Exploring Unst, most northerly island in the British Isles

From my base on the northern part of Yell I had several clear views of the coastline of nearby Unst, the most northern occupied island in the British Isles. Given this accolade and the beauty of the coast I decided to spend a couple of days over there exploring.
My plans were slightly pushed back by the appearance of storm conditions, with winds up to 40mph and heavy rain keeping me at the croft doing very little for a day.
In spite of these conditions continuing into the next day I decided to go ahead and start my trip, with one day sat reading leaving me a little restless after weeks of being regularly active.
I regretted this on the first day of my trip as the conditions made for pretty miserable walking, but the following day was beautiful and allowed me to walk the lovely area of Hermaness under blue skies.

The main thing that stood out to me on Unst was the vast number of abandoned crofts on the island, far more than I’d seen elsewhere.

I was also treated to another example of the friendliness and helpfulness of the Shetlanders after finding myself somewhat stranded by unexpected changes to the local bus timetable.

It was a good place to spend my last couple of days before heading back to Aberdeen, and I’m glad I had the time to explore.


Day 1
Got a lift down to Gutcher first thing and got the ferry over to Belmont, on the southern tip of Unst island.
Strong wind from the tail end of the storm, but only a light rain.
Headed a short distance up the road then sent down an old track around the Loch of Snarravoe. Headed north across moorland past abandoned settlements of Snarravoe and Snabrough.
Rain got heavier, being driven by the wind. Already getting soaked an hour in, poor visibility as well.
Carried on up past Lund to the beach at Lunda Wick, where I made friends with a couple of ponies. Lovely beach, shame the view was clouded.
From there a short climb up to the old Underhoull Broch, though there’s not much left to see.
Followed the coastline up past Westing then turned and climbed a steep and boggy hillside up to Clammel Knows. Followed the path that ran south along the ridgeline, visibility now non existent. Rain being driven hard enough to sting my face, boots given up and left me with wet feet. Pretty miserable.
Headed south to Uyeasound. Had intended to carry on east to Muness Castle before returning to the hostel at Uyeasound but after 5 hours of in the storm was soaked, cold and tired. Got to the hostel and discovered I’d be the only person there, not even a permanent warden in attendance.
Weird to have the whole building to myself but at least it meant a good nights sleep.

Day 2
Woke up fairly early with a plan for getting to the far north end of the island (from start point in the far south). Rain stopped and wind eased, much more pleasant day for a walk.
Waiting for a bus up to Baltasound when a driver stopped to tell me that the timetable had changed over to winter schedule, which basically meant no buses. Fortunately he was driving the school bus run which went the way I wanted to go and took me with. Very friendly guy.
Got dropped in Baltasound and walked north along the road to Burra Firth, carrying on up onto the peninsula which houses the Hermaness bird sanctuary.
Followed a good path on a boardwalk across the moors to the west coast of the peninsula, greeted with the site of beautiful cliffs covered in nesting birds, in spite of the lateness of the season.
Followed the coast north a short distance before striking off to the top of Hermaness hill. Good views from here back over the Burra Firth, and walking a little further north took me to the northern edge of the peninsula, also the most northern point in the occupied British Isles. Clear view of lighthouse on the small island of Muckle Flugga, previously the most northern occupied island prior to the lighthouse being automated.
After a brief break, retraced my steps all the way back to Baltasound.
On the way, the bus driver from the morning appeared in his personal vehicle and ran me back down in time to join him for the school run which took me back down to the south of the island. Unbelievably helpful especially given I’d resigned myself to trying to hitch back down or walk for 4 hours.
Got the ferry back over to Gutcher on Yell island and headed north for a final night in the croft.
Heading back to Lerwick tomorrow for the ferry back to Aberdeen.
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