Shetland Islands 2011

Durham to Lerwick - Saturday, 21st May

I arrived fifteen minutes early for the 8:23 East Coast train to Aberdeen and walked the length of the platform ready for the guard's van to pull alongside.

photograph - Durham Railway Station

A very helpful East Coast porter helped me on with the bike, I hung it up on the rack and stacked the bags in the corner. From the first carriage it seemed a very long walk down the corridor to coach L, an announcement reeled off the impressive list of stops en-route. I found A27 which was in first class, a single table seat facing forward, very nice.

The foursome group opposite passed around family photographs, it struck me as a rare scene with people nowadays usually gazing at digital versions on lcd screens. The train stopped briefly at Wallyford to pick up passengers from a failed Musselburgh to Edinburgh local service. A personal ambition was satisfied when we crossed the Forth Rail Bridge with the road bridge alongside glorious in the sunshine. Then the line hugged the north shore of the Forth with views over to the Edinburgh side, lovely.

Three lots of complimentary refreshments were served during the journey, after Newcastle, Edinburgh and Dundee. An excellent service providing tea, ham croissant, tea, water, ploughman's sandwich, crisps, tea, ham sandwich, oh and tea. We crossed over the Tay Bridge with the stumps of the old piers alongside. At Stonehaven, the route followed the coast with a misty horizon, far cloudier than further south. Oil tankers anchored offshore heralded Aberdeen's approach.

The mix up with my return rail tickets was sorted by Tara at Aberdeen Travel Centre who was wonderful. She let me and the bike wait in the first class lounge whilst a travel permit was faxed over. More complimentary food. I withdrew cash from a machine in the Union Shopping Centre before riding round to Northlink, I was early so first through check-in. The boat left on time. The facilities onboard were excellent, my cabin had a TV where you could choose from a list of films. In the restaurant I had steak and vegetable pie, peas, carrots and coffee. Plentiful calories for the ride ahead.

Day two