Phone code: +44 (0)1806
The main road north from Lerwick branches at Voe, a peaceful and colourful little village nestling in a bay at the head of the Olna Firth. One branch leads to the Yell car and passenger ferry terminal at Toft, past the turn-off to the massive Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, the largest oil and liquefied gas terminal in Europe. The other road heads northwest to Brae (see below).
Local Sights & Activities for North Mainland
Brae is not a very pretty place and was built to accommodate workers at the nearby Sullom Voe oil terminal. It does boast a good selection of accommodation and decent facilities, though, and makes a good base from which to explore the wild and wonderful coastal scenery around the Northmavine peninsula to the north. There's also good walking and spectacularly good westerly views around the island of Muckle Roe to the southwest, and up the island's small hill, South Ward (554 ft). But be careful of the overly protective bonxies, or great skuas, which will attack if you get too close. The island is attached to the mainland by a bridge.
The best place to stay around Brae, or anywhere else on Shetland, is the B - Busta House Hotel, Tel. 522506, Busta House Hotel A luxurious and wonderfully atmospheric 16th-century country house overlooking Busta Voe about 1€ miles from Brae village. The superb restaurant (mid-range to expensive) is the finest on Shetland, with a selection of malts to match, and there are also meals in the bar.
There are also several B&Bs to choose from, including D - Valleyfield Guest House, Tel. 522563; and E - Drumquin Guest House, Tel. 522621, both with dinner available. On Muckle Roe is E - Westayre, Tel. 522368, which is a working croft. A good place to eat, other than Busta House, is the Mid Brae Inn which serves great food daily till 2100. Transport
Buses from Lerwick to Hillswick (see below) and to Toft Mossbank (see under Yell below) stop in Brae.
Mavis Grind, the narrow isthmus where it's claimed you can throw a stone from the Atlantic to the North Sea, leads into Northmavine, the northwest peninsula of North Mainland. This is excellent walking country, and it's a good idea to abandon the car and explore it on foot. Hillswick Ness, to the south of Hillswick village, is a nice walk, but further west, around the coastline of Eshaness, is the most spectacular cliff scenery and amazing natural features, all with unusual and evocative names.
North of the lighthouse are the Holes of Scraada, Grind o' da Navir and the Villians of Hamnavoe, which are not the local gangs but eroded lava cliffs with blowholes, arches and caves. East of Eshaness are the Heads of Grocken and The Drongs, a series of exposed sea stacks, which offer superb diving. Further north, overlooking the deep sea inlet of Ronies Voe, is the dramatic red granite bulk of Ronies Hill (1,477 ft), with a well-preserved burial cairn at the summit. The coastal scenery to the north and west of here is even more breathtaking, but very remote and exposed. You should be well equipped before setting out. A useful guide is Walking the Coastline of Northmavine by Peter Guy.
Between Eshaness and Hillswick, a side road leads south to the Tangwick Haa Museum, which features displays and photographs on the history of fishing and whaling and the hardships of life in these parts. Info - May-Sep Mon-Fri 1300-1700, Sat and Sun 1100-1900. Free.
This is one of Shetland's most dramatic and beautiful areas, with rugged scenery, spectacular coastline and wide empty spaces.
North Mainland Hotels & Accommodation
Accommodation is available at E - Almara, Tel. 503261, at Upper Urafirth. In Hillswick is The Booth, Shetland's oldest pub, which serves food daily in summer. In Hamnavoe, reached by a side road which branches north from the road between Hillswick and Eshaness, you can stay at Johnny Notion's Camping Böd, birthplace of John Williamson, known as 'Johnny Notion', an 18th-century craftsman who developed an effective innoculation against smallpox. It's open Apr-Sep and has no electricity. Book through Lerwick tourist office.