Shetland Islands 2013

Aberdeen to Durham - Sunday 23rd June

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.

After riding the bike off the boat and round to the parking compound, I walked back through the terminal building in order to make full use of the excellent breakfast facility back onboard. This time I was challenged by security, presumably a Serco inspired improvement.

I had a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant and chatted to the couple who'd been on the Foula ferry. They were from Bradford and had been visiting their daughter who'd taken up residence on Foula. It was very interesting listening to the account of their visit, together with potted histories of the families on the island and how the community operates. It turned out that we had a number of mutual friends, small world. They were booked on the same train as me.

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

I walked along the platform and found the guard's van at the front of the train, a kind East Coast lady helped me load the bike, hang it on the hook and arrange the bags down the side.

The change at Newcastle was fairly painless. I wheeled the bike straight onto the Trans Pennine Express where another cyclist helped me to strap the bike in next to his. He was going to Durham as well and we wheeled off together.


Shetland Islands tour:
West Mainland, Muckle Roe, Foula, Lerwick.

MV Hjaitland - Aberdeen to Lerwick and back
MV New Advance - Walls to Foula 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 odd straight line on the last map.

The postponement of the planned Foula trip was disappointing, however the eventual short but truly remarkable experience was well worth the wait. Foula is a totally fascinating place, which you must visit should you ever have the opportunity.

The Böds remain highly recommended, Sail Loft is large with a pub over the road, Skeld has a marvellous location and Voe House is convenient for the Foula ferry.

Shetland is an impressive landscape with stunning shoreline scenery, unspoilt beaches, crystal clear water and big big skies. The weather was better than expected apart from the final day; that trip back to Lerwick will stay with me for a long time. 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 Fair Isle, camping isn't allowed so maybe it'll have to wait.

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. This year I'd visited its spit.

View more of my photographs.