Shetland Islands 2010

Windhouse to Fetlar - Wednesday, 26th May

Jim left for work early. I cooked breakfast, packed up and departed into a dark, damp, drizzly morning. The wind was still north westerly but seemed to have eased a little. Travelling north east then north on the A968, I made two climbs and rounded the head of Basta Voe. Another climb then the two ferries came into view plying their trade across Bluemull Sound, a wonderful offshore island panorama illuminated by washed out morning sunshine. I cycled straight onto the boat for the 8.50 am crossing and it was free! Ten minutes later I was passing the 'Welcome to Unst' sign.

There was a climb out of Belmont followed by a long road north, first to Uyeasound then eventually to Balta Sound. I cycled around a bit looking for a shop, before spotting a sign to the post office. Next door to the most northerly post office in Britain was a store overlooking a pretty harbour and inside was a self service cafe. I bought items from the store and heated them in the microwave and made myself a mug of coffee. Good system.

Feeling sustained, I left towards Haroldswick and arrived at Bobby's bus shelter decorated beautifully in orange. I signed the visitors' book whilst sheltering from a brief shower in complete comfort. One more hill later and I was speeding down towards Jim's Viking building site. An ex-pat from Rochdale waved me over and kindly showed me inside the long ship which was undergoing restoration. It had been built in Sweden and abandoned on Shetland some years previously during it's aborted voyage across the Atlantic. Jim and the volunteers were hard at work building the longhouse.

I decided to go further north and following Jim's excellent recommendation, set off towards Burrafirth and Herma Ness. Beyond the lovely beach at the head of Burra Firth, the road continued round and ended at the car park. I left the bike and set off walking up the hill with the bike sat nav in my pocket. A couple of miles later I arrived at a view far better than anticipated. A near 360 degree panorama of the north of Shetland, out towards the top of the world, with fine views of Muckle Flugga lighthouse, Saxa Vord listening station and Unst laid out below like an elongated map. Gorgeous. On return to the bike, I saw Ian and Gail who'd just parked up (several times - Gail was learning to drive and was obviously perfecting her reversing into a space technique) and were preparing to climb the hill.

Travelling a southerly heading for the first time, I passed the Viking site and arrived back at the famous Shetland Island Bus Stop again before retracing the route across Unst over the various climbs back to the Bluemull Sound ferry at Belmont.

The Fetlar ferry timetable was completely incomprehensible, on enquiry I discovered that the next one was it so I was straight on. The boat went back across to Yell first before becoming the 4.15 pm crossing to Fetlar. The coffee machine in the 'under the water line' passenger lounge wasn't working, however I took the opportunity to dry my socks and shoes after the boggy walk on Hermaness. The crossing wasn't long enough but at least the socks were warm as well as wet when I put them back on.

After disembarking, there were a few easy miles with some notable ascents, then I arrived at Houbie the main place on the island. Further on I came to a long downhill run to what looked like Aithbank Böd, which I descended having first made sure it was definitely the Böd below.

photograph - Aithbank Böd

The custodian was there and he kindly showed me around. The kitchen and living room were on the ground floor, two bedrooms upstairs with seven bunks in total, the toilet and shower were round to the side. Lorraine and Anna were already settled in, so I had the other bedroom to myself. I had a shower and freshened up, the waste water plumbing obviously had a problem and the shower room flooded.

It was a beautiful evening and Aithbank was the best Böd location so far. It overlooked a lovely bay with a crescent beach, and we watched several seals in the sea. Later I had a meal of chicken casserole with dumplings and settled down for the night as the sun went down.

Day five