Travels in the North

Musings on arctic holidays

Reliving an old trip – 13 June 2005 – Unst, the end of Britain

Sunshine. Incredible. The rain seemed to go on all night though, but thankfully my tent just about survived, a bit of a leak but I wasn’t drenched.

I’m only on Shetland for a few days so left Lerwick this morning on the 7.55am bus for the Northern isles. Just as I was thinking how good the public transport was, with integrated ferries and buses, I found out my ferry on the Yell sound was delayed as the previous ferry couldn’t lower its ramp or something.

Ferry Yell Unst Shetland

Ferry from Yell to Unst

It meant I had to get a later ferry to Unst, meaning I missed my bus connection. Egged on by a crazy woman who wouldn’t stop talking I asked a couple in a hire car for a lift. Turns out they were fellow far North travellers who’ve been to Alaska, Spitsbergen and driven from Bergen to Tromso [edit: writing this seven years later I’m proud to say I’ve now done all of that too – albeit the latter by train most of the way] They very kindly gave me a lift to the Unst youth hostel, which was very nice but totally deserted. I pitched my tent in the garden, and it was great to appreciate the sunshine and tranquillity of it all, but I had read that you could hire bikes from the hostel and it looked like this wouldn’t happen now as there was noone around to ask.

Unst Youth Hostel Campsite

View from the end of the Unst campsite & youth hostel

Nevermind I thought, I’ll do the walk I’d read about, cliff walk up the west coast, then come back via the shop and hotel bar in Baltasound. Maybe it was the terrain, maybe it was tiredness from yesterday, but my god within three miles I was knackered. The cliff walk was nice, the best thing about Unst is the quietness and remoteness of it all. Other than in the Baltasound shop and the odd passing car I didn’t see a soul all day.

I had hoped to make it to Haroldswick, home of Britain’s Northernmost postbox and a novelty bus stop furnished with a sofa, lamp and books. On the walk back to the youth hostel a car stopped and offered me a lift, which was very gratefully received. The driver was a lady who’d grown up here, left for university and came back to teach at the primary school here. She talked about the depopulation of Unst (a problem for rural communities the world over it seems) but also about how much stuff there is to do in the local community.

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