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Shetland: Descriptive and Historical
Part II: Chapter 21


YELL SOUND TO SULEM VOE

Lnnna Ness—Yell Sound—Its Islands—Its Tideways—Coast of North Delting— Sulem Voe—Mavisgrind—The Road there.

BIDDING farewell to Lunnasting, we leave the Voe of Vidlin, and shape our course in a north-easterly direction along the shores of Lunna Ness. This large peninsular promontory stretches out into the sea for a distance of about four miles. It contains few inhabitants, and is almost entirely devoted to pasture. At its point is a low green islet, termed Lunna Holm. Having either sailed round the Holm, or through the narrow sound separating it from the Ness, we take a north-westerly direction, and find we have entered Yell Sound. This great stretch of water lies between the island of Yell and the northern portions of the Mainland. It is studded over with islands, more or less picturesque, all of which, from the rich succulent grass they yield, afford excellent pasturage. Cattle and sheep fed in such places have always been more esteemed in Shetland than those from the pasture of the larger islands. Of these isles Fish Holm, Sam-phray, Bigga, Brother Isle, and Lamma, all were peopled about fifty years ago; but they were from time to time, “laid down to grazing,” until Little Roe was the only one in the group that could boast of human inhabitants. Recently, however, it has shared the same fate. Many voes, some of them running far into the land, open into Yell Sound. This arrangement is particularly observable in North Delting. The Sound is almost constantly agitated by fiercely-conflicting tides,, frequently heaving up tremendous billows, and rendering its passage by boats most dangerous, if not impossible. The number of isles and rocks by which their course is obstructed, together with the circumstance that the tide of one end of the strait is an hour later than that at the other, seems to account for these phenomena. These tideways form a favourite resort for all kinds of fish, especially the sillock, which is often caught in myriads in Yell Sound and its tributary voes.

In sailing up these troubled waters, let us keep close to the Mainland, since we have already attempted to take a bird’s eye view of Yell. Proceeding northwards, and looking into the common entrance to the fine voes of Swining, Colafirth, Deal, and Firth, we soon reach Mossbank, with its large mercantile establishment, and neat U.P. Church and manse. This place is also of importance as the chief ferry between the Mainland and Yell. Here also the telegraph cable, which connects the North Isles with the Mainland, is laid. All the way up the Sound, we have, on the right, a fine view of its bonny isles.

Having doubled the Ness of Calback, four or five miles beyond Mossbank, we reach the mouth of Sulem Voe. It is by far the largest voe in the country, running as it does into the land for about ten miles, and separating Delting from Northmavine. To the eye of the stranger, it looks more like the mouth of a great river than a land-locked arm i>f the sea. Let us sail up through it, and look if anything interesting can be seen on the shores of Sulem Yoe and its tributary branches of Garth and Voxter. The land along its shores slopes gradually towards the sea. It is generally pretty green with verdure, and in several places is cultivated. The places of most note on the left, or Delting bank, are the town and farm of Garth, the parish kirk of Scatsta, and the new and handsome manse at Voxter. On the right, or Northmavine bank, Sulem, with its good fields, numerous cottages, and little Congregational chapel, is the only place of importance. The head of Sulem Voe is only a few hundred yards from that of Busta, on the west side of the island—a strip of land, not much above the level of the sea, separating them. It has frequently been proposed to connect them by a canal, which would tend greatly to further commerce and to develop the resources of the country. It would not be very expensive, as few rocks are met with along the line proposed.

But one of the upper and more westerly reaches of this voe brings the waters of the east and those of the west of Shetland (that is, those of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean), into much greater proximity. At Mavisgrind, the entrance to the great peninsula of Northmavine, a narrow isthmus of rock, not more than thirty or forty yards wide, separates the two seas. The construction of the county road, immediately before it reaches this point, is a great triumph of engineering skill. For several hundred yards it winds round the base of an almost perpendicular cliff, being laid on a bulwark of large stones built into the sea. It is very pleasant to walk along this level path, with the still waters of the voe below, and the towering cliffs above —their clefts decorated here and there by the dog-rose and other wild plants and shrubs.


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