IN THE North Isles the success of the 2008 tourist season has been somewhat patchy. Some visitor attractions and venues report a really good season while others are slightly down on last year.
The Old Haa in Yell is one of the places showing an increase in visitor numbers despite the fact that a number of coaches due to call were cancelled. Shearings, the English coach company, booked 19 tours taking in the Old Haa but eight never materialised.
The Shearings tours also call at the Boat Haven in Haroldswick but they, too, report an increase on last year. Their visitor numbers have topped 4,000 and it seems that it is one of the “must visit” places in Unst.
Unst Heritage Centre says that they have had a good season but the numbers are slightly down on 2007.
For the Baltasound Hotel it was the first season for the new management, brother and sister Steve and Sharn Swan. Sharn said that she was “delighted” with the start they had made but pointed out that guest numbers had been boosted by the ongoing work at the Uyeasound harbour.
Earlier in the year Foords re-located its chocolate factory from Quoys to a building, near the road, that is part of the ex-RAF base in Haroldswick. Aaron Foord said that the season, for them, had been quite good but “it could have been better”. He went on to say that he would make a truer assessment at the end of another summer when everyone had got used to the new location.
Also at Saxa Vord the accommodation, bars and restaurants were described as “really busy” all summer but with autumn here business has tailed off and the decision has been taken to close for three days each week during the winter, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
In Fetlar Roger Brinicombe says that the Interpretive Centre has seen slightly fewer folk this year but points out that a cafe was opened in the hall this summer and this may have impacted on numbers.
Meanwhile in Whalsay the Heritage Centre has had slightly more visitors. Marina Irvine said that they were shaping up to be much the same as last year but there had been something of a rush in late season that had boosted visitor numbers.
The Shetland Times reported last week that Fetlar might get the long awaited breakwater next year. In all of the North Isles this is hailed as good news indeed.
No-one believes that a breakwater, in itself, is the answer to all Fetlar’s problems but it is, nonetheless, a positive step in the right direction; it could be a turning point.
Councillor Robert Henderson said that a breakwater would mean that the ferry can be berthed in Fetlar all year round and in all weathers. This brings with it a number of permanent, quality, jobs to the island. Councillor Henderson also expressed the hope that fishermen, perhaps with a Fetlar connection, might consider making Fetlar their base thereby reversing the population decline.
The lack of a natural, or any harbour, is a drawback that has plagued Fetlar for a very long time. In the days of the haaf fishing Fetlar was as involved with fishing as anywhere else because sixareens could readily be drawn up clear of the sea.
When the herring fishing, and later seine net fishing using bigger boats, became the norm Fetlar, unlike Whalsay and Skerries, was left relying solely on agriculture and the rest, as they say, is history.
Three marriages have taken place outdoors in the North Isles this year. One was on the Westsandwick beach, one on the breach of Tresta in Fetlar. But the latest, the Unst/Yell wedding of Emily Priest and Kevin Tulloch, took place well away from the shore; it was on the top of Vallafield in Unst.
This is a place with a stunning view of almost the whole of Unst and the wedding company managed to avoid the squally showers that were a feature of the weather that day. What they could not avoid was the attentions of some of their “friends”.
While Emily and Kevin were away getting hitched their house, Midfield, Cullivoe, was “visited” so when they arrived back home the following day they found their home packed to the door with the best part of five hundred clean fish boxes.
This was a rather different way of joining the rest of us in wishing Emily and Kevin well in their married life!
Flat screen for Nordalea
Last Saturday night a highly successful concert was staged in Baltasound Hall to raise money to buy a large flat screen television for Nordalea Care Centre.
The galaxy of Shetland talent assembled for the occasion included Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson, Ryan Couper and Adam Johnson, Rosemary and Norman Goudie, Alex Couper, Jennifer McCormack and Dodo Elphinstone. Myda Hawick played sets of reels on the mouth organ and Drewie Hawick and his band provided music for the dance.
The sale of the model fourareen made by Tommy Balfour and donated by Tony Mouat caused huge interest. Auctioneer Brian Hunter started the bidding at £50, the bidding was brisk and the hammer did not fall until the price reached £310. The proud new owner of the boat is Angus Fraser. Mr Elphinstone, one of the organisers, described the night as a “big success” and the gross takings were in excess of £4,000. When expenses are all paid Dodo expects to clear around £3,500 so the residents, clients and staff of Nordalea can look forward to new entertainment in the centre.
Unit manager Graham Stiles described this as “fantastic, it is great to see the way that the local community supports Nordalea”.
Yell water supply
Scottish Water held a public meeting recently in Burravoe Hall to clarify the plans for the isle’s drinking water supply. The meeting was open from 3pm until 8pm allowing the public to look at the plans for the new treatment works, voice their concerns and ask questions.
Dan Thompson, Laurence Odie and representatives of the Burravoe Development Group went on a site visit with Scottish Water.
Mr Thompson, who is chairman of Yell Community Council, reported a good attendance throughout the day and felt that most folk left the meeting “reasonably satisfied as concerns raised had been addressed in full by Scottish Water”.
The new treatment works will represent an investment in Yell of £6 million. There will be a filtration system that uses less chemicals and the quality of drinking should improve as a result.
The Scottish Water general information factsheet on the Yell water project is available from the clerk of the community council.
The intended source of water for the whole isle is the Loch of Kettlester in Burravoe and as part of the development the level of the loch might have to be raised. This means, among others consequences, that the shape of the loch will alter. Viewed from the road coming into Burravoe from the north the loch bears a remarkable resemblance to the shape of a map of England and Wales.
Da Wirlie brig
Motorists wanting to drive along the south end of Yell were thwarted for a time last week when the Wirlie brig in Hamnavoe collapsed and became unsafe to cross with any sort of a vehicle.
A team of workmen were soon on the job and restored the bridge and reopened the road. However, this bridge has been a source of local concern ever since it was constructed in its present form.
With exceptional heavy rain the pipe underneath the road has proved inadequate to cope with the volume of water. On at least three occasions the road has been flooded and flooding caused an accident when a motorist drove, at night, into a submerged area.
While the repair, recently done, is entirely sound road bosses are looking at the perceived need to insert a bigger pipe to prevent further problems.
The harvest festival on 28th September in St Colman’s Church in Burravoe was highly successful.
Alma Lewis, on behalf of the minister, thanked the congregation and everyone who made a donation to the chosen charity, the Children and Young People’s Rights Information and Support Services (CYPRISS).
Marshalling area at Ulsta
There still seems to be some confusion in the marshalling area at the Ulsta ferry terminal.
For unbooked vehicles there is a horseshoe shaped lane that can, in theory, stretch back for miles. The crook of the horseshoe is clearly marked “Keep Clear”. This is to allow booked vehicles to access the appropriate lane for boarding.
Some motorists continue to ignore this and queue in this area thus blocking the lanes. It has been suggested that to create a yellow painted box may do the trick.