Unst is not a town or village but the most northerly inhabited island in Shetland and our most northern member. With just over 60 miles of coastline, there are some spectacular sea cliff bird sites at Hermaness National Nature Reserve as well as seven unspoilt beaches. If you are here in the summer months you can see puffins, gannets, kittiwakes, skuas and many others. There is also a rich sea life around the coast, with otters and seals, and the occasional pod of orca and dolphin. There are good views of Shetland from several hills on the island although most coastal walks are at sea level until you get to the north of the island, looking out to the Muckle Flugga lighthouse, now unmanned. Robert Louis Stevenson’s father and uncle designed the lighthouse and many people think he gained several ideas for “Treasure Island” from his stay on Unst. Unst is also noted for the number of Viking sites on the island, with over 40 recorded and three that have been recently excavated and open o the public.
The island has 600 of a population with three shops, three cafes, three community halls, a Leisure Centre with fitness suite and swimming pool, a Heritage Centre, Boat Museum, Gin Distillery, a Hotel, two Hostels, Health Centre, Care Centre and school for pupils aged 3-16. There is an informative website about tourism attractions on the http://www.visit-unst.com/ website. Public transport on the island is limited but the island is only fifteen miles long and three miles wide. There are a couple of taxi firms and many local people will happily give you a lift if you are on their route.
Getting to Unst takes time. It is 14 hours by overnight ferry from Aberdeen or an hour’s flight from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen. And that just gets you to the Shetland “Mainland”. Unst is still a further three hours’ drive or bus journey after that, involving two small ro-ro ferry trips of 20 minutes and 10 minutes. But it is well worth it when you arrive!
Hopefully, 2021 will bring opportunities to visit this beautiful island, please add to your wish list.
You can find more about walking the island on the Unst Walkers are Welcome website.
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