55. Day 23 in Shetland: Haroldswick, Norwick Beach, Planet Walk, and Bobby’s Bus Stop

Our croft house was already feeling like home, just like that! Every place I stayed in Shetland felt very homey, but because I was sharing this place with David, it was doubly warm and comfortable. When I originally reserved it, I was planning on staying here alone. Somewhere in my subconscious, it seems I knew he would be there with me.

Lots of tea and coffee, and a lovely kettle and toaster.
Perfect little dining nook.
The best kitchen of the entire trip, with a super modern induction stovetop and convection oven.

After our first breakfast together, we set out to explore the island I bit. I had reserved a tour and tasting at the Shetland Reel distillery in Saxa Vord for early afternoon, so we had several hours to take a walk or two. First, a visit to Haroldswick to see the Viking longhouse and longship.

Unst has a very deep history of Viking settlements. It would have been the first stop for the longships coming from Norway, as it is the northernmost island in the archipeligo. The Haroldswick longhouse is a replica, but there are longhouse archeological sites in Unst.

Quite nice interior! Cozy! There was actually a guy on one of the benches in a sleeping bag.
Interesting to think Shetland at one time had thousands of these in settlements all over the islands.

This Skidbladner is an amazing replica. The craftsmanship is very impressive!

LOVE this rudder.
Norwick Beach with my honey.

The green stone is serpentine. Just beautiful! Norwick also has an example of ophiolite, earth’s crust at the ocean floor thrust up when continents collided. Whoa! I failed to capture it, however.

The Shetland Reel Distillery at Saxa Vord was in an unremarkable industrial building. The tasting was extensive! And delicious. So many carefully and skillfully crafted flavors. We loved the Filska (hints of grapefruit), Wild Fire (hints of spicy warmth), the Ocean Sent (bladderwrack seaweed), and the original. We drank too much and bought too many bottles. But they were excellent gifts along our way – we managed to make it home with the Ocean Sent, though!

This alarming painting was in the ladies’ room. Bonxies predating on a puffin! Nooooooo!
We drank about 10 different samples. Also, we got pretty tipsy! We ended up buying 3 big ol’ bottles of gin. More on that later LOL!

Saxa Vord, where the distillery is, used to be an important radar station, but is now gearing up to be a satellite launching location.

Up the road from the distillery was a “planet walk” — Unst in particular has a very active “sky watching” community. The planet walk was exactly what you’d think – a walk through the solar system along a peat road with the heavenly bodies proportionately placed. It goes past the old RAF radar station (1957-2006).

You may have noticed that Unst appears to have….very few people. 46 square miles, 600 people, mostly concentrated in the several small villages. There are great stretches with nothing but land, water, and sheep. Now, I was there in mid-summer, when it never really gets dark. But in the fall and winter, it is very dark, and the night sky – from what I understand – can be quite dramatic, with stars, Milky Way, and Northern Lights.

At the beginning of the walk, there was a box with sticks that had planets attached to the ends. These are bonxie sticks, for holding up over your head if you get dive-bombed by Great Skua, which nest in the fields along the way.

Trek along the Planet Walk.
We are approaching the northern limit of the island, and you can see Muckle Fluga, the northernmost lighthouse in the UK, as a white dot out on the islet. More on Muckle Fluga later.
Find the bonxie!
There it is!
Cliffs of Hermaness and Muckle Fluga.
David at the radar station.
Freaking Unst. Beautiful beyond my wildest dreams.

Heading back to our croft house, we passed Bobby’s Bus Shelter! It is in all the tourist material on Unst. This iteration, it was all duded up for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The throne and the tea things.
You, too, can be the Queen! There’s your crown and mask.
Go ahead, punk, make my day (that’s a copy of the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks” next to HRH in tasteful powder blue. That little house is an honesty box in a cooler!
Reprobate puffin.
Souvenir of the Saxa Vord Space Center and I wish we could have gotten one.
A peek inside. I didn’t get anything this time, but dropped by later in the week and got some well fired shortbread.

Back home, we observed this seemingly-harmless bunny. A little later, another bunny came nearby. We were just commenting on how sweet they were, when all of a sudden, they were both in attack mode! They had a kicking fight, jumping way up in the air. This went on for a while, but we were too gobsmacked to film it.

About 10 PM. View from our croft.
Good Night, Unst. The longest night, in fact.

21 June, 2022


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