SAXA VORD & THE FAMOUS UNST BUS SHELTER
I thought we may be able to find somewhere darker than Norwick Bay, as although there very were few houses around, most had outside lights going all night. On my way here I had asked directions and chatting it turned out that he was ex-RAF, and had worked at the site up at the top of Saxa Vord. It had been shut for a while and so it would be fine for me to go on up there, even though the signs saying restricted military access were still all in place. The road was apparently narrow in parts and pretty steep, but he thought there might just be room to turn Thebus at the very top by the gates to the radar station. So feeling brave I thought we would give it a go. Higher and higher we climbed with stunning views out over lochs to the sea and Muckle Flugga. The last haul up to the very top was very steep and as it was so windy I didn’t want to park up, there so found a gravel trackway a little way down, in between two peaty bogs and managed to pull most of Thebus back off the tarmaced road and then trusted to the fact that there would be little traffic.
We were partly nestled in between two banks, but with the wind directly in from the sea at the back and front so it would depend on which way the wind blew as to how buffeted about we were, though I had managed to get a half-hearted internet connection which told me although the winds would be high they should not be gale force. Had I been in possession of more local knowledge I might not have been so brave. Apparently one night two men had camped somewhere near and the winds had reached around two hundred miles per hour. Part of the weather station was blown off, the hut disappeared and the men were both killed!
But I didn’t know that till we came back down, so we stayed up there for two days and two nights, and when the skies cleared the views were stunning, thought we did have a mixed bag of weather.
The total darkness up there did make it easier to see the lights, and the green glow was there whenever the clouds cleared sufficiently to see across. Though nothing spectacular was forecast, or appeared.
I had asked the RAF guy about the 'Unst Bus Shelter' which I had missed on the way up so decided to find it on the way back. And as it was just past a largish (for the area) filling station I thought I would get a top up and confirm I was on the right road. So I stopped at the rather sinisterly named Final Checkout. Not being sure if it was attendant service or self service I headed for 'The Final Checkout' and as I opened the porch door a guy was leaving by the opposite side, and something, I am not sure what, but about the size of a dust bin, was blown straight out of the door and disappeared in an instant. I didn't even see what it was!
The actual door was at ninety degrees to the two porch doors, so we have obviously learned something from the inhabitants of Skara Brae all those thousands of years ago. Inside I expected just a till and maybe the workshop office, but no, there was a cafe serving meals including a full breakfast for five pounds, and an entire shop selling – well just about everything you would need in the normal course of life. I decided on a bit of replenishment of stores and found the prices for such an out of the way place more than reasonable. I asked if there was any local food, but as their restocking was later that same day there was little, though I did have half a doz fresh local eggs which were very good with large golden yolks. And thought I might as well stop for breakfast as well, which was equally good.
It was a self service on the petrol so having finished I pulled Thebus down to the pumps, and when I went back in to settle up they were amazed at his size and I had to give a couple of tours. I took the opportunity to fill up on water with was getting low, and they said I could park up there for the night if I wanted to, which was kind, and would have given me some shelter from the wind, but I carried on down to the famous Unst Bus Shelter
Apparently there was a young local lad at infant's school who had to wait for the school bus in a cronky old bus shelter, and I think you already have the idea about how windy it is here. Eventually the bus shelter became so dilapidated the council said it was dangerous and pulled it down, but rather parsimoniously didn’t replace it. After a winter of this and still no bus shelter, the said seven year old lad wrote to the council and they did put up a replacement.
Someone put in a couple of chairs, then a table, then a tv, and so on. The boy has probably finished university by now but the bus shelter is still furnished. Though after this extremely wet and windy winter looking the worse for wear at the moment. I would guess it gets a spring makeover before the tourist season, which judging from the fact that nothing is open other than from May to Sept, begins at the beginning of May and ends at the end of September. I am probably not seeing Scotland and the Isles at their best, but for all that it has been most enjoyable.
View from Saxa Vord as we parked up
View from bedroom window next morning
You can just glimpse the sea on the eastern side of Unst
And you can see the bog on either side or the rutted track just wide enough for Thebus wheels!
Two views from where we were parked looking out towards Hermaness (where the two guys and their hut were blown away)
Rain Clouds on the way back down from Saxa Vord
Phoebe looking out for the bus
at the famous
Unst Bus Shelter
Inside the Famous Unst Bus Shelter
Legend has it there is a bottle of fine malt now the boy has reached manhood,
but the chest of drawers had got a bit damp
and the drawers probably stuck
plus I wouldn't have wanted any while driving!
So it will have to remain a legend!
But come and see for yourself and report back!
Outside is the well-know
John Peel Memorial Traffic Island,
again probably not looking its best so early in the year though there were some of the spring bulbs
struggling through to brave the wind
Viking Galley and Longhouse
Close by is a reconstucted Viking turf roofed longhouse and a full sized replica boat that you can climb in and look round.
As it was raining hard the photo is from Thebus' window
Travelling further on back towards the centre of the island I was interested to see the different method of stonewalling hereabouts. The geology here is fascinating and there is a lot of information at the various viewpoints. As you can see from the photo of the field behind the wall - they are not short of stone