Shetland Islands 2010

Lerwick to Whalsay - Monday, 24th May

Went for breakfast at 6.40 am consisting of bacon, sausage, mushrooms, beans, toast, marmalade and orange juice. Most people seemed to be out on deck and I joined them as the boat approached Lerwick. The Statsraad Lehmkuhl was a magnificent site in the harbour as the ferry passed by on its way round to the terminal.

I changed into bike clothes and after the call, went down to the car deck at about 7.30 am. A number of Alvis cars had made the journey and were parked in line. My bike was at the stern, I attached the two bags I'd taken to the cabin and chatted to another touring cyclist who was heading south for his first day. The whole Northlink Ferry experience was really very good. Friendly staff, well organised, very smart cabins with excellent onboard facilities.

Off the boat, I cycled round to the terminal and left my spare clothes bag in the left luggage room (hoping it'd still be there on Saturday - I made a mental note to remember to collect it). Then I hit the road heading towards Lerwick at 7.50 am, vaguely south on A970. Leaving behind the warmth and comfort of the ship, the realisation hit me that I was finally underway on a new (to me) island. Just me, the bike and everything packed in the bags.

photograph - Welcome to Shetland

I took North Lochside rather than cycling through the town centre and after passing Clickimin Loch, the road climbed out of Lerwick. The legs were quick to react to the outside temperature but now the effort created warmth as the gradient increased. On reaching the top came the exhilaration of the downhill run to the junction with the B9073 by the splendidly named hill 'Ward of Wick' where I turned right towards Scalloway.

Another reasonable hill took me up whilst turning north west into the face of the forecasted 'fresh wind'. At the junction, I turned south on A970 then stopped as the vista opened up to take pictures of the lovely view with Scalloway Castle below in the bay. A right turn on B9074 led north again through the 'Field of Tingwall' past the Loch of Tingwall, where I stopped in the sunshine to take more pictures. At this point I began to relax, settle into a rhythm and enjoy the holiday feeling.

Having turned left at Veensgarth towards Walls, I marvelled at a low flying aircraft sign in the middle of apparent nowhere, then flinched as a twin engined plane swooped over my left shoulder to land at Tingwall Airport. I arrived in time to watch the plane taxi in. A north west climb over to the top of Whiteness, then I pulled up outside a shop for fruit and drink. I consumed my banana and lucozade outside in glorious sunshine.

The Shetland Jewellery shop near Hellister arrived just in time to provide shelter from a sudden downpour, I'd been watching the dark cloud approaching over the hills for some time. Fifteen minutes later it had passed and I set off into the wind. Eventually I cycled around the head of Weisdale Voe, having turned through 180 degrees came the welcome relief of wind propulsion up the road that climbed alongside the Hill of Sound. Two cyclists came towards me on their way down, we chatted for a while across the road. They were touring on a circuit anti-clockwise so we reasoned that we'd probably meet again further round. Stunning views from the top.

The road followed the coast with ups and downs to Tresta and on to Bixter, where I bought supplies from CG Williamson's shop. Again strong sunshine for consuming an apple and some orange juice outside. A steep uphill climb (>20%) followed the turn onto the B9071 towards Twatt. At this point the cold really started to bite, I pulled up my buff scarf to form a balaclava under my helmet and switched to my 'Corrine Dennis Hurricane Jacket'. This had the desired effect and I soon started to feel the benefit of warm ears and windproofedness.

The route north took me across moorland to Aith at the head of Aith Voe where I stopped for photos. I carried on past the turning for East Burrafirth then rested for a while near the Methodist Church at Gonfirth, I found a very nice spot to eat lunch overlooking the sea. This was much needed refreshment before ascending some serious hills up and over to Voe. I passed by The Sail Loft Böd where I'd be staying on Thursday night, before climbing out of Lower Voe and turning right onto the A970. Then a left turn after the Loch of Voe onto the B9071 where half way along, I met the two cyclists again as predicted. They told me that they'd seen the Whalsay ferry arrive. They were staying in a B&B nearby so we thought we might meet again the following day.

After Laxo, a straight run down brought me to the ferry terminal where the boat was ready to consume passengers through it's gaping jaws.

photograph - MV Linga

I waited in the sunshine for the 2.00 pm sailing. It was a thirty minute crossing to Whalsay during which time I had Clix coffee from the machine and sunbathed on deck. Once on the island, I cycled round the harbour and up through Symbister straight to the Böd, but couldn't find it. There was no phone signal to ring the custodian so after a brief check of co-ordinates, I decided that the best thing would be to make enquiries at the leisure centre. A nice man went to find the receptionist and she very kindly pointed me in the right direction as well as helping with the best location for a signal.

I immediately found Grieve House Böd down a dirt track at the end of a gravel path. The Böd was just two rooms, a bedroom with four bunks and a fold down bed and a kitchen. The toilet was round to the side. Despite the lack of electricity (and shower), it was very clean and cosy and in a lovely location. Having taken up occupancy I had a stroll round Symbister, found a phone signal and learned from the Böd's custodian that I would be its only resident. I then took the bagless bike on a tour of the Island past Huxtor to Isbister, then back via Brough. A brilliant enjoyable weightless ride in the sunshine although I could see rain falling heavily across on the mainland.

I lit the Morso peat stove, made tea and settled in for the night as the wind howled outside.

Day three