Unst Tour - With Discover Shetland

Price on Request

Departure days

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January — December

Unst is the most northerly of the Shetland Islands and the third largest in size. Getting there is a bit of an adventure as it involves two trips on car ferries.

On Unst you can see the most northerly house, visit the most northerly shop and walk on the most northerly beach, not just in Shetland but in the entire British Isles.

The Unst tour focuses on geology and botany, the latter being very seasonal, though there is much else to savour besides. Shetland is an international, global Geopark, one of only two in Scotland. For such a small land mass, the islands have a remarkably varied geology but the jewel in the crown must be the Ophiolite of Eastern Unst. Ophiolite is an exposed section of oceanic crust and it is quite exciting to think that one can see, touch and walk on rocks that normally would lie miles beneath the surface of the Earth, hidden in the lower crust and upper mantle.

When we disembark off the ferry at Belmont, a 20-25 minutes drive north-east takes us to our first destination, the Skaw Beach. Here a number of geological delights and treasures await us. On our return journey, we visit Norwick Beach where a small headland jutting out into the sea indicates the boundary between oceanic and continental crust. We then pay a visit to the Unst Heritage Centre where displays include examples of Unst's famous lace knitwear. Our next port of call is the Hagdale café/shop. If you wish, you can stop for a soup and sandwich lunch. On our way, we pass a replica of a Viking longship and next to it a reconstruction of what a Viking dwelling may have been like, both powerful reminders of Unst's very strong Norse heritage. After our café visit we turn our attention to the Keen of Hamar. This small area is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating natural history sites in Shetland, if not in the whole of the British Isles. Made up of partially serpentinised dunite rock, the Keen is home to several Arctic-alpine plants, the most famous being 'Shetland Mouse-ear', also known as 'Edmondston's Chickweed' after local boy, Thomas Edmondston, who first described the plant in 1837 when aged 11 years. He was appointed Professor of Botany at Glasgow University at the age of 20 years but was tragically and accidentally killed within a year whilst on board a ship, waiting to disembark on the shores off the coast of Ecuador. The dunite rock is rich in chromite and in the 19th century Hagdale Quarry was the largest of its kind in the UK.

There is a working talc quarry in Unst and if time permits we usually pay a visit to the Baltasound Pier where there is often a 'mountain' of talc waiting for shipment to England.

Our tour normally ends in the south-east corner of Unst with a visit to Muness Castle, built in 1598 by Laurence Bruce, a relative of Earl Patrick Stewart who built Scalloway castle.

As with any tour in Shetland, flexibility is inbuilt, not least because of the weather. Although there are no long walks on this tour, it is essential that visitors have a good pair of walking boots and warm, waterproof clothing.

 David will book ferries but the costs of ferries, admissions and refreshments are not included in the package.

Contact details

Discover Shetland
Discover Shetland
Mainland, Shetland Shetland
Bespoke Private
Archaeology Geology History Landscapes Wildlife

Tour company information

Discover Shetland

Discover Shetland is owned and managed by local Shetland resident David Malcolm. David can take small groups (2-4 persons), and is ideally placed to give you a personal, informal and intimate experience of the islands. Discover Shetland offers the following tours: Central Mainland (half day); South Mainland (full day or half day); North Mainland (full day); Island of Unst (full day).

Opening times

open all year