Shetland Islands 2010

Fetlar to Voe - Thursday, 27th May

I awoke to a beautiful sunny day. The headland and cliffs around the bay had changed having a softer appearance in the morning light. By 8.30 am I'd had breakfast, packed up and said good bye to Lorraine and Anna. I decided to go and have a look at the Loch of Funzie, which boasts almost all of Britain's breeding Red-necked Phalaropes. I didn't see any Phalaropes but it was a lovely spot. Beside the loch was another Geowall, this time made up of the rocks of the island. I wondered if the Fetlar Geo Wall at Funzie was also Jim's handy work.

I turned around and headed west for the ferry. Speeding past the Böd, I built momentum to try and climb the hill opposite. Fetlar appeared to be still asleep and I saw no signs of life on the way through, the next ferry was at 10.50 am so there was no hurry. The tower at Brough Lodge looked interesting so I stopped to take a look. The road ran down to the sea and on the right was a large but derelict complex of buildings. Brough Lodge had obviously once been a magnificent place in such a lovely location.

The weather was clearly becoming worse, the sunshine disappeared as cumulus clouds built up in the sky with the wind blowing from the south west. It started to rain as I rolled down the hill to the ferry terminal at Hamars Ness. I had forty minutes to wait so took shelter in the waiting room and read all the excellent displays which had been created by the pupils of Fetlar Primary School, very informative. They had taken the time to make an "easy to understand ferry timetable" for the Fetlar route, which made me smile given my own inability to follow the Shetland Council one. The Böd's custodian and his wife arrived and we had a chat whilst sheltering from the rain.

After the short ride onto the ferry I was soaked. A twenty five minute crossing back to Yell and we disembarked in pouring rain. It was dispiritingly cold, and the cafe was closed. I hoped that the rain would lessen but there was no respite, I just kept going. It was no fun cycling into driving rain whilst retracing steps covered previously. As the cold ate away at my fingers, nose and toes, I started to feel hungry. In the absence of any shops, I sought refuge in a bus shelter shortly before the Mid Yell turning and sorted out some food. I unpacked the gas stove, brewed up some tea and warmed my hands around the cup. I instantly felt better.

I soon arrived back at Windhouse Lodge Böd and was very tempted to stop and find shelter but rolled on past heading towards the coast. It was a complete struggle to carry on with a number of long exposed climbs in terrible weather, maintaining visibility was becoming a problem in the spray. I glimpsed two cyclists dressed in red holed up in a bus shelter opposite as I sped downhill. It seemed neverending along the coast, eventually however the ferry terminal hove into view. I did my drowned rat impression in R. Robertson & Son's shop and bought Fruit n Nut whilst puddles formed around me on the floor.

The ferry was loaded and I made it as last on. I tried to dry my socks, shoes and gloves on the ferry's storage heaters but once again the crossing was too short to have the desired effect and reluctantly I had to put them back on. On arrival at Toft, the rain was heavy and the misery was set to continue. I sheltered inside the terminal waiting room for a few minutes to gather my thoughts, in the vain hope that the clouds would pass to reveal clear blue sky. If anything, the sky grew darker.

I ventured on over to the Delting memorial where a bus shelter came into view around the corner. I considered taking a respite stop until it became apparent that another cyclist was already in residence. I poked my head into the shelter for a chat and realised that it was the cyclist I'd met on the car deck of the Aberdeen ferry in Lerwick. He'd been sheltering there a while and was heading either for Grieve House or Sail Loft Böds. He pointed out the shop at the bottom of the hill so I left him in the bus shelter and cruised down in search of food, shelter and warmth. The people at the Mossbank Shop were great, so kind and friendly. They made me some coffee and heated up a pie in their microwave. I also bought chocolate and pancakes for breakfast and ate probably the best chicken and mushroom pie in the world as we chatted. Spirits were restored.

I cycled up the long drag over the ridge to Dales Voe and then started the long descent on the A968. This would have been a lovely stretch to cycle with views up the Voe, however in the mist, rain, wind and spray it was a trial. A few hills later I recognised the buildings of Hillside and joined the A970 south. I turned right and descended into Lower Voe and with a massive sense of relief pulled up outside Sail Loft Böd.

photograph - Sail Loft Böd

This was easily the biggest Böd so far and it was nearly full. There were two rooms with bunks, most were in one room, sixteen in all. The large kitchen was well equipped and along the corridor were toilets and a shower. Jim's volunteers had arrived back early having worked a half day due to the inclement weather, most were warming themselves by the stove. One of them took pity on me and kindly made a cup of tea and showed me to one of the remaining bunks. He also organised a space for my bike inside the big room and put newspaper on the floor to soak up the puddle.

I wasn't sure what to do first, eat, dry off, shower or rest. In the end I sorted out my stuff, warmed up for a bit by the stove and went for a long warming shower. Meanwhile I'd hung my wet things in the warm room to dry, the priority was my soaked and only pair of shoes. The stuff in the bags was completely dry, amazing really and a testament to the design of the Arkel XM-45 and XM-28 panniers. It's a shame the same couldn't be said for my Topeak Tourguide handlebar bag, even with its rain cover on. Neil, the cyclist I'd just seen in the bus shelter arrived having cycled to Voe the other way via Brae.

Several people had recommended the pub over the road so I decided to eat there. The weather had improved and unbelievably, it was sunny as I walked the short distance to the Pierhead Restaurant and Bar. It was very welcoming, warm and friendly and I ordered Yorkshire pudding filled with steak and ale followed by apple pie. I contemplated the utter usefulness of Shetland's bus shelters in providing the natural habitat for cyclists in the pouring rain. Later I returned to the pub with the BTCV volunteers and stayed a couple of hours playing a 'categories' game.

I slept well despite all the snoring.

Day six