The Hermaness Visitor Centre was not open in 2018, but the National Nature Reserve remains open to the public. The position regarding the visitor centre in 2019 and beyond is under review. For the moment the remainder of this page is as written when the visitor centre was open.
Hermaness National Nature Reserve is located on a cliff-edged finger of land at the north west tip of Unst. Three miles from Haroldswick, Hermaness has the Atlantic on its west and north, and Burra Firth on its east.
To get there you head north west from Haroldswick to Burrafirth, with its lovely red beach at the head of the narrow and steep-sided Burra Firth. Beyond is the rocky headland of Hermaness, home to some wonderful coastal scenery including cliffs over 550ft high. And to over 100,000 sea birds during the breeding season.
The road finishes at the Hermaness Visitor Centre. The centre is in a white-painted group of buildings overshadowed by the cliffs leading up to Saxa Vord on the far side of Burra Firth.
This was originally built in 1855 as a shore base for the Muckle Flugga lighthouse, perched on an almost inaccessible 60m fin of rock north of Herma Ness.
A temporary light was operating from 1854, but between 1855 and 1857, 100 men built the lighthouse you can today see from the head of Herma Ness or the summit of Saxa Vord. This 20m high structure was built of brick, with walls over 1m thick. It says much about the ferocity of the Atlantic that although the base of the lighthouse is 60m (nearly 200ft) above sea level, it has often been reached by storm waves.
Muckle Flugga lighthouse was built under the direction of Robert Louis Stevenson's father Thomas. Robert visited the island in 1869, and this probably explains why the map of Treasure Island closely resembles that of Unst.
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