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  • Day25

    Unst

    August 29, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    With so many options of where to spend our second and final day on Shetland, we took our hosts' advice and headed to the island of Unst. Britain's most northerly inhabited island has a diverse landscape, from stupendous coastal cliffs to golden beaches, heather-covered hillsides to peat bogs, and even a unique, sub-arctic stony desert. Our target was the Hermaness National Nature Reserve, whose cliffs and moorlands provide breeding grounds for a huge diversity of seabirds.

    We boarded the ferry to the island of Yell, a first step in our journey to Unst. A fellow ferry traveller turned out to be an ex-pat Kiwi from Tauranga, who'd lived on Shetland since the 1990s (his Shetlander parents had migrated to New Zealand when he was a child and he stayed after a visit to family and friends). Not wanting to waste our precious time, we followed the leader to the next ferry boarding, our impressions of Yell based only a the 25 minute journey between ferry terminals. Following the main Unst road north, we climbed higher and higher before reaching the reserve. The information centre was nestled in a stunning fjord, white paint gleaming in the sunlight (finally we had some sunshine!). After perusing the excellent information available we headed into the park. A mix of gravel paths and boardwallks traversed the moorland. As we neared the cliffs, young great skuas or bonxies as they're known here, soared above us, experimenting with new wings in preparation for further travels. Far below us, waves crashed against rugged shorelines - the views were breathtaking. As we made our way further along the path towards the northern most point, we checked periodically for puffins amongst the avian visitors. Unfortunately my desire to see puffins had been unfufilled to date (and would continue that way), as our visit to Europe had been just a few weeks too late.

    As we neared the end of our path, the island of Muckle Flugga came into view, and beyond it Out Stack, Britain's most northerly point. What better place for a lunch stop! A continuous flow of gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes and the like filled the sky as they made their way to the numerous guano-stained islets that dotted the coastline. What a wonderful way to spend our last day in Scotland.

    With time marching on we re-traced our steps, diverting slightly to take in an alternative viewing point before heading back to the car. Our route back took us past the Unst Boat Haven - a collection of traditional Shetland fishing craft - where we spent a pleasant half hour exploring the history of fishing and boat building with the museum's curator. A brief stop to view a replica Norse longhouse and the Skidbladner, a full-sized replica of the Gokstad ship found in Norway, and then it was onward to Belmont and the ferry to Yell.

    Ensuring our packed bags didn't exceed the Flybe limit of 20kgs we enjoyed a final dinner on Scottish soil.
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