Sunday, 14 August 2011


Sunday 14/8/11

Unst is one of my favourite places in the world. You can't get any further north in the UK. There are a couple of rocks further north (Muckle Flugga and Out Stack), but this is the last place that can actually be called a place. Last time I was here, I found it difficult to tear myself away and spent about half of my time on Shetland time here. This time I've left it till last so I had something to look forward to and so I did get to see other places too.
I've been here a couple of days already. The first day was spent doing admin-y type things - finding internet access to book my train tickets for the GGW, sending emails, getting petrol, doing a stock-take of my food and working out what I needed to buy for the GGW, and so on. Yesterday was really stormy. Force 7 winds and rain lashing down until the evening. No-one could really go anywhere, including all the canoeists who are up here for the weekend. We all sat around the hostel watching the waves crash against the shoreline and the tents flap madly in the wind. Once again my little Vango survived brilliantly. There was a similar storm when I was here last year and other people's much more expensive tents were tearing and had poles snapping. Mine flaps away, but survives without the tiniest shred of a tear or hairline crack of a pole.
This morning was beautiful. As predicted the storm had blown itself out. After breakfast I drove out to Hermaness. This is a nature reserve at the end of the end of the UK. There is a car parking area and a small visitor centre with toilets. This area is known for its birds as well its dramatic views. Because of the birds visitors are requested to stay on the paths and not wander freely across the moorland tops. As it is very, very  boggy it's much easier to stay on the paths anyway. I walked about 30 minutes uphill and then across moorland to the cliffs. Once at the cliffs most people head east to see the puffin colony and Muckle Flugga. As I like to be a bit contrary I walked west. Just a few minutes to the west, where hardly anyone goes, is the most amazing gannet colony. I discovered this last year and wanted to go back this year. The dark cliffs look white, they are that stuffed with gannets. The air is full of gannets; the sea is full of bobbing gannets. The noise, the smell, is just pure gannet. Most of my senses felt completetly overwhelmed by it. 
Only after having my fill of gannets did I walk east. I didn't see any puffins this year, though I'd probably only just missed them. Last year, I was here a few days earlier and there were puffins everywhere. I'd sat for ages with puffins popping up out of the ground or zooming in to land all around me. I walked further east along the cliffs until I was level with Muckle Flugga. I have to learn to kayak properly so I can actually get there. There were a dozen canoeists on the water today and I watched for a while to see if they would go to Muckle Flugga, but they just seemed to be sticking to the coast.
Leaving the cliffs I headed up and across the moors again on another path that joined with the original path to drop down to the car park. I finished my day out by going to the chocolate factory for a deluxe experience. A hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows and a chocolate lattice; three Abernathy biscuits partly dipped in dark, milk and white chocolate; two filled chocolates, one dark and one white; and three squares of solid milk, dark and white chocolate. How ideal is this island? It's isolated, friendly, relaxing, has great wildlife and views AND has its own brewery and chocolate factory. Can you see why it's one of my favourite places?

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