The North Atlantic Arc


From Muckle Flugga to the Mull of Galloway





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Thursday 22 September 2005

Unst Able


I leave Lerwick late in the morning for Unst. First take the ferry to Yell (which belongs in the place-name book next to Loudville and Bellows Falls, both near my home). Last time I was here, I gave Yell short shrift, so I take a little time today to wander about. The highlight is a lovely little beach called the Breckon Sands.

Run in to the Canadian ladies on the Unst ferry. I suggest that they might come up to the Baltasound Hotel in the evening, but the hostel where they are staying is not close by. In fact, this encounter is the last I will see of them.

I find my B&B in Baltasound; it is a working farm, and all the folks are out counting sheep or some such. How do they stay awake? But I check in and then drive up to Skaw, the most northerly house in Britain. The pavement ending there is the most northerly road in Britain. Everything around here is the most northerly whatever in Britain. There is a nice little beach nearby, and as I walk on it, I come across a bird sitting on the beach (I'll have to look up just what it is later). It does not move as I approach. Itís alert and has no obvious injury, but is very weak-- it tries to stand at one point and flaps its wings, but falls flat on its beak. Itís covered with foam from the surf, so I pick it up from behind and leave it in a small stream where it might rinse itself off. But I don't think the foam is the problem, and regretfully I leave it to nature's whim.

I go to the Baltasound Hotel for dinner--it's the only game in town. It looks like a typical remote Scottish island hotel rather badly in need of renovation, but the lounge bar seems like a comfortable place for a meal. Unfortunately, itís booked solid, and I have to make do in the somewhat shabby public bar. There are two handpumps with Valhalla clips on them, but they are not on. Dinner is good enough. There is a modest selection of malts available, nothing special. I have a couple and watch the locals blether amongst themselves before calling it a night.

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The Breckon Sands on the island of Yell. Shetland has many lovely beaches, and in late September, they are lonely places.
(I doubt they look like Coney Island even in July, for that matter.)


The end of the road at Skaw, on Unst--the northernmost pavement in Britain. The house to the right is the northernmost residence in Britain.

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