Shetland Islands 2010

Durham to Lerwick - Sunday, 23rd May

I was booked on the 10.52 am train to Aberdeen, changing at Edinburgh Haymarket. The first sign of trouble came in the form of an overheard conversation on a walky-talky that the train was delayed between 'Darlo' and Durham due to track signalling problems. With only six minutes scheduled for the change at Haymarket, things were already tight. Having put the bike in the guard's van I found my seat as the train pulled out at 11.18 am, the connection looked doubtful from the start.

The pleasantness of the journey northwards along the Northumbrian Coast was interrupted by the guard telling me that I would in all probability miss the connection at Haymarket with the next alternative service being the 14.33 from Edinburgh via Sterling arriving in Aberdeen at 6.23 pm. At that rate I'd miss the boat, I also felt the distinct tingle of a burgeoning sore throat.

The Station Supervisor at Haymarket could not have been more helpful. He printed off the Sterling route for me and advised alternatives. He thought it best that I and the other Aberdeen passengers should return to Edinburgh Waverley and go to East Coast's office on platform 7 because East Coast was arranging transport northwards. This meant carrying the bike up and down two flights of stairs to change platforms. The 1.25 pm train left Haymarket for the short trip back to Waverley.

By following closely behind someone else, I pushed the bike through the barrier. Platform 7 seemed a long way so I asked two East Coast uniformed blokes where the office was. Turns out that it's not on platform 7 at all but sort of opposite in the main block. Soon the rest of the Aberdeen party arrived. Pauline, the East Coast supervisor was doing her best to arrange taxis for everyone. She very very kindly sorted out a people carrier taxi for me, the bike, and another 'disgruntled' passenger. The last two rows of taxi seats were laid flat and the bike placed on top with the bags stored in amongst.

We sped out of Edinburgh and north over the magnificent Forth Road Bridge, with views of the bandaged-up rail bridge alongside. We arrived in Aberdeen at around 4.00 pm and the driver dropped me outside Union Square Shopping Centre, I whispered a big 'thankyou' to Pauline. I loaded up on the pavement for the short trip round to the Northlink Ferry terminal.

photograph - Aberdeen ferry terminal

They had the tickets ready at check-in and handed them over without me saying a word, I was the last cyclist booked on. A few moments later I rode onto the car deck. Good job I'd had the taxi option because by 5.30 pm the ramp was up and we were steaming out of Aberdeen harbour in bright sunshine in an otherwise dark sky. I had meat and vegetable pie, chips, carrots and peas washed down with apple britvic.

During the night, the vibration of the side thrusters woke me up. I went for a stroll to see a dark and very drizzly Kirkwall through the window as the boat docked at 11.00 pm for it's scheduled Orkney stop and a lot of very sleepy looking people disembarked. I went back to bed.

Day two