Shetland Islands 2010

Walsay to Windhouse - Tuesday, 25th May

It'd rained during the night and the wind had clearly strengthened, the fire had burned out hours before leaving a distinct chill in the air. I listened to Radio Scotland whilst eating breakfast of hamburger and beans.

Having packed up and tidied round, I left the Böd and pushed the bike up the little gravel path and out onto the road. With five minutes before the 9.15 am ferry, I cruised down the hill in the fresh morning air, round the harbour road and made it as the ramp was about to go up. Off we went along with the nursery class of the local primary school. It started as a sunny crossing, slightly more choppy than yesterday but the weather was definitely worsening with a stronger NW wind and more cloud. The nursery children were lively but well behaved, must be a great place to be a youngster growing up.

The strong headwind elevated itself to became the main issue of the day. Apart from a few joyous south eastish routes, it was painful all the way and to add insult there were regular downpours. On the road beyond Laxo I met a cyclist dressed in black and we stopped for a chat. He was on his way southwards and I was the first cyclist he'd seen in three days. After reaching Voe, I pulled up at Tagon Stores for chocolate and a very tasty potato dog before taking the coast road round towards Brae. I decided to stock up again at Brae Garage convenience store and bought fruit and drink.

After Brae I diverted east to have a look at Mavis Grind, the narrow isthmus which joins the Northmavine peninsula to the rest of Shetland Mainland whilst separating the North Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. On the other side, large stainless steel letters spelt out 'Welcome to Northmavine' like Shetland's equivalent of 'Hollywood', except the 'W' was wearing a pair of Nike sports socks. The area is thought to have been a volcano's magma chamber 400 million years ago. I managed to take some photographs before the rain started again including a picture of the Geowall which featured all the rocks of Northmavine and was built to promote Shetland's Geopark bid.

The Shetland Islands was awarded membership of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network in April 2010, as one of 66 Geoparks in 20 countries. The Geopark recognises Shetland's important geology and seeks "to safeguard and increase the awareness and understanding of Shetland's rich geological heritage and to use this as a driver for sustainable development."

Returning to the B9076, I continued north east towards the oil terminal at Sullom Voe. There was much activity at the airfield with many comings and goings of planes and helicopters serving offshore installations. The wind propelled me south east for a while before the road joined the A968. I climbed the hill and stopped to have a look at the Delting fishing disaster memorial near the Mossbank junction at Firth.

The ferry was pulling into the terminal as I arrived at Toft, the 1.55 pm crossing to Yell took about 15 minutes in warm sunshine. The £3.60 return fare was payable on the outward journey. The Ulsta harbour side shop, R. Robertson & Son, seemed like a good place to buy supplies and a warm sausage roll, which I ate sat on the bench outside in the sun whilst watching the ferry load up and depart. I knew I'd be pushed for time on the return leg so decided to take the longer eastern route to Mid Yell and set off towards Burravoe. This was a gorgeous ride along the coast past Hamnavoe and Littlester, with distant offshore views to the Out Skerries.

Then the total struggle north started again, first to Otterswick where I tried my zoom lens to take a picture of the White Wife. Soon after I turned off for the eastern road alongside Corn Hill to Aywick, down then up to Mid Yell. Wind, rain, downhill pedalling, wilderness, seemingly never ending torture. I climbed the hill through Mid Yell then fought my way along the A968 until the very welcome sight of Windhouse Lodge Böd emerged out of the gloom.

photograph - Windhouse Lodge Böd

The Böd was bigger than the last with eight beds in three rooms, a kitchen, toilets and shower. A couple, Ian and Gail were already ensconced then Jim arrived. Jim was working together with some volunteers building a Viking longhouse on Unst near Haroldswick, which he invited us to visit when passing. The volunteers themselves were staying at the Sail Loft Böd. Turned out that Jim had built the Mavis Grind Geowall.

A most enjoyable and comfortable evening. Later I walked up the hill to take a look at Windhouse, now derelict and an eerie sight on the skyline.

Day four