Britain's Most Northerly Inhabited Island
Unst is one of the most spectacular, varied and interesting islands in Europe. It has everything that attracts visitors to Shetland - and a little bit more.
Packed into an area just 12 miles long by five miles wide are stupendous cliffs, jagged sea stacks, low, rocky shores, sheltered inlets, golden beaches, heathery hills, freshwater lochs, peat bogs, fertile farmland - and even a unique, sub-arctic, stony desert.
This intricate landscape supports a rich variety of wildlife, as well as purebred Shetland sheep and ponies which roam the common grazing land. Here you can meet Unst's world-famous Shetland ponies at the roadside.
Unst is an ideal place to enjoy bird-watching, botany, geology, archaeology (including the Viking Unst project), walking, sailing, angling or traditional music. Alternatively, you can simply relax in peace and quiet. Unst was the first island in the United Kingdom to become a 'Walkers are Welcome' Community. Unst offers more than 100 miles of coastal paths, trails and moorland walks in stunning scenery. There’s no shortage of amazing wildlife viewing and there are Geopark and Viking sites to visit, too. Twenty trails have been devised for walkers of all abilities. A Walkers are Welcome information centre is open daily from 10am until 5pm at Foord’s Cafe & Chocolate Experience, Saxa Vord, from mid March until the end of October. Find out more about the Unst Walkers are Welcome community at www.unstwalkersarewelcome.co.uk
Unst is also a very sociable community of some 500 people who welcome visitors at concerts, dances, regattas and other local events.
As well as the great outdoor attractions of birdwatching at Hermaness National Nature Reserve, rare arctic-alpine plants on the Keen of Hamar, sea- and loch-angling and some wonderful coastal walks, there's plenty on offer if the weather keeps you indoors.
The Unst Boat Haven is Shetland's only museum dedicated to the history of the islands' distinctive wooden boats and the line-fishermen who used them until the early 20th century. The pleasure-boat descendants of these Viking-inspired craft can be seen at the Unst Marina in Baltasound, along with the 'Far Haaf', a locally-built replica of a sixareen (six-oared boat).
The Unst Heritage Centre tells the engrossing story of the islanders' struggle for existence over the centuries. Most Unst families are still involved with the traditional crofting life depicted here, but there's a variety of other work based on the island's resources and position, such as quarrying, fish farming, craftwork (fine knitwear in particular), and wildlife tourism. Unst has also played an important role in the nation's defences. The remains of a very early, Second World War radar station can still be seen and the Cold War radar dome on Saxa Vord – which no longer houses radar equipment – is visible from many parts of the island.
Valhalla Brewery is also located in Unst, and is the UK's most northerly brewery. They produce a range of six fine Shetland Ales that are the perfect refreshment after a long day. The brewery offers guided tours, to see the ale production first-hand, and there is a gift shop onsite.
Perhaps the most welcome surprise on a cold, wet day is the heated swimming pool in the modern Unst Leisure Centre, where visitors are always welcome to use the pool and other facilities.
We hope you enjoy your visit to this remarkable, accessible and welcoming island.
To get to Unst, you first have to travel through the island of Yell. From Toft on the mainland, take a twenty minute car ferry to Ulsta in Yell. You then drive across Yell to Gutcher which will take 25 minutes without stops. From Gutcher you take a ten minute car ferry to Belmont in Unst.
There are regular ferries from Toft to Ulsta Yell and Yell to Unst so if you miss a connection it shouldn't take long for the next one. We do recommend however, that booking the ferries where possible.
View timetables for both ferries here. (Note: all times are departure times)
It is possible to make a day trip to Unst but if time allows, we would recommend you stay a few days to explore this fascinating island.
On This Site
- See a list of visitor attractions in Unst
- Try your hand at a round of golf
- Explore Yell, another of the North Isles
- Check out UnstFest - the UK's most northerly festival