Month: June 2011

Shetland Islands, Part III – Unst

After the busy and exciting events of Up Helly Aa it was time head north to much quieter pastures, in particular Hermaness and the rugged coasts at the top end of Unst. A mere 100km away the drive itself turned into its own little adventure. Three service stations, three rides on the Toft-Ulsta ferry the Daggri (that was two too many), a bemused but smiling ferry ticket man, another ferry, Muness Castle and the briefest moments of sunshine piercing the blanket of cloud which didn’t seem to move anywhere despite the impossibly string winds. I reached Norwick, the second most northerly town – if you can call it that with just a 1/2 dozen houses – in the UK, just on dusk. Pity it was only just after 4pm. Spent the afternoon evening listening to Radio 4 and reading Dark Star Safari.

Awoke to fresh snow dusted across the hillside like icing sugar and headed off to Hermaness National Nature Reserve. Home to 100 000 birds during the Spring and Summer, the Fulmars are the only birds to ride out the winter but their nests on the rugged, 150m high cliffs and rapidly changing weather make for dramatic scenery. Watching the storms roll in from the North Atlantic was quite a sight, until the it hit you in the face with thousands of tiny knives – snowflakes driven by the wind. Double thermals, shirt, jumper and a GoreTex jacket and the wind was still getting through so I took refuge in the remains of a viking building for a moment while the Fulmars floated on the updrafts created by the cliffs, seemingly oblivious to the changing weather.

At the far northern tip of Hermaness, just off the coast, are the last stops before the North Pole, Muckle Flugga and Out Stack. Unfortunately by the time I made it here I was down to my last few shots, my hands were somewhat numb and the light was fading fast. I did happen to stumble across some amazing icicles of  sorts though. In a gully the wind had driven the rain uphill where it had frozen, creating stalagmite like structures on the grass.

On my final day in the Shetland I was greeted with more fresh snow for my drive back to Lerwick. On the way I said hello to some more locals (Shetland ponies), more sheep, possibly the only forest in all of Shetland and an amazing sunset. I must have made a few too many side trips and combined with snowy roads all the way back to Lerwick  it made for a slow journey and I managed to miss my ferry – I don’t seem to have the best of luck with Shetland ferrys. Luckily though, there was also a cargo ferry leaving later that evening. Goodbye Shetland Islands. I’ll go back sometime but in the summer.

Posted by Aaron K Hall, 0 comments