Monday, May 25, 2009

Adventures in the northernmost of the northernmost

Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa

To Unst, two islands up from Mainland (via Yell) here in the Zetlandic archipelago. A fine, slightly dull day, and all the ferry-louping went without a hitch.

There was me, Martha, Sandy and Elaine, and first stop was at the house of Sandy Nelson, comedian, actor, playwright and bon viveur, now resident in Unst with his wife Caroline. We visited, as one must, the astonishing Baltasound bus shelter, which has had a recent makeover from its leopard-spotted past and is now a vision in Barbara Cartland pink.

Then it was time for lunch. The gorgeously-appointed Northern Lights Cafe and Gallery in Haroldswick was shut, it being a public holiday. I know, I know. A dreadful incident involving a non-flushing toilet necessitated our departure, toute suite, from Foords Chocolate Factory, which meant we could not avail ourselves of the offered mugs of Golden Vegetable soup. Instead we had a fantastic feed at the Baltasound Garage, AKA the Final Checkout (its real name) AKA Charlie's. This has to be one of the great country shops, with everything for sale from angle grinders to designer coffee, whisky to socks. The homemade fish soup was superb, the toasties just great

From there we bounded along Norwick beach, one of the greatest in the country, and then had a look around the Unst Boat Haven, which was, as always, wonderful - friendly, informative, and full of both boats and old British Seagull outboards.

Despite not having booked, we managed to squeeze onto both the Yell ferry and the one to the mainland, (total cost for car and four passengers, all the way to Unst and back, £18)and were back in Hillswick in time for tea. A great day.

Unst has its problems though: cafes closed on public holidays in the middle of the tourist season is not a brilliant notion. The much-vaunted Saxa Vord Resort has all the visual charm of the former RAF base it once was, and certain toilets block all too easily...

Oh, and the beer is good. But we didn't taste any.


Andy McLaughlin said...

Dropped you a line to your show a few months back proclaiming the wonders of Unst. Jimmy (in the garage next to the Final Stop in Baltasound) has to go down as Unst greatest ambassador.

My Canadian buddy and I arrived on foot (having hiked from Sumburgh via Lerwick, Voe, quick detour to Whalsay, and Toft, bussed across Yell) at Belmont on the day of summer solstice with a view of getting to Norwick Beach for the midnight sun.

We called ahead to Baltasound to enquire about bike hire...and then dropped into the conversation that we were on foot and would struggle to get up there before closing time. An hour later, whilst dropping off meals-on-wheels, Jimmy picked us up. Stored our rucksacks, gave us bikes, let us go off touring before picking us up again and driving us to Norwick, even suggesting an ideal tent pitch AND recommending the products of Valhalla brewery.

After some chat and drinks in the old base bar, we managed to come away with Unst FC shirts, 2lb of smoked salmon and free Unst "Up Helly-a" dvd's.

All in, a magical place! And Jimmy (and Claire from the bar) need to be given Queen's Honours!

Catherine said...

Agh, this shows my ignorance. I thought you were as far north as you could get. Blimey.

I need a map.

That bus shelter, oh how wonderful.