Shetland Islands 2011

Lerwick to Papa Stour - Sunday, 22nd May

The boat steamed into a very wet, grey and dreary looking Lerwick. I had full breakfast in the restaurant and got ready for a cycling day ahead. The car deck wasn't full and I joined the little huddle of cyclists waiting at the back for the cars and camper vans to move off.

I deposited my spare clothes bag in the terminal left luggage room and set off into the drizzle. Following the sat nav I turned up Gremista Brae and cycled up the hill rounding the corner into Ladies Drive. I suddenly realised that I wasn't wearing any glasses, they were in the bag back in left luggage. I felt so stupid, I'd nearly crested the hill and now I had the dilemma whether to go back for them or not. With regret I turned round, all that effort wasted as potential energy ebbed away on the swift descent back to the terminal. I flew past three touring cyclists who were just setting out.

Climbing Gremista Brae for the second time was much harder, I caught the three touring bikes up near the top. They were Germans, heading for Eshaness with a plan to return the following day before going on to Orkney. I left them behind and met the A970 down to the Scalloway turning near the Golf Club. I stopped at the bus stop for a while listening to the rain falling on the roof. The Germans passed by with a wave and started the climb, I set off and caught them up again before the top.

I turned off left towards Veensgarth and stopped at Tingwall Airport for a mooch, nothing was happening. I carried on up the A971 over to Whiteness where the shop was shut. Straight on Robinson & Morrison's shop also closed, as was Shetland Jewellery. The sun came out and I began to dry off, it was very pleasant with a following wind. Then came the climb up and over to Tresta. The shop at Bixter was closed. I hadn't specifically planned for it being Sunday so it was a good job I'd packed plenty of food.

The road forked off left past Hulma Water and I was soon at the turning for West Burrafirth and the ferry. Five very pleasant hilly miles followed with terrific views as the road meandered around hills and lochs. Then the Papa Stour ferry came into view, it was far too early. I mooched around the harbour taking pictures before cycling on to the end of the road at Snarraness. I had lunch on the pebbly beach out of the wind in the sunshine as the waves rolled in.

photograph - MV Snolda

Returning, I cycled around, looked at the waiting room mural and wondered why I hadn't paced myself better. I noticed a racket going on up in the wall of the waiting room which every now and again doubled in intensity. On investigation I found the source of all the noise outside. In the wall was a broken vent cover and a pair of birds had obviously moved in and started a family. The little ones were keeping the parents busy flying around looking for food, their cries intensifying every time a parent returned carrying a titbit in its beak.

Eventually the ferry crew arrived and began preparing the ferry. I was ushered onboard the MV Snolda as the only passenger and the bike was tied up. The boat rocked and rolled in the stiff wind as Papa Stour grew on the horizon. 35 minutes later I was off the boat and racing up the road to beat the very black menacing cloud that appeared to be heading my way.

Hurdiback backpackers hostel was one of the first properties along the road, not far and I arrived just before the rain. Peter welcomed me at the bottom of the drive, he showed me where to put the bike in the barn and kindly helped me carry the bags into the hostel. It was an excellent place, comfortable, very well equipped, home made bread, free range 'Hurdiback' eggs and complimentary tea and coffee. There were clean towels and a comfy bed, TV, cooker, microwave and fridge. Lovely views of the bay and friendly lambs, excellent.

I made scrambled eggs on toast with spaghetti bolognese to follow. The wind blew all night, gale force 8, apparently.

Day three