Unst Island

Northernmost of British isles. Remote and beautiful, inhabited in Shetland folklore by giants and trolls. Near ferry landing at Belmont is Muness Castle. Built 1598 according to inscription above doorway, by Laurence Bruce, a relation of Earl Patrick Stewart and almost as nasty. Burnt down by avenging neighbor or French privateers, it fell into disuse within 100 years. Three-storey ruins open weekdays April-Sept 9.30-7, Oct-March 9.3-4, Sun from 2.

Back on main road, turning to Westing is well worth detour. Passing a few scattered standing stones, road leads to sadly dilapidated 18th century house with most stunning view over Lunda
Wick.Walk takes you around bay to ruins of medieval church. Further on at Underhoull near Westing is excavation site of 9th century Viking long-house. There are two hotels at Baltasound, the Baltasound Hotel and Hagdale Lodge hotel, both with restaurant and bar. There is also some B&B and self-catering accommodation plus private youth hostel at Uyeasound.

From Norwick, steep bumpy road leads to smashing little beach at Skaw. Saxa Vord looms blackly behind, once home of Saxi the giant but now topped by enormous early-warning radar scanner. In 1962, gust of 177mph measured here – Britain’s wind-speed record. Worth driving up winding road, which has plenty of stopping places, for breathtaking view over Burra Firth.

North-westwards from Harolds – wick road runs down into valley and strange bar of bright marshy turf with delightful sandy shore that separates Burra Firth from Loch of Cliff, before reaching entrance to Hermaness bird reserve and shore station for Muckle Flugga lighthouse.

Second largest of the Shetland Isles, it’s a good place to stay with excellent walking, sea and trout fishing, sea angling, especially during long summer nights, wild flowers, ponies and birdlife. Apart from huge sea-bird colonies, look out for shy red-throated diver; whimbrel, in valley at Watlee; along shores redshanks and other waders too numerous to mention.

If you don’t stay there, do make a day trip, but if you want to see Hermaness properly, overnight stop might be necessary. Easily reached by car ferry from Gutcher (allow about 1 hour to drive across Yell); almost hourly, early morning to evening. Several petrol pumps, licensed grocers (for basic picnic), and mobile Bank of Scotland calls alternate Thursdays. Useful guide available from Tourist Office.

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