You will hear this from me over and over again – Shetland is a marvellous place for walking. What I appreciate most is the easy access and the fact that you’re never far from a great walk. Since our coastline is fairly long (1679 miles) you can pick a section and set off for a walk anywhere and you will be guaranteed spectacular sights along your way. Often, when you least expect it, after climbing a hill, you will be rewarded by the most unexpected views. Inlets, stacks, sea caves, secret beaches, abandoned settlements… these are just some of the wonders you’ll find.
My favourite walks are the circular ones when you head inland and return to your starting point following the coastline. That way you’ve done the hard work at the beginning of the walk and although walking along the coastline can often be a little demanding, as Shetland’s landscape is mostly hilly, your mind will be taken off this by enjoying beautiful vistas.
When I get asked about my favourite walks I always struggle to pick, as there are so many, but if I were to recommend five places for a week-long walking holiday in Shetland I’d say: Hermaness (Unst), Deepdale, Hams of Roe, Culswick and Clibberswick (Unst). But the ultimate one would be Uyea.
This is one of Shetland’s wildest and most challenging hikes but the effort is well worth it. The first time I hiked to Uyea was almost 20 years ago, when I was a student, during my working summer holiday in Shetland. My high school exchange family and I became great friends, and it was through their love walking and exploring Shetland that I fell in love with the place myself. So one weekend, when I was off work, they took me camping in North Roe which was our base for our Uyea and Fethaland walks.
I don’t remember much from the walking to Uyea, apart from the fact that it was a fairly windy day and I felt exhausted after a week of working long hours, but when we reached the beach there was the reward – it felt like reaching paradise. I had never seen anything like that before. The white sands of the beach and the turquoise sea shimmering in the sunshine made a profound and lasting impression on me, and since those days I have been treasuring these precious memories. I am forever grateful to have met my host parents, Beth and Ian, who showed me some of the most beautiful places in Shetland and taught me the appreciation off for long hikes, al fresco lunches and dipping in the bracing Shetland sea. A true freedom to roam.
For all these years I’ve been wanting to return to Uyea but for some reason things were always busy or the weather wasn’t right… But this year things are different and I’m so glad I could finally come back to this incredible place. I hope you enjoy these photos (I took hundreds!) and hopefully you’ll get a flavour of this stunning part of Shetland.
In case you are interested in more details, we started the walk from the North Roe school and followed a track for most of the way to Uyea. From there we followed the coastline to Sandvoe and then back to North Roe. You can see a map and more details here. The walk took approximately six hours and the distance is roughly 10 miles. My smart watch indicated we climbed an equivalent of almost 330 floors! So be prepared, take a good packed lunch and plenty water with you, as well as a wind and waterproof jacket as the weather can change fairly quickly in Shetland. We ate our lunch above the Uyea beach admiring the views. Sadly I don’t think it’s safe to climb down to the beach and although some people probably do, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Just a few things to notice on your way: a cairn just a little off the track; past Mill Loch. This is a site of a Neolithic axe factory and quarry. The felsite rock quarried here only occurs in Britain in this area. The majority of Neolithic knives found in Shetland are fashioned from felsite and axes made here were exported to Scotland and England. [Source: Walking the Coastline of Shetland No.4 Northmavine, Peter Guy]. Unusual looking rocks at Wilgi Geos, which are the oldest in Shetland at more than 2,500 million years old. Burn of Sandvoe and a beach at Roer Mill, where there is a ruined booth (bod). From here, as you follow the burn upstream you’ll come across a ruined water mill. A lovely sandy beach at Sandvoe where you can enjoy a well deserved rest after the walk.