One of the best bits of putting this month’s magazine together has been having a good excuse to travel to the islands of Yell and Unst. My urge to fully explore these two fascinating places has not yet been sated, and I’m well aware that the all-too-short jaunts I’ve made have only scratched the surface.
The first of two recent trips north was to Unst, where I spent a wonderful long weekend with my family in the tranquil surroundings of Gardiesfauld Hostel in Uyeasound. We were blessed with blue skies and sunshine the whole weekend long, and it was an effort to leave the hostel’s beautiful bluebell bedecked garden – but I’m glad we did eventually gather the momentum to get out and about and enjoy Unst’s many splendid walks and beaches, as well as a hike to Hermaness Nature Reserve and a painstakingly thorough cake sampling session at Victoria’s Vintage Tearooms in Haroldswick.
Are you heading to Unstfest this month? If so, get set for a jam-packed few days. The programme looks incredible: with everything from Flamenco classes to guided walks, to clothes swaps and mystery tours there’s surely something for even the most jaded of festival goers. A copy of the Shetland Life makes for essential festival reading: in this issue you can find out about the island which (quite possibly) inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel, go behind the scenes at the UK’s most northerly tearoom and enjoy some nostalgic photographs of Unst (courtesy of Dennis Coutts).
The second of my northern jaunts was to Yell. This took place in rather less sparkling weather, but this didn’t matter one bit because I happened to be visiting a real-life treasure trove and its sparkling owner, the artist and maker Jeanette Nowak. Actually, Jeanette matter-of-factly refers to her treasure trove as a “shed”, but you can make up your own mind about which term you prefer when you read our feature “The Shedologist of Yell” on page 4. Huge thanks to Jeanette for her kind hospitality throughout the visit and to Charlie Inskter for the accompanying photographs.
Nowadays, there’s plenty of reasons to visit Yell. Apart from the obvious attractions such as West Sandwick and Breckon Beaches, Yell boats numerous cultural distractions such as The Shetland Gallery and The Old Haa museum and Heritage Centre. Now that recently opened diner L J’s is getting rave reviews, you’ll be able to factor a delicious meal into your trip too.
With contributions from both Yell and Unst creative writing groups, a North Isles favourite walk feature by Alistair Christie Johnson and insider recommendation from locals, we hope that this issue inspires you to head North very soon.
Although we could have found enough North Isles content to fill a year’s worth of magazines, you’ll find that other parts of Shetland are also well represented within these pages. Look out for South Mainland legend Leonard Christie sharing the tracks of his life with Jeff Merrifield. We’re also hanging out in the Lerwick lanes with local artist Avril Thomson, spending time in the seas around Shetland (admiring jellyfish) with Richard Shucksmith and at the Hillswick Wildlife sanctuary with Katrina Williamson.
Wishing all of our readers a warm and wonderful July. Next month, we’ll be going full steam ahead for our special nautical issue. Don’t miss it!