After yesterday’s exertions, Jenni was pleasantly surprised to discover that her legs were still working this morning. The weather forecast was for very high winds of twice yesterday’s strength and a strong probability of rain. Not very enticing and possibly rather dangerous for cycling in; even though the actual weather, when it arrived, turned out to be significantly better.
Acting as one must on the best information available, we decided to attempt something moderate together and set out into the westerly wind – and over Shetland’s toughest hill climbs so far – to the lovely west coast and the village of Hamnavoe. This truly delightful place lies some 12 miles or so to the west of Lerwick. To get there we had to cross a couple of road bridges that connect Mainland to the island of Trondra, and then Trondra to the island of West Burra. Everything felt more prosperous and more Scandinavian than anywhere we had seen to the north. The fields were greener, the sea inlets more fjord like, and the houses newer and more colourful. For the first time I could imagine living here.
On the way back we stopped for lunch in Shetland’s ancient capital of Scalloway. It is a pretty place strung around a sheltered natural harbour, with a castle and colourful cottages. Then we visited the amazing iron age Broch of Clickimin, on the edge of Lerwick It is a stronghold built on a lake and believed to be about 2,500 years old, and in a remarkably good state of preservation. Next we poked our noses around Fort Charlotte, with its cannons pointing out across the harbour to ward off invaders from somewhat more recent times. And we also found the tiny sandy beach tucked between buildings in the heart of old Lerwick. It has been a regular feature of the excellent detective series “Shetland” that we watched back-to-back (6 series) over the last couple of months.
Our ferry to Kirkwall in Orkney was due to board at 4.30pm, which just left time for the 8 minute journey across the harbour for 40 minutes on the island of Bressay, Lerwick’s near neighbour and principal shelter from the open sea. Here we met a very chatty lady with 3 feisty Shetland ponies. She had much to tell us about how easily they get foot rot, and how that affects their diet. Bizarrely, they can’t have grass! Who knew? For the record, she swears by Epsom salts for practically every ailment. It even cured her sick hen!
So, in the circumstances, we felt very happy with our use of our 4th and final day on Shetland, collecting 4 islands, 2 capitals, 2 ferries, 3 ponies and a mini coast-to-coast crossing of OS map 4 Shetland South Mainland. We left behind more for another day; but packed plenty into our short stay in this remote Nordic outpost of Britain.
Despite sunshine, it wasn’t a day for being out on deck as we sailed south away from Shetland. We had a spectacular view of Sumburgh Head at the bottom of Mainland and then the sea got “choppy”. We both fell asleep for an hour and I woke up to amazing views of the sheer cliffs of Fair Isle, which lies halfway between Shetland and Orkney. It is a notoriously hard place to reach and you could see why. We were told that the weather forecast had caused today’s flights to be cancelled. This was also my last chance to get some dinner. Jenni declined but I thought I could manage it. I was wrong. Two forkfuls of macaroni cheese later I was back in my seat with my eyes shut!
At 10.30pm we reached Kirkwall and cycled the couple of miles into town with our lights on in the twilight. Malcolm was on hand to welcome us to Eastbank House hostel and to my delight told us to help ourselves to a large pile of croissants, fresh fruit, bread and avocados all waiting for the morning’s breakfast. My empty stomach rejoiced!