sand dunes behind. Otters are often seen here and if you are interested in stones, hunt among the crevices of the rocks at the eastern end for rough "sugary" garnets, which sometimes get washed out of the more crumbly mica schists. The geology here is interesting, with much faulting and folding.

Retrace your route, or clamber up the south end of the beach to reach the farm track and return to the main road. If you wish, you can continue round the coast to the west, You will pass more prehistoric sites, and more attractive cliff scenery as you skirt the hill of Brimness and Head for Gloup. Here you can visit the memorial carved and erected in memory of fifty eight Shetland fishermen who were caught by appalling weather in July 1881. The boats set out from Gloup Voe, just below where the memorial stands.

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Areas

Difficulty Level

  • Easy Walks: under 4 kilometers, usually suitable for majority abilities.
  • Moderate Walks: under 8 kilometers, usually suitable for most abilities. Walks surface may be loose, uneven and muddy. Sensible footwear required.
  • Longer Walks: over 8 kilometers, usually suitable for those with a good standard of fitness. Walks surface likely to be more challenging, loose, uneven and muddy. Stout waterproof footwear with ankle support required.
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