Oh yeah for Uyea

Looking through my files for photos to illustrate a feature on walking in Shetland (look out for that in an upcoming issue of 60 North), I realised that I’ve not posted or uploaded any photos from our day out at Uyea in Northmavine. Uyea (pronounced, I think, as if you were telling somebody, such as a small dog, off for pinching your biscuit: ‘Oy-ah!’) is both the little bit of mainland and the tiny island that is connected at low tide by a stunningly beautiful, soft sandy beach.

The beach at Uyea

The beach at Uyea

The beach is reached by a long, tortuous drive – or walk if you’re feeling very fit and have plenty of time – along a bumpy, twisting track across open moorland, then a walk around clifftops and a scramble down a short, precipitous slope. If you want to get on to the island itself, you have to wait for low tide and cross – or, if you get impatient, you can paddle…

Paddling across to Uyea island

Paddling across to Uyea island

It’s a place of remarkable contrasts. You arrive at the serene-looking white-sand beach, and find rocks standing in the clearest, stillest waters, covered in thousand of tiny mussels no bigger than your little fingernail, and shags sunning themselves out on the stacks. But head just around the corner, between the cliffs, and you’re at a beach where the sea is forcing its way between rock stacks and through arches and it’s a thunderous, violent world of boiling, tormented waters.

Making tracks on the beach at Uyea

Making tracks on the beach at Uyea

We made it across to the island. We were too impatient to wait for the tide to go right out, so we paddled through the icy, clear water, with the tide still sucking and pulling round our calves, the potential strength and violence of the sea still very near the surface. I had a moment of panic as Bertie started heading towards the deeper water, envisaging him being washed out to sea. However, as it had been a spur of the moment decision to go there at all, we hadn’t researched the tides and, beautiful though it is, we didn’t particularly fancy the idea of spending the night on the island, so we paddled back across (Bert on Graham’s shoulders this time) with the promise that we’ll go back and visit the island properly next time…

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