Shetland Islands 2011

Aberdeen to Durham - Sunday 29th May

I showered, got ready, packed and watched television whilst waiting for the call to disembark. The car deck was alive with echoing clanks of truck chains being ratcheted off and falling to the deck, metal on metal. I rode the bike off the boat and round to the parking compound in order to make full use of the excellent onboard breakfast facility. Returning onboard (worryingly unchallenged - again!) I had a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant and enjoyed the comfort of the ferry until 9.00.

photograph - Leaving Lerwick

Eventually I left the boat and rejoined the bike to make the half mile trip to the railway station. I passed a pleasant couple of hours in the Union Square shopping centre whilst it woke up to Sunday shoppers, reading and listening to my iPod.

I walked onto the platform together with another lady cyclist, we found the guard's van at the front of the train and helped each other load on the bikes, hanging each one on the hooks and arranging bags down the sides.

The change at Newcastle was fairly painless apart from having to carry the bike up and over a bridge. I was though, able to wheel the bike straight onto the Trans Pennine Express and sit with it in the wheelchair area. I was joined by a nice lady making a second attempt to get off at Durham having failed to get off her original train in time.


Shetland Islands tour:
North Mainland, Papa Stour, West Burra, East Burra, Bressay.

MV Hjaitland - Aberdeen to Lerwick and back
MV Snolda - West Burrafirth to Papa Stour and back
MV Linga - Laxo to Symbister, Whalsay
MV Hendra - Symbister, Whalsay to Laxo
MV Leirna - Lerwick to Bressay and back

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 worked well until the battery died, hence the need to illustrate the last two days with Google maps.

The lack of the planned Foula trip was disappointing, however the opportunity thereby afforded to visit West Burra made up for it. My sense of achievement was restored by cycling the loop around North and South Nestings, the bit missed out last year. I really enjoyed the wild camping experience, especially at Banna Minn where the sun actually came out.

The Böds remain highly recommended, Sail Loft is very sociable, Skeld has a marvellous location and Grieve House offers a wonderful crofting experience. I sent my payment to Shetland Amenities when I got back as promised. Whilst looking at my photos, I noticed people on the island of Noss. On closer inspection, I found the little inflatable in a picture, so much for my search for the ferry!

Shetland is an impressive landscape with stunning shoreline scenery, unspoilt beaches, crystal clear water and big big skies. The weather was, lets face it, horrible and became even more of a preoccupation with me. Constant cloud monitoring and compass gazing did not really help. Bus shelters bless them, are the cyclist best friend, offering respite in an otherwise exposed landscape. All the people I met on the islands were extremely helpful, kind and friendly.

I still feel the need to visit Foula, Fair Isle is beckoning too.

When I was a kid, I had a huge map of the British Isles on my bedroom wall. I always thought that the Shetland Islands looked like a dog, possibly a poodle with floppy ears jumping down with paws outstretched. Last year I visited its body, back leg and paw, Yell, Unst and Fetlar and the front leg and paw on the way down to Sumburgh. This year I cycled over the floppy ears of Northmavine and around the mouth, Skeld and Walls. I've even been to its nose, Papa Stour.

View more photographs from the trip.