Manson's Guide to Shetland - Page 7 - North Northmavine, Fedeland, Oya

The tract of land lying north of Rønies Hill—about four miles broad and seven or eight at its longest, has several features of interest in it, and though not scenically so fine as west Northmavine, it has greater heights and finer vistas than the south-east area. The principal place, and the place where the visitor to north Northmavine will probably stay, is North R0, the district immediately surrounding Burra Voe, about eleven miles by road from Hillswick and seven from Ollaberry.

Manson's Guide to ShetlandThe approach to this northern area is by the main road from the vicinity of Rønies Voe, or joining it thereabouts from Ollaberry. Queyfirth is passed, a short voe with a fine long ayre, behind which is a splendid tidal basin which never ebbs out. Almost immediately after this, Collafirth is seen spread out below—a spacious, square-shaped inlet of the sea, down to which slope the eastern spurs of Rønies Hill, under the names Collafirth Hill and the Bjorgs of Collafirth. Prominent on the north-east side of Collafirth itself is seen Lochend House, near which is the grave of Robert Camperdown Haldane, a former proprietor of the Lochend estate, who claimed; descent from a Viking , Danish King, called Halfdene. At the north-west comer of Collafirth the road curves round, over the Burn of R0rwater, and high above a fine modem herring-station (one of the few country herring-stations in Shetland) occupying the site of an old whaling station of the Norwegians. The road then sweeps round the side of a high rock-strewn hill, called the Bjorgs of Hooster. On the south, of this hill a caim of stones has had attached to it the legend of a giant, who, desiring to build a bridge across Yellsound, emptied his maisie (a net of wide mesh) of stones here. A curious, ringed enclosure of rocks, back over from these bjorgs, is called the Giant's Yard, and two standing-stones seen near the road are supposed to denote his grave.

With a long hill shutting out the coast, the road now dips a little and comes in sight of the toonships of North R0, in scattered formation round the slopes of the circular-shaped voe, the northern shore of which is beautified by a beach of large white stones, and off which lie the Holms of Burravoe. A sunken rock named the Flais ("flat skerry") occupies the middle of the entrance to the voe, and immediately on the north side of the entrance there is a cave which, during heavy sea and certain states of the tide, acts like the Cannon in Eshaness and shoots out the water. In this Ness of Burravoe also are the Graavin Hols, often called just "Da Graavins," being deep fissures in the ground, large and dangerous, but beautified by a wealth of fems.

Manson's Guide to ShetlandApart from motoring to any part of Northmavine, or indeed of Shetland, a great deal of interesting walking can be done from North R0 as a centre. Along the shore south-east from North R0 the Kames of Calsta are passed—rather in-accessible rocks, but once much used as craig-seats for sea-fishing. Seaward, and further south, are strong tides and sunken rocks. Lastly, just north of Lochend, we come to the Skerries of Skea, which for the last two seasons have been the haunt of a family of grey seals. This walk is about three miles from North R0 and three miles back. Nearer at hand, about a mile to the south-west, lie the Bjorgs of Skelberry (649 feet) from which a comprehensive view of Yellsound, Yell, and the islands, promontories and voes to the south, is obtained.

But turning south and west, while on the top of these bjorgs, the visitor will see before him, and almost on his own level, a wide plateau, bounded on the south by Rønies Hill (not so very high in appearance from here) and on the west and north by the ocean. The chief feature of this plateau, is the enormous number of lochs of all sizes, that lie sparkling in the light. If he walks among these lochs the visitor should take care not to go near excessively green patches, as these are dangerous bogs. Due west from the Bjorgs lies Lang Clodie Wick, and south from it, the Valla Kames and the Stonga Banks, and from the Wick the North R0 visitant may chance to spy his fellows of the Hillswick contingent in a motor-boat creeping along far below.At the Valla Kames and Stonga Banks are deep dangerous fissures in the ground similar to the Graavin Hols at North R0. The largest of the lochs on the plateau is R0r Water, a large sheet of water, ideal for angling; and going down its large burn, the Burn of R0rwater, the visitor will be led to join the main road at Collafirth above the herring station, where the burn enters the sea. Thence he may walk or drive home. Such a tour would mean possibly ten or eleven miles.


The best-known of the North R0 sights, however, is Fedeland, the extreme north point of the Mainland, lying three and a half or four miles by road and path north of North R0. The road continues suitable for vehicles as far as Isbister, passing on the left hand Sand Voe, a beautiful sheltered spot for bathing. North from here a peninsula stretches to Fedeland. The houses of Benigarth are passed, (where the photograph was taken for the illustration entitled, In the Cornyard), and, beyond two lochs. Setter. Prom here it is over a mile to the headland of Fedeland, remarkable for its beautiful green pastures, and whence one regards a long-shaped peninsula, the Isle of Fedeland, joined to the headland by an isthmus which forms the East and West Ayres. On this isthmus are seen the remains of about twenty huts, in which the haaf fishermen had their summer quarters till less than than half a century ago (see General and Historical Introduction for the Haaf Fishing).

Here both Hibbert and Ployen when they visited the Islands found the utmost activity and the best illustrations of the mode of prosecuting that fishing; and it must indeed have been a picturesque and cheering sight here to see boats coming and going, the men and boys on shore busy in all the operations of weighing and curing the fish on the beach, and the smoke of fires ascending from the huts. Just north of the East Ayre is a small gio—Kleber Gio— so called because it contains a mass of steatite, a kind of soapstone, called in Shetland kleber, on which, as Tudor says, "countless generations of fishermen have carved their names like so many schoolboys." Near here, in the same series of rocks, are curious circles cut deep into the rock, which have aroused the interest of archaeologists. From the top of the Isle of Fedeland a good view is obtained all round. A mile to the north lies the grassy Isle of Gr0ney, and just beyond are the Ramna Stacks, dangerous rocks, but looking well from here with the sea breaking over them. To the east lies Yell, with Unst beyond, and at nighttime the flash of the Muckle Flugga lighthouse is clearly seen. To the south-west is seen the north coast of Northmavine, much-indented, running roughly west from Sand Voe, to the "comer" at Oya, off which lies the isle of the same name, distant about six miles via Sandvoe from Fedeland.


Oya may be sought from Fedeland, but more probably a day will be set apart for walking directly to it from North Ro, a distance of three and a half or four miles—unless arrangements can be made for a boat from Sandvoe on a fine day. In exact correspondence with Fedeland, the land at Oya, and the actual island itself, bear beautiful green pasture. At Oya in the north-west comer of the tract, eighty people once lived, where there are now only a shepherd and his family; and though the beach of Burner Wick (between Oya, the island, and the land) was not suitable for curing fish, the place was a notable station for haaf boats. On the land at Oya there are innumerable rabbits. At certain states of the tide it is possible to walk over to the island, in which there is a fine cave down on Millja Saand. A more wonderful cave, however, Kettlebaak Cave, is in the cliffs facing west in the ness to the south of the isle, and is accessible with the aid of a local guide. The unique thing about this cave is the "baak" or "beam" formed by the natural arch right across it about two-thirds up. in the days of the press-gang this cave was a favourite hiding-place, for the "baak," which could be climbed up to, made detection almost impossible. Though an expedition to 0ya is itself a task, it may be mentioned that from its vicinity it is five or six miles along the top of the West Banks to the Stonga Banks, whence rises one of the easiest approaches to the top of Rønies Hill.


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