On an island the size of Unst with a population just over 600, you won’t find a packed itinerary of sights to keep you busy every day. Instead, aside from the obvious historical places marked on our tourist map, our days are spent exploring the few roads, stopping in at the few stores and cafes, as much to have a chat as to shop or eat.
The shops — there are three main ones on the island — are phenomenal, small but surprisingly well stocked in range and variety. Combine a supermarket, a DIY store, a pharmacy, a liquor store, a craft center, gift shop, electronics store, and sporting goods store, and squeeze them all into a space the size of a suburban living room, and that gives you an idea of how good the provisioning is in Unst. It usually takes us close to an hour to inspect the aisles and shelves to see what we might need that we hadn’t thought of, all the while chatting with the proprietor or other customers.
We passed by the small boat museum a few times before deciding to visit. Actually we wanted to have lunch at the adjacent cafe, but when we couldn’t find enough room to park the van, we stashed it in the museum lot while we ate, then felt obligated to visit. We’re glad we did.
The collection, as is usual with most small town museums, is a community effort, a gathering of bits and pieces donated by this family and that, in honor of this person and that. As you make your way around the room reading the placards you get to know the families and the revered elders. There are boats, of course, but also the tools used to build those boats, and the fishing lines and hooks that were used on those boats as the men went to sea to make a living. There are the tools used by the women who gutted the fish and sent the catch to market. It was the story of a way of life and worth the visit.
One drizzly day we took a road we hadn’t followed before that led to a long-ruined church on a promontory overlooking the sea. There are a lot of these church ruins, complete with graveyards, and I’m always ready to walk among the memorials, read the names, and think about the families who lived and died within a few miles of the spot.
The road also led us to one of our favorite standing stones so far. It’s magnificent and has stood sentry for thousands of years.
In a fun twist on the honesty cake fridges, we came across this honesty cafe but it was too rainy and windy for us to sample the wares. Right next to it is an honesty rock shop, but I didn’t buy any rocks or get a photo.
One of our propane tanks ran out and we learned the closest place to swap it is in Yell, the next island to the southwest. The weather really closed in on us, and after a chilly night on the waterfront we decided to catch the ferry. On to Yell.