Shetland Islands 2011

Voe to Eshaness - Wednesday, 25th May

The tower guys were up early and off in their Land Rover by 7.00. Quietness returned again until Carol started to get ready, so I got up to make breakfast and start packing. Carol was under time pressure as she woofed down a bowl of muesli before setting off on her bike. By 9.00 I was on the road north towards Brae.

The wind was still from the south west but had dropped in strength considerably and the pedalling was far easier, a few showers passed over but nothing like the day before. I was heading for the Braewick Cafe and Caravan Park at Eshaness. After Brae, I turned left towards Northmavine for the start of my northern mainland tour. I stopped at Mavis Grind and spoke briefly to a couple taking pictures. They told me about a lady cyclist they'd met in Eshaness who I would in all likelihood meet soon.

The road was very quiet, for extended stretches it cut through the countryside in long straight swathes, sweeping bends, smooth climbs and long descents. At ten miles the rain arrived and providently so did a bus shelter, between the turnings for Sullom and Nibon. Just before the fork for Eshaness I saw the lady touring cyclist as predicted, stopped opposite by the roadside. We chatted for a while, she was Swiss and had been in Shetland for three weeks, leaving on Sunday. She recommended seeing the Eshaness Lighthouse, she'd also stayed at Braewick camp site but in one of their wigwams.

The road became even quieter after the fork and slightly more hilly. The views however were simply stunning with glorious offshore scenery. I dropped down to Urafirth and followed the coast before crossing to Burnside where I stopped to take photographs. Several hills later I rounded a summit and passed through what seemed like the gateway to Eshaness, laid out below.

I swept into Braewick and stopped at the camp site but the cafe was closed. The lady though came out to see me and kindly showed me around and where I could pitch the tent. She wasn't sure if a wigwam was available for the night and wondered if I might like to check with her later, especially as the wind was forecasted to 'pick up' during the night. I assured her of my happiness to camp and the robustness of my tent. The facilities were impressive, large cafe, excellent clean showers and a warm laundry room. I wandered round for a while trying to judge the most sheltered pitch before disrobing the bike and erecting the tent. I noticed the webcam dome attached to the building.

That done, I took the de-bagged bike on a tour of Eshaness, first to the lighthouse and what a sensational place! Superb coastal scenery, sheer cliffs with soapy blue and white sea foaming below. Spectacular. A huge gash in the ground ran back on the right, a car was parked right on the edge and made for a strange scene perched high above the raging sea. I walked around the lighthouse and took in the magnificent views.

photograph - Eshaness Lighthouse

I then cycled back down to Stenness for a closer look at Dore Holm. I propped up the bike at the end of the road and ventured down to the shore on foot. Round to the right in the bay, a small island was home to a bunch of seals, several at least seven were in the water all looking at me, slightly unnerving. The nearest ones were only ten metres away. I crept up on a group of oystercatchers that were hopping around on a rock and took some photos.

Back at the bike, a woman was looking at the scenery and we discussed the seals. We chatted for a while as the mist lifted and the sun came out, illuminating the bay, Papa Stour was away in the distance with the outline of Foula clearly visible on the horizon. She had extended her holiday due to all the extra things she kept finding to see and do, a benefit as she pointed out of being retired, can't wait.

I cycled back to the main road before turning off to see the Tangwick Haa Museum. A very interesting place, free and you can make a donation. I was particularly taken by a map giving a history of all the various shipwrecks on the Islands plus a local geological display. The woman at the museum pointed out more seals in Tang Wick, so afterwards I cycled down to the beach to take a closer look at them. The seals took the opportunity to take a closer look at me.

Back at the campsite, the woman from Stenness papped her horn and waved as she drove by, I had a shower and made tea. The weather deteriorated as the wind turned to the east and strengthened, the rain started and the temperature dropped. I retired early in anticipation of the impending gale and hoped that the sheltered spot would remain so now that the wind had changed.

It rained all night with gale force winds, it woke me up at 3.00 but I reckoned that as the tent was still standing, it would probably stay standing for the rest of the night. With this comforting thought in mind, I went back to sleep.

Day six