The isle of Unst, Shetland, in the far north of Scotland, is a special and magical place. Join us for a tour and retreat from your busy life. Experience a remote community and add your efforts to the development of the iconic Hamars property.
Although part of Scotland and the UK, Shetland’s heritage derives mainly from the early Norse settlers and its culture and traditions are seeped in the ancient lore of the vikings. The Celtic culture of Scotland has had some influence but is not predominant. Come and join this great adventure.
The Isle of Unst is a trip back in time, where family and community are at the centre of life, and despite the challenges of living in a remote area, the people of Unst are a proud reminder of a bygone era.
To travel there you will need at least one UK inland flight, then two or three separate ferries to arrive at the island. But it’s worth it. We'll send detailed information for travel to Shetland.
The bay of Haroldswick is a favourite spot for the local seals and they often sun themselves on the rocky shore. The ‘Hamars’ was the property of one of the island’s most prominent families, and its restoration will help maintain a key part of local heritage. The house is a ‘Listed’ Grade ‘B’ historic building with the Scottish National Trust.
Your volunteer work on the Hamars will be tailored to your abilities and interests. Many options are available, including gardening, woodworking, masonry, painting and chatting with the many visitors.
Please let us know if you would like to develop a special art or craft project. There are two workshops at the Hamars, fully equipped for woodworking, art, and craft projects.
You’ll be met in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, and be taken on a grand tour covering three islands and ending in Unst. About half your time will be volunteer work on the restoration of a the Hamars, our 300 year-old stone house, nestled in the bay of the village of Haroldswick, close to the most northern point of Scotland.
One work day in each module will benefit the local community – perhaps gardening at the local church, or entertaining residents of the Seniors Care Home.
Social activities include learning about Shetland's heritage and culture through activities that will bring participants into close contact with local people. Community dinners, music events and farmers markets are included. Cutting peat, visiting a croft, hiking, and cycling will also be offered.
The group will have basic but comfortable self-catering accommodations. The people of Unst speak English and are very welcoming. Come and join us for the trip of a lifetime.
This 2-week itinerary covers a basic two-week module. Those of you who opt to stay for additional weeks will follow a similar schedule but not participate in the tours which you will have already experienced. These will be free days, but of course if there are additional seats on the tour transport, then you will be welcome to join.
Day 1 - Sunday → Arrival by ferry to Lerwick or air to Sunburgh, Shetland. → Checkin at Lerwick Hostel (private room or dorm) → Explore Lerwick on your own → Welcome dinner - orientation → Overnight Lerwick Hostel
Day 2 - Monday → Tour of Northern Main Island → View the cliffs of Eshaness. Few places in Shetland can rival Eshaness, either for scenery or historical interest. The area boasts a wonderful range of wildlife and habitats. Seals, Otters, Porpoises and occasionally Dolphins and whales can be seen from the cliff tops. Inland expanses of peat and heather are home to mountain hares, rabbits, polecats and a multitude of birds. → Visit to Tangwick Haa Museum. Different aspects of regional life through the years are illustrated by using a mixture of artifacts and photographs. → Lunch at the Braewick Cafe with a spectacular view of the cliffs we have been visiting. → Ferry to Yell • Ferry to Unst → Arrival at your accommodations
Day 3 - Tuesday → Review & walk through the Hamars at Haroldswick (the property we are restoring) → Assign tasks according to abilities. → Visit Boat Haven - a history museum of Shetland's Viking & maritime heritage → Lunch at Victorias Vintage Tea Room → Afternoon driving tour of local sights on Unst, including a restored Viking boat, and a visit to the Unst Heritage Centre with its fascinating museum and exhibit of local knitting and lace. → Shopping at the village shop. We'll provide a few basics at your cottage but you'll need supplies for breakfasts and some other meals that are not provided. Details of meals on the registration form.
Day 4 - Wednesday Work at the Hamars
Day 5 - Thursday Work at the Hamars
Day 6 - Friday → Morning work at the Hamars → Afternoon - Optional 3 hour light hike to Muckle Flugga - the most northern point in Scotland. The name comes from Old Norse, Muckle Flugga, meaning "large steep-sided island". The hike is over rough heath and requires good general fitness and proper footwear. → For those of you not inclined to hike, there's plenty of light walking near Haroldswick, or perhaps you just want to sit on the rocks by the shore and watch the seals sunning themselves.
Day 7 - Saturday → Work at the Hamars
Day 8 - Sunday → Free Day. → Attend church service for those that are interested. The local Methodist church is the most northerly church in the British Isles. There is also a Church of Scotland. → Lunch on your own.
Day 9 - Monday → Work at the Hamars
Day 10 - Tuesday → Morning Work at the Hamars → Free afternoon
Day 11 - Wednesday → Work at the Hamars
Day 12 - Thursday → Work at the Hamars
Day 13 - Friday → Free Day → Lunch on your own
Day 14 - Saturday → Work at community project → Festive farewell dinner
Day 15 - Sunday → After breakfast, we'll say goodbye to Unst, and tour south through the Islands. → Visit the village of Bigton with it's 'tombola', a unique strip of sand that links to Saint Ninians Isle. If the weather is fine, you'll be able to walk out to the island. → Your tour ends in Lerwick in the afternoon.
Departure options → Dropoff in Lerwick at the ferry. → Dropoff in Lerwick for a taxi or bus to the airport. → Overnight Lerwick Hostel or hotel (book yourself) - for those with a ferry or flight the next day - or opting to stay longer by themselves.