Shetland Islands 2010

Aberdeen to Durham - Sunday 30th May

I showered and got ready before going down to the car deck to ride the bike off the boat and round to the parking compound in the pouring rain. I was able to leave the bike and return onboard (worryingly unchallenged) to have a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant. I made full use of this excellent facility which allows passengers to stay onboard until a far more civilised 9.30 am.

I wasn't keen to get soaked even on the short journey round to the train station so I stayed in the terminal building watching the BBC news whilst waiting for the weather to improve. Germany had won the Eurovision Song Contest, we'd come last. Eventually I chose a lull in the rainfall to make the half mile trip to the station. I passed a pleasant couple of hours at Costa Coffee in Union Square shopping centre, reading the newspaper whilst listening to an American trio of crooners - 'easy like Sunday morning!'.

photograph - Union Square

The guard on the train lifted the bike vertical with the bags still attached and to my horror suspended it on a hook by it's front wheel. After my howl of complaint, he let me get it down to remove the bags and I hung the bike back up myself. The rest of the journey was uneventful and I arrived back in sunny Durham exactly on time.


Shetland Islands tour:
North Mainland, Whalsay, Yell, Unst, Fetlar, South Mainland.

MV Hrossay - Aberdeen to Lerwick
MV Linga - Laxo to Symbister, Whalsay and back
MV Daggri - Toft to Ulsta, Yell
MV Geira - Gutcher, Yell to Belmont, Unst
MV Geira - Belmont, Unst to Gutcher, Yell to Hamars Ness, Fetlar
MV Bigga - Hamars Ness, Fetlar to Gutcher, Yell
MV Hjaitland - Lerwick to Aberdeen

Planned using with GPX files dragged and dropped to my Garmin Edge 705 bike computer. The little maps on each of these pages show my actual daily rides which were uploaded to the Garmin Connect website on my return. Please click the 'View Details' link at the bottom of each map for elevation profiles and timings.

This trip had been far longer in the planning than the others, perhaps because Shetland had felt so much more remote. My sense of achievement was dented only by the decision on the Friday to miss out the loop around North and South Nestings, as things turned out I could have managed it easily. It felt more important to keep to the planned daily route, mainly because of the accommodation booked each night. The Böds were wonderful and highly recommended, next time I'd probably also pack a tent to add a little more flexibility.

Shetland is an impressive landscape with stunning shoreline scenery, unspoilt beaches, crystal clear water and big big skies. It has to be said that there's not much inland and shops are few and far between for a touring cyclist short on provisions. The weather was a mixed bag and became a definite preoccupation (maybe that's just me) with a replete range of precipitation, periods of glorious hot sunshine and unpredictable wind both in terms of direction and strength. The wonderful terrain, flora and fauna found at either end of Shetland were unforgettable.

All the people I met on the islands were extremely helpful, kind and friendly. The cyclists both within and without bus shelters were all happy to take time for a chat, perhaps out of the utter amazement of seeing another cyclist. I was alone in two of the five Böds and the peat fires created a comfortable cosy crofting experience. The people staying at the other three were all very friendly and made for interesting evenings swopping stories. The Viking volunteers made me feel very welcome, almost part of their group.

I would very much like to return to Shetland, to explore the western parts and visit more islands.

View more photographs from the trip.