Monday, 13 September 2010

Exploring Unst

Morning at Uyeasound - my view from the tent.

Mark lent me his kayak (P and H Cetus, very nice and just seemed to fit me nicely) and buoyancy aid, etc. and Heather took me out a short paddle. Did about an hour - just along the bay at Uyeasound, past the piers and all the fish farm stuff then a wee bit of coastline and 2 very small beaches, then back stright across the bay through the fish farm (the fish were jumping). It was just so great to get out on the water again - and my wrists didn't twinge once which was fantastic! Nice and calm and not much wind.

Had to be back ashore in time to get up to the north end for my boat trip to Muckle Flugga. I headed up to the Burrafirth Shore Station, got there about 1/4 to 11, no sign of the boat (11am tour).... There were 2 other cars waiting there too (6 other folk). It started raining...... About half 11 with no sign of movement and us all sitting in a row of cars in the rain, I got fed up and phoned the boat tours number (amazingly, got a signal down at the shore station but not up at the SNH reserve visitor centre!). The woman didn't know what the problem was and thought they would be just getting the boat - said she'd phone back. Turned out everyone had separately phoned her!! About 15 mins later a wee van with Muckle Flugga Charters written on the side drew up, an old guy got out, totally ignored us all standing chatting and looking (!) (the rain was mostly off by then) and went into the wee shed without even a glance. Not quite the reaction we expected!! We all started laughing, then one person went down to talk to him. She had just come down to say that the boss had cancelled the tour early that morning and had told the boatman guy that he was letting everyone know. But he'd let nobody know - not even the woman (his wife??) who answered the phone at his phone number!!!! She phoned me back about 30 secs after we'd heard it was cancelled, to give us the same news and apologised profusely but nobody had told her either. Quite unbelievable really - the whole north isles of Shetland seem to have quite an old-fashioned attitude to tourists - i.e. they're a bloomin pest, grab their money but that's it!!  So I needn't have rushed to get ashore from paddling this morning after all .............

Is the weather *really* that bad???

Luckily, due to my amazingly good mood following the extremely special experience of seeing Muckle Flugga on my own the evening before, and the paddling this morning, I wasn't actually nearly as disappointed as I thought I'd have been at the boat trip being cancelled. I'll just have to wait and see Mark and Heather's photos to see what Muckle Flugga is like close up..........

I decided to see as much of Unst as possible, given the weather (the cloud was descending fast again by now). Went up to Skaw, to see the most northerly inhabited house in the UK - there's a lovely wee beach there too. That's where Mark launched his kayak from yesterday for a paddle out round the north and west of Unst (including Out Stack).

Then I tried to find my way up Saxa Vord hill to see if I could see Muckle Flugga. Got a vague view of Muckle Flugga lighthouse in the mist before the rain descended again.

Looking across to the Burrafirth Shore Station, and still wondering if the weather was really so bad that it was necessary to cancel the boat trip without telling *anyone*!

Last view of Muckle Flugga

Went to the cholcolate factory - another place with a strange attitude to tourists, so I left without spending any money there!!! Very short sighted attitude I would say. Then I went to the Northern Lights cafe which I'd heard was good. However, I was disappointed as the menu was very restricted as the chef was apparently just back from holiday, so they wreen't doing any of the usual fresh fish, etc. There was nothing at all I could actually eat on the menu there, so I didn't bother staying. Went to the Boat Haven - at last, I've found somewhere welcoming and friendly!! The curator was great, very chatty and knowledgeable.

The boats were really interesting - there was one Norwegian and one Swedish boat there, the rest were all from Shetland. The yoal (not sure of the Shetland spelling, the Orkney one varies yoal, yole ...) is the original and the rest are adapted from that. The sixareens are amazing when you see them and think of the distances they travelled fishing. 2 days to Faroe, another 4 to Iceland ... !!!

I totally loved this folding boat.

Was funny to find a Marvin Elliot seal head and poster (the 'oh bl**dy hell' boat maker poster that I've got from years ago when he had the old boathouse by the old Nature Centre in Arran) - didn't get the chance to ask the curator about them as he was busy with other visitors by then.

Went to the heritage centre - it was pretty good but I wasn't really taking in what I was reading, and an extremely noisy English family with kids came in, so I didn't stay that long.

Went to the cafe/shop - it's well stocked and seems quite the centre of the community.Good food too - bought a tin of mixed beans (for potential tea) and had a baked tattie with tuna mayo and an irn bru - grand total £4.74. Tasted good - lovely tasting tattie - apparently from the sandy soil at Skaw.

Went to the Keen of Hamar nature reserve - in the rain!! Very low plants, shale type soil, with lots of serpentine. There's apparently a lot of quite rare plants there, I found quite a few of them including Edmonstone's chickweed which I don't think is found anywhere else in the UK?

Edmonstone's chickweed.

Headed back to Uyeasound and went to the school - lovely to see it in person as I'd seen photos of it at a couple of the CPD sessions I went to. Gorgeous playground - very inspiring. Walked the labyrinth, a very calming experience.

I can see why it's known as the "rainbow light" school!

I headed off to Muness to the castle - again, fairly reminiscent of the Earl's palace in Kirkwall. There were torches (same as at Mousa) but this time instead of not being bright enough - compared to the camera flash!!) - they were dead! So downstairs was very dark! Upstairs was ok as it was open to the sky.

Drove along the road which apparently has the best views in Shetland - towards Westing - could barely see 200m at times - horrible misty rain, a little heavier than Scotch mist. Went to see the broch and the standing stone (biggest in Shetland) - the standing stone was an interesting shape, from the side it curved over.

It's a broch, honest!

Best views in Shetland apparently. Sadly, the rain stopped me from appreciating this fact!

I met some funny Shetland ponies too...........

Posing for the camera, but.....

... this one decided he (or she!!) would like to be the centre of attention instead!

Ok, I'll photograph you both then!

Then I headed hopefully for the ferry to Fetlar. I reckoned I'd finally worked out how to read the very confusing timetable and reckoned there was a fery at half 5 and luckily I was right (Mark and Heather read it wrongly earlier apparetly, it was very difficult to follow!)

While I was waiting I had a play on the "plinky boat" - well worth a go if you ever visit Unst, it's great fun!

And despite the somewhat old-fashioned attitude a lot of the Unst businesses seem to have towards tourists, it is well worth visiting Unst. I'd recommend the camspite and hostel at Uyeasound too, great facilities and excellent value.

No comments: