SUP Safari Scotland – Island of Unst, Shetland

Heading north we left Shetlands mainland and catch a ferry to the island of Yell. If you make a second crossing to the island of Unst in the same day you can save yourself the fare of the second ferry. Once we reach the north of Unst, we found ourselves a nice spot to camp by the beach. It was such a great site that we stopped for the next couple of days. We were were booked in for a tasting at Shetlands Gin Distillery the next day which was within walking distance which worked out quite well!! The distillery didn’t allow photography so we bought a couple of samples back to Harmony instead!

Some Shetland ‘Reel’ Gin – delicious!


As this was the most northerly sheltered beach we could find we decided that a SUP was a must!! This paddle wasn’t our most epic but it is pretty cool to say we’ve SUPed at the top of Scotland.  Even though it was relatively sheltered it was still pretty windy, in fact it felt like we were fighting the wind the entire time so we didn’t stay out long.  Just as well too as not long after our quick paddle the Haar was getting closer and we were soon enveloped in fog.

A bit windswept but triumphant after the most northerly SUP session

Being as far away from mainland Britain as it is, Shetland has a wealth of war bunkers to be explored. Just the thing for SUP Bloke who has an interest in those types of things. They were a little on the spooky side for me though.

War bunker remains – these days largely utilised by sheep

Just south of Haroldswick there is a reproduction long house and viking boat which is a great place to visit to get a real feel for these historical structures. There are the remains of at least 60 Norse longhouses on Unst which is the greatest number of rural sites anywhere in the Viking world.  None of these structures are exactly the same and this replica is based on the remains found at Hamar and Underhoull.  Longhouses were used for a variety of purposes.  Some housed farmers and their animals and others were the home of powerful Jarls and were lived in for centuries.

Reproduction Viking Boat at Haroldswick

We decided to do the walk at Hermaness as we wanted to see Muckle Flugga – one of the last bits of Scotland to the north, but also because it has a cool name – ‘Muckel Flugga’!! As we reached the cliff the view become enveloped in thick mist and it truly felt like we were on the edge of the world.  It also looked like we wouldn’t be able to see Muckle Flugga through the Haar. But as we got closer we descended through the fog and there it was… Muckle Flugga!

The rock/island of Muckle Flugga (far left) with it’s lighthouse

The lighthouse on Muckle Flugga is another Stevenson lighthouse and it is said that author Robert Louis Stevenson based the map in his book Treasure Island on the island of Unst during a visit.

As the wind seemed a little less intense we went for a paddle to explore Burra Firth.  This is a fjord flanked by the Saxa Vord cliffs on one side with a staggering height of 935 feet and Hermaness on the other. Local folklore tells of two giants Herma and Saxa who fell in love with a mermaid singing on the Flugga rock.  They fought and threw stones at each other – one became Saxa’s Baa and the other the Out Stack which is the most northerly rock in Scotland and the United Kingdom.

The stunning cliffs of Burra Firth

We’d seen a sign to a planet trail and thought we’d investigate.  The planet trail is a scale representation of the distance between the sun and all of the planets.  Each meter represents 30 million kilometres – this means at walking pace we were walking faster than the speed of light – take that Brian Cox!!

The walk took us along the Saxa side of the Burra Firth and affords views out to Muckle Flugga. There is also the opportunity for a bit of bird watching as there was a plethora of Bonxies or Skuas.  At this time of year these birds were understandably protective of their nests and tend to dive bomb people.  Walkers are encouraged to wave the Bonxie scarers to deter them, but I prefer to think of them as Bonxie wavers – so the Bonxies know you’re friendly!!

Just a casual stroll to the end of the Solar System!

It was soon time to leave Unst and start the journey south back to Mainland Shetland and then onto Orkney. This signified a turning point in our trip as not only were we over the half way mark of our 4 month SUP Safari, but Shetland was the last place that we had to fully explore having never been there before. Most of the rest of the places we visit on our remaining trip are places we have seen a little of before. But I am sure there are many great adventures yet to be had!

You can watch our adventures here on our Youtube Channel.

If you missed part one of our SUP Safari Scotland to the Isle of Arran you can read about it here.

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