Haroldswick and beach
|Orkney and Shetland
The name of the village is from the Old Norse Haraldsvík, meaning 'Harald's bay'. Later legends associate it with the Norwegian king Harald I, known as Harald I Fairhair, and assert it to be the first landing point for Norse folk in Shetland. A Viking grave has been found on the nearby Setter's Hill, overlooking the landing point.
The village sits at the end of a small bay in a crescent moon shape with a hill on either side, with steep cliffs and rough waters with good mackerel fishing grounds underneath. The beach is rocky until it comes to an old ruin of a pier, then it has huge boulders blocking traveller's way. Lining the beach are little cottages with their only barrier against the winds from the sea being a small wall on the other side of the road. A small maritime museum dedicated to the traditional small boats of Shetland, the Unst Boat Haven, is located at the head of the bay and is open to visitors from May to September. The beach is frequently populated with grey seals and grey herons. The depth is shallow for about 20 feet, then deepens considerably.
About the village
The nearest British city to this spot is Inverness, 382 miles to the south: even Lerwick, the Shetland's capital and only town, is some 60 miles from here, away to the south. However, Haroldswick's claim to be the northernmost settlement in the United Kingdom is surpassed by the tiny hamlet of Skaw, five miles to the north, if Skaw, with a settled populaiton of one lone farmer, can be called a settlement.
The Methodist Church at Haroldswick is the northernmost church in Britain.
For many years, Haroldswick Post Office was the most northerly in the United Kingdom and visitors could get a special postmark. Since the office's closure in 1999, this record is now held by the post office in Baltasound, also on Unst.
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