Travels in the North

Musings on arctic holidays

Tag Archives: Unst

Reliving an old trip – June 14 2005 – Hitchhiking & Mousa

Another early start this morning, had to be up at 6am in order to catch a bus from Unst back to mainland (mainland the main island on Shetland, I don’t mean back to the mainland).

The bus was late and I was starting to worry about missing my ferry connection to Yell (where I was due to catch another bus which went all the way back to Lerwick via another ferry). Spurred on by yesterday’s impromptu offer of a lift from a local I tried hitchhiking for the first time in my life – and to my surprise the first car stopped. I suppose people in these rural communities tend to help each other out like that. The driver was an old lady and drove me all the way to the Yell ferry which I was very grateful for.

Lerwick Bus Shetland

My main sightseeing activity of the day was a trip to Mousa Broch, brochs being old iron age forts specific to the Northern islands and the far North East of Scotland. Mousa is the best preserved of the brochs, on an uninhabited island of the same name, a tour company charters boats to go out there.

Mousa

Mousa

We had about two hours on Mousa which was plenty of time to see the broch and go for a walk. I’d asked on the boat if anyone was driving back to Lerwick as the bus times would’ve left me with a two hour wait, and a German couple had offered, only for me to realise when we got back that they thought I was offering them a lift, they didn’t speak much English.

Mousa Broch

Mousa Broch

With all the other boat passengers rapidly driving away I was a bit panicked but managed to ask the last remaining couple if they were headed back to Lerwick and fortunately they were. They were a very friendly couple from Nottingham and invited me back to their rented cottage for a cup of tea before heading back, after a few days on my own I was really grateful for the company.

Back in Lerwick and again at the mercy of the limited eating options I got some chicken and chips from a takeaway and sat on the harbour eating them, which annoying and predictably attracted a lot of seagulls. I then had a few hours before my 1:30am ferry to the Faroe Islands so went to a couple of pubs.

Da Noost was the first place I went, nice enough but quite a young crowd in there, although there was an eccentric bloke at the bar which added a bit of interest.

Then I went to Captain Flints, which as the name suggests was a nautically themed pub. I didn’t want to drink too much before my ferry so left about 10:30pm to head to the ferry port.

We finally boarded (slightly late) the Smyril Line ferry at 2:00am, it had been slightly late arriving from it’s last destination, Bergen in West Norway. I’m far enough North now that it still wasn’t completely dark, we are just a week off the longest day of course.

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.