Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Anyone wanting to see the Aurora Borealis on British soil should head to Unst, which is the most northerly populated island in Britain, although as is always the case with this fabulous natural phenomenon a sighting cannot be guaranteed. There are some impressive photographs of the aurora taken in Unst on the island's website. But the island is not only a haven for astrologists. There is plenty of interest for geology enthusiasts, with schists and gneisses among the spectacular geological formations. Meanwhile, lovers of birds, animals and marine life have a wide variety of species to look out for, including puffins, ospreys, otters and whales, to name but a few, and the island is a major centre for the breeding of Shetland ponies. Hermaness National Nature Reserve includes one of Shetland's largest seabird colonies. To the north of the island is Britain's most northerly lighthouse, the splendidly named Muckle Flugga lighthouse. The design of the lighthouse was largely the work of Robert Louis Stevenson's father and uncle, and it is said that Unst was the writer's inspiration for Treasure Island.

Besides its natural attributes, there are plenty of man-made sights and attractions to keep visitors busy. The Unst Heritage Centre is open from May to September, showcasing the island's past and present. Muness Castle dates from the 16th century and is found in the south of the island. Belmont House, which offers accommodation, is a fine example of a Georgian dwelling, its precise symmetry looking slightly incongruous in this wild corner of Britain. However, the most bizarre and unique man-made sight on Unst has to be the famous Unst Bus Shelter. The Shelter, which was the proud recipient of an award courtesy of Buses Monthly Magazine, takes on a variety of themes, a different one for each year. Over the years pieces of furniture and other adornments, and even a TV, have taken pride of place in the shelter, which has its own website and a visitor's book. The shelter looks incredibly vulnerable in its exposed location; it is a miracle that it or its contents have not been blown halfway across the island by the stormy winds around these parts. Long may it continue to delight and amuse visitors to Unst.

Map of the area.

'Bobby's bus shelter (Unst)' photo (c) 2010, Max Warren - license:

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