Getting Here, Weather, Safety
Getting to the Northern Isles is easy: Loganair have daily flights into Sumburgh from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee (from May) and Inverness. Connecting flights are available from many UK Airports.
Shetland has a very extensive Car Hire sector and you can arrange to collect your chosen vehicle at the Airport.
For visitors who wish to bring their car or campervan, Serco Northlink Ferries provide evening cruise class sailings from Aberdeen each evening. You can also connect with the Shetland service at Scrabster in the North of Scotland and come to Shetland via Orkney four days per week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in the summer season). The ferry leaves from Aberdeen at 5pm or 7pm each night and arrives in Lerwick at 7.30am. Cabins are available. A full cafe, restaurant and bar service is provided on board. There is a small cinema on board too. There is an Overland Bus service to Unst. A bus leaves from across the road from the Terminal building, outside the Shetland Hotel, at 7.50am so make sure you are up in time to catch it. The next bus is not until 2.20pm in the afternoon.
Mobile home/Caravan hook ups are available at the Gardiesfauld Hostel on Unst (Facebook page) beside the harbour on the west side of Uyeasound. Toilets, Showers and Laundry facilities at Hostel. Camping is available in the Hostel grounds. Toilet and Shower block available to campers and mobile home users.
Dogs are most welcome guests on Unst and Serco Northlink Ferries will allow your special friends to travel in the comfort and safety of your vehicle. There are kennels onboard if you prefer and a few "pet friendly " cabins available.
The beaches on Unst are dog friendly, except for Burrafirth and Skaw. You are just requested to keep the beach clean for everyone to enjoy and that everything you bring to the beach is removed when you leave.
Unst is 80 miles from Sumburgh Airport and 50 miles from Lerwick. There are two short ferry crossings, one from Shetland Mainland to Yell (Toft Pier to Ulsta Pier). The crossing takes 20 minutes. After a twenty five minute drive through Yell, the next ferry is at Gutcher Pier and goes to Belmont Pier in Unst, a crossing of 10 minutes. (There is also a ferry to Fetlar from these piers, which takes 30 minutes.)
You can book the Shetland Inter-Island ferries online at the Booking Office, Monday to Saturday 0830-1630 on 01595 745804 or by Emailing email@example.com There is also an online booking service at https://ferry.shetland.gov.uk
Ferries can be busy in summer so it is always advisable to book if you have a vehicle.
Link to 2023-24_Winter_timetable.pdf (runs til 1st May 2024)
(If you don't understand it, phone the Booking Office at 01595 745804. They are very helpful!)
(Inter Island Ferry photos on right, below Loganair and Northlink photos :-
Yell ferry - Helen Stout; Geira at Belmont - Mike Finnie)
Safety and Weather
Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Shetland has always had a traditional freedom of access to the open countryside. In February 2005 the Scottish Outdoor Access Code came into operation which sets out public access under the Land reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This legislation also applies to other activities including canoeing, horse-riding, wild camping and
Know The Code Before You Go
Enjoy Scotland's outdoors responsibly! Everyone has the right to be on most land and water in Scotland. These access rights and responsibilities are explained in the Scottish Access Code.
The key things to remember when you are outdoors are:-
Take personal responsibility for your own actions and act safely.
Respect people's privacy and peace of mind.
Help land managers and others to work safely and effectively.
Care for your environment, take your litter home and don't disturb wildlife.
Keep your dog under close control or on the lead to protect nesting birds April to end of June. Dogs should be kept on the lead near farm animals.
When parking outside a permitted parking area do not obstruct access roads or field access. Park further away if need be.
Unst and Shetland has many small crofts, which mean there can be many field boundaries to cross and fields to cross through. Always walk around the edge of the fields where possible and use stiles and gates. Always avoid livestock and do not disturb them, especially during the lambing time (mid-April until late - May).
Gates should be left open if they are found open and closed if they were found closed.
How strong are "strong winds"?
Wind speeds rarely mean much from your living room, but take a walk
in them and you'll soon know what they mean especially on cliff and hilltops on Shetland. Below is the oft-used Beaufort Scale tweaked for
32 - 38mph =moderate gale - Resistance is felt when walking.
39 - 46mph= fresh gale -Wind impedes walking; keep watch on tents.
47-54mph=strong gale - Very difficult to walk in; great care needed on
cliff walks, tents can be compromised.
55-63mph=whole gale - Wind very hazardous near cliffs and on hill
64-72mph= storm - Stay off the hills and cliff walks. Visit local
attractions or read a book!
Gusts are the walker's worst enemy: sudden strong winds that can
blow you off your feet; if winds are a constant 40mph you could experience a gust of up to 70mph.
Highest ever wind speed in the United Kingdom.
Shetland holds the unofficial British record for wind speed, which in 1962 was recorded at 177 mph (285 km/h) at RAF Saxa Vord.
Average Unst temperatures and wind speeds
(Av. temp, Recent max temp, Av. wind speed, Recent highest.)
April 48 deg F 63 degs F 16mph 51 mph
May 52 degs F 86 degs F 13mph 48mph
June 55 degs F 75 degs F 13 mph 48mph
July 59 degs F 71 degs F 12 mph 33mph
Aug. 59 degs F 86 degs F 12mph 53 mph
Sept. 56 degs F 68 degs F 14mph 49mph
Oct. 51 degs F 63 degs F 16mph 52mph
Which weather forecasts are better? There is no simple answer, all forecasting has improved greatly in recent years. Forecasting for such a small island residing in the North Atlantic at 60 degs latitude and closer to the Arctic Circle than to London weather systems can arrive earlier or later than expected. They can and often are more intense or calmer than expected or arrive earlier or later than expected.
Even in summer, be prepared for any eventuality. Shetland and Unst in particular can't and should not be taken for granted and that is all part of the magic.
One of the many joys of Shetland is that in midsummer there are 19
hours of measured daylight every day. (It just might be behind a cloud now and again!)
BBC Weather (https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather) and XC Weather (https://www.xcweather.co.uk/) are both fairly accurate websites.
Shetland weather can change quickly. Be properly equipped - use several thinner layers rather than one thick one. Take the following:-
Waterproofs (but watch that waterproof trousers do not make you skid away on wet grasss)
Hat and gloves, (even in summer)
Good boots are essential (do not wear trainers)
One or two walking poles are a great idea.
Carry OS Landranger map 1 for Unst and Fetlar and if possible carry a local walk book for the route you are walking.
A compass is recommended for some routes and someone should know how to navigate.
A daypack is recommended containing drink, food for the day and some extra, plus torch, whistle, survival or bivvy bag and a first aid kit. Mobile phones can be useful - however don't rely on them as coverage can be patchy on Unst.
Cliffs can be dangerous, stay well clear of the edge. Keep children and dogs under close control. Trainers or soft soled shoes can cause you to slip on wet grassy slopes. Have good footwear.
In the rare event that a member of your party sustains serious injury, stay calm, make them comfortable and keep them warm. Take care on a steep slope to ensure that all members of your party are safe. Take a bearing of where you are and dial 999 for Police/Coastguard. If there is not a signal, use the special emergency registration number that will connect you to another frequency. If you are unable to raise the alarm, leave someone with the injured person and take the shortest route to a main road. Do not just set off for a distant building, as it may be an abandoned croft. To phone for Doctor or Nurse at Unst Health Centre, dial 01957 711318.
OS Maps and Unst Walk Books.
Walk details are available for Unst, Fetlar and North Yell at the WAW information folders available from reception at the Baltasound Hotel and the Gardiesfauld Youth Centre/ Hostel in Uyeasound. You can purchase Ordnance Survey maps and Walking Guides at local shops.