Shetland Islands 2013

Voe to Skeld - Wednesday, 19th June

Plan B was basically to visit Muckle Roe, an island on the western side of Shetland above Brae that looked interesting and would also boost my island visit total. I had a full day to explore before making my way back towards Walls for the second attempt at the ferry, so trekking across to South Nesting was no longer an option.

I completed Clive's booking form and folded it up with the key and a twenty pound note, I owed £10 for the Böd and £5 for the peat. Neither Clive nor his pickup were around so I cycled the third of a mile back up the hill to his workshop. He wasn't there either, it seemed that I wouldn't be able to get any change. In the end I decided to leave a note in the Sail Loft and put the form/cash/key package in the post box where I'd found the key.

Stopping briefly to take a last photograph, I started out up the hill to the main road leaving the Böd behind.

The road followed the northern shore of Olna Firth round to Brae at the head of Busta Voe. I stopped at the garage shop in Brae for re-supplies of chocolate, flapjack and milk.

Further on, I noticed a Co-op store where the road turns to the left and thought I'd see if they had any banana milk. It was full of school kids and sadly lacked banana milk, so I left and carried on up the hill for the turning to Busta and Muckle Roe. It was a bright blustery day and I was back into the wind, soon I arrived at the stylish bridge across Roe Sound.

I crossed over to Muckle Roe and followed the road round to the left, along the southern coast right to the end.

The plan had been to ride/walk up the track north west over to the Hams and find a camping spot for the night.

In the event I was conscious of the headwind cycling south and couldn't risk being late for the Foula ferry the following afternoon. I turned round and started to shorten the distance between me and Walls.

I stopped to take photos of Brae when I noticed its new build hotel under construction at the back on the left. This will provide 100 rooms primarily for workers at the Total Gas Plant which is being built near Sullom Voe. Total has block booked all rooms for the first year and 80 for the next six. Delting Boating Club was in the foreground.

The journey south was without incident and I soon arrived at Tagon Stores where I bought a pie and some milk for sustenance. Thinking about the sharp climb out of Voe, I decided to take the A970 main road south past the Whalsay ferry turning instead. The steady climb, whilst not steep was made strenuous by the headwind.

Eventually I reached the top and enjoyed the benefit of gravity in easing the burden. I planned to cross over to Kergord instead of taking the longer way round via Whiteness and saw the turning a couple of miles ahead by Sand Water, a coach was making its way over the pass.

Another stiff climb took me up and over to Weisdale. I diverted right along a farm track up the Upper Kergord valley to see if any camping spots looked promising. There were a number of possibilities alongside the river but the area was full of sheep and nowhere seemed to provide much shelter. In the end I turned around and rejoined the road across the valley and powered up the hill before the road swung left southwards. Some baby Shetland ponies were in a field.

The route down the valley was extremely pleasant and as would be pointed out to me later, did resemble the Yorkshire Dales. This is one of the few places in Shetland to have trees, with plantations on either side of the road. Eventually I arrived at the Bonhoga art gallery, shop and cafe.

Situated in Weisdale Mill, the gallery was one of Shetland Arts Trust's first projects. I had a look around, saw some interesting installations and noticed the lovely cafe that sits above the river. After a brief scout of the shop, I went outside for some flask tea and chocolate. Bonhoga means 'my spiritual home'.

The motor cyclists from the boat arrived in the car park and waved. After a suitable rest, I braced myself for the climb out of Weisdale up the steady pull for the second time this trip, fourth time ever. It was no easier getting to the top but the views were just as spectacular.

It occurred to me to head for the Böd at Skeld where I'd stayed before, that way I'd have a relaxing night plus both me and the kit would be clean and dry ahead of two night's camping on Foula. I took the opportunity of a phone signal to ring Shetland Amenities for an availability check.

I blasted down to Tresta and on to Bixter, stopping once again at the shop for supplies. In expectation that the Böd would also be equipped with a Beko oven, I bought a fray bentos steak and kidney pie and a tin of mixed veg for a sumptuous banquet. Crunchy nut corn flakes and milk completed the shopping list for a satisfying stay in Skeld. There was a petition on the counter against education cuts, the nice shop lady explained the plight of children being bussed daily to Lerwick when the proposed school closure happened.

My phone rang on the way out of Bixter, it was Karen the Skeld Böd custodian confirming the booking. Back at Park Hall, this time I took the left turn onto the B9071 and tracked down the other side of The Firth, with Bixter just across the water. Memories of the last time I'd cycled down this road two years ago flooded in, when the weather had been atrocious and my spirits at an all time low. This time was far more pleasurable with magnificent views down Sand Voe.

The road turned inland with a steady climb across open land before dropping down to Skeld Voe. After a pleasant run around the head of the Voe, there was the sharp climb up into Easter Skeld. Instead of going left to the Böd, I cycled straight over to the custodian's house for the key and left the bike at the top of the drive. I was met by Karen and her sheepdog Ben.

I spent a very pleasant half an hour or so chatting to Karen and her husband in their conservatory. They're both from Yorkshire and have spent ten years in Skeld, building up their plumbing business and domestic livestock. We discussed Shetland life, Foula and the state of Bradford City Centre.

It was incredibly hot and I was slowly melting due to the recent climb into Skeld and now the hot sunshine streaming through the conservatory roof. I gave Karen £10 for the night plus £2.50 for half a bag of peat, she told me that the slot meter was well in credit so pound coins wouldn't be a problem. I said good-bye and walked back to the bike.

The Böd has a wonderful location adjacent to the marina.

Having settled in as the only resident, I lit the peat stove, consumed my banquet and relaxed whilst enjoying the wonderful surroundings. Later, as the sun began to set, gorgeous orange hues were cast across the marina. With camera in hand, I went for a wander to capture some of the evening mood.

Day six