Burra Firth, Unst. 60:48.469N 000:52.503W

Frans & Sarah Toonen
Thu 22 Aug 2013 16:54
Thursday 22nd August 2013. Wind E 3, 50% cloud cover, Sea state Slight followed by a bit of rough.

Walked around the Out Skerries this morning which took all of 2 hours, highlighted by a plane taking off from an impossibly short runway and a Minke Whale just a 100 yards off the coast.

Bought some essential stores (chocolate and Werthers Original)s from a surprisingly well stocked shop. The other pleasant surprise was a 5mb/s internet connection allowing us to download the latest New Tricks episode from the BBC.

Wind was a pleasant force 3 from the east and the plan was to round the headland of Unst passing through a dangerous tidal race with tides running at 6 knots across the headland. We decided to go round the race but had some fun when aiming for the loch entrance as the 6 knots of tide would sweep us past it on to the Muckle Flugga rocks if our timing had been wrong. As we were now north of any land we were exposed to the North Atlantic swell creating 3 to 4 meter high waves in these strong currents. Safe inside the deep fiord like loch of Burra Firth and with our heart rate beats now halved we were able to enjoy the magnificent cliffs with the sun still shining.

Anchored tucked in close to the beach in 4 meters of water. Swimming is unlikely as the water temperature is 11.9°C (we have an instrument for that). We are at the same latitude as the southern tip of Greenland. The beach is golden sand but there isn't any access other than on foot across rough pasture.

On Friday we prepared for a nature walk but were delayed by a bird show we just had to watch as about 250 gannets dive bombed near the boat feeding. This went on for hours with the flock feeding together, then resting then all flying off together…repeat as necessary. Finally rowed ashore and walked to the north headland where the Hermaness National Nature Reserve looks out over the Muckle Flugga lighthouse and Out Stack rocks. This NW coastline of Unst is some of the most dramatic we have seen. Several gannet colonies and still some nesting Fulmars. All the puffins (except one) have left already. We were lucky to have a little sunshine for our walk as there are fog patches around most days. 

Most northerly point in Britain… jaw dropping!


Gannets feeding, see the splashes? They reach speeds of up to 60mph and have air sacks under the skin to cushion the impact.


The white rock behind Sarah are Gannets and Gannet dung.


On sunny days the coast line is amazing