Shetland Islands 2011

Eshaness to Whalsay - Thursday 26th May

At 7.30 I was awake again, laying there in my cosy cocoon thinking about a plan for the morning whilst listening to the rain. The cafe opened at 10.00 so there was no hurry. It occurred to me that I could pack everything up except the tent, load the bike and wheel it into the shelter of the cafe building so that I could get straight off after breakfast, whilst standing a good chance of keeping everything dry.

The cafe was excellent, I had cereal, full cooked breakfast, tea, orange juice and toast. A group of six school boys and their three adult minders came in. They were on activity week, this lot having chosen fishing and they were waiting for the rain to stop because despite being told to bring waterproofs not everyone had. I paid for breakfast plus £5 for the camping, excellent value given the facilities available. I pulled down the soaked tent and gave it a good shake before stuffing it into the space I'd left in a rear pannier.

Then off into the rain and wind again which seemed to be more northerly, making the first part of the route more difficult. I looked forward to the improvement when I eventually returned back south. I cycled back to Burnside and alongside Ura Firth, before tuning left towards Assater. Then the road followed the south shore of Ronas Voe with the bulk of Ronas Hill towering ominously above. The road joined the A970 north, then a strange thing happened at a phone box just before the Ollaberry turn. A car with Dutch plates coming towards me stopped, reversed back up the hill, stopped then reversed some more. At first I thought they'd missed the turn, but as I approached them uphill, a camera appeared out of the window and someone took my photograph before the car carried straight on. The phone box seemed like a good place to take a break.

At Colla Firth, I stopped to take photos of the Altaire, the largest of the Shetland pelagic trawler fleet. Then I carried on to North Roe.

photograph - North Roe

Passing through the village there appeared to be an aeroplane in the garden of a house up ahead, I took a closer look and there was. I reached Sandvoe where I planned to have something to eat on the beach, but due to the weather I just turned round and chose the bus shelter at North Roe as my dining room instead. Then I retraced my steps south, now far easier with a following wind.

Back at the telephone box I took the turn to Ollaberry and toiled up a very steep climb with an equally lethal descent, but the view from the top was exceptional. A panoramic long distance clear vista opened up across to the Sullom Voe oil terminal. I was joined by two guys in a plumbers van from Hull, a bit of a long distance call out! Apparently they were on a job but were using a day off for a sight seeing tour of the island. After the wildly out of control descent, I mooched around Ollaberry and its kirk. I stopped for supplies at the Ollaberry Shop, the woman kindly microwaved my chicken pie.

I joined the main road again by Eela Water and ran down to the Eshaness fork. Half way up the following hill, spookily at exactly the same spot where I'd met the Swiss lady cyclist, there were two more cyclists stopped on the opposite side of the road. One of them was on the phone (lucky to have found a signal) the other told me they were on their way to Braewick camp site. They'd stayed at Nesbister Böd the previous evening, an experience he described as 'interesting'. His rear tyre had blownout at Voe and a local person had driven him to Lerwick for repairs, so now they were in the process of catching up their wives who were somewhere up ahead.

An idea started to form which culminated in the decision to head for Whalsay and Grieve House Böd. I'd have a chance to dry off and it would be a good alternative to the Sail Loft. The distance flew by and soon I was back at Mavis Grind where I stopped for old times sake, then around to Brae and on to Voe where I stopped at the Tagon Store for sustinence. The shop guy came outside and kindly offered to heat up my sausage rolls but I'd already eaten them.

The ferry MV Linga was loading through its open jaws as I approached Laxo, so I speeded up and coasted down the slope into the terminal and onto the ramp, good timing. At Symbister it was raining hard as I climbed the hill up to the Leisure Centre and round to the Böd. It was locked so I walked up to the custodian's house and knocked on the door. Their very friendly hairy cat seemed pleased to see me. The custodian's husband came to the door, he'd been in the bath having been caught in the rain!

The Böd was just the same as I'd remembered. I lit the peat burning stove and settled in for another cosy crofting experience whilst my wet and damp stuff was arranged on the laundry bars above. As it got dark, I made tea, listened to the radio and sipped hot chocolate. I'd cycled over forty miles, the highest daily total yet and I was ready for a decent rest.

Day seven