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Shetland 2014 - The 'Irn Bru' Tour

Part 3 - Eshaness to Sumburgh

 

16.08.14 - Eshaness to Brae

map linkFrank still wasn't feeling fantastic but looking at the forecast there was a weather warnings of gale force winds for the next few days. There was very little shelter at Braewick and we knew that the Brae campsite was quite exposed as well. Frank hadn't been sleeping well and a couple of nights in a tent in gale force winds wouldn't help so we decided to find a B&B or guest house in Brae. Unfortunately everywhere was booked up and the only place we could get was a room for two nights at the Brae hotel. The ride over to the A970 was hard work in places as there was a strong northerly wind which was either in our faces or was a cross wind which was worse as it nearly had us off at one point it was so strong. As we had predicted the climb up the hill at Urafirth was hard work and it seemed to go on and on. Eventually we got to the top but there were times when I nearly gave in and stopped as my legs were aching from the lactic acid build up but we were both determined to get to the top near Skierda Water. Whilst I was waiting there for Frank there was a welcome distraction of a pair of Red-throated divers on the water, it was just a shame that the weather was so overcast as it was difficult to get any decent photos of them. The ride from there to the junction of the A970 was a bit scary as there was a vicious blustery side wind and the gusts were so strong you almost felt it was going to blow us over. We were grateful to get to the bus shelter at the A970 junction just to get out of the wind and get stop for some lunch and a well earned brew.

The ride down the A970 to Brae was much easier as the strong gusting wind was now at our backs which made it much easier riding. Just as we got into Islesburgh I noticed a small wood or mini forest on the side of the road, perhaps due to its small size I hadn't noticed it when we had cycled the other way. Shetland is a bit like Iceland there are very few trees and certainly very few forests. As we entered Brae I stopped at the Brae Building Centre to see if they had any gas and luckily they did so I bought a couple of cylinders to keep us going. The Brae hotel was soon found and they had a large garage where we could store our bikes. We decided to try the restaurant at the hotel and were served by a rather pleasant Polish waiter who rather made up of the food which was rather akin to school dinners.

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17.08.14 - Brae

Frank slept for most of the day whilst I had a look around Brae. I must admit that there isn't that much to Brae apart from a few small housing estates there is the Thai takeaway at one end the garage and store and the Brae hotel in the middle and a chip shop and the CO-OP at the other end! As we had little choice of where to eat as Frank wasn't up to going far we opted to eat in the hotel restaurant. Obviously the hotel serves the oil industry as the same blokes came in and they all sat at the same tables, men are obviously creatures of habit.

We had a different waiter this evening this one we think was Russian. He was very tall and had a very thick Russian accent. We nicknamed him Igor. When he brought over our starter he gave it to us with a curt 'Enjoy' it almost sounded more like a command than a pleasantry! He wasn't any where as pleasant as the Polish waiter. After he had served us our dessert he again asked us curtly "Have you any more wishes". This one had definitely been to a Russian charm school!

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18.08.14 - Brae

Frank still wasn't feeling very well so we decided to stay another day. Luckily they had a room for us, we had to change rooms but this one was actually nicer with two windows and a better view.

19.08.14 - Brae to Whiteness

map linkFortunately Frank was feeling much better today so we could get going again. The weather wasn't too bad, it was sunny with the odd shower but there was still a strong northerly wind which was in our favour as we were heading south. Soon after we set off we met a couple of tourers coming in the opposite direction. They had their heads down and were obviously struggling against the wind but they gave us a cheery wave and we waved back. With the tail wind it didn't take us too long to get to Voe where we stopped at the shop to buy some stamps so we could post the postcards. Looking down on the little pier at Voe it almost could have been somewhere in Norway as the buildings were wooden and painted in typical Norwegian maroon. The next bit along the A970 was easy going due to the tail wind and we were a little reluctant to turn off on to the B9570 as we were going so well. It also meant we had a crosswind and we had to watch the gusts, particularly as there were a couple of short steep hills to climb before we turned south again at Setter. The Weisdale valley was rather pleasant as the rugged moorland gave way to a much softer landscape with its meadows and some actual small woods lining the roads. At Kergod the road went through an avenue of trees right across the road. It reminded us of a similar place on Mull. We stopped just after it and we met a rather friendly tabby cat which reminded us of our two back home.

At the end of the valley we joined the A971 and it was a very pleasant ride along the side of Weisdale voe and we could see ahead of us the village of Kalliness a top a mound to the left of the voe. It almost looked like a St. Michaels mount from a distance. We stopped at shop at Kalliness to pick up some supplies for our tea as we weren’t that far away from our campsite. Not long after leaving the shop Frank realised that we hadn’t picked up any bacon. Fortunately I knew that there was another shop at Haggersta about a mile up the road so we didn’t have to turn back. Quite soon after Haggersta we were soon cycling alongside Stomness voe and then over the bridge that separates the voe from the Loch of Strom on the eastern side. It is quite interesting topography and geology on this part of Shetland as you have these almost north south narrow voes of Stromness and whitenesscreated by the softer narrow limestone bands between the Dalradian rocks.

From there we didn’t think we had far to go to the campsite as my GPS was showing it to be at Wormadale near the side of Whiteness voe. Unfortunately when we got there it was nowhere to be seen and when I asked a lady who was in her front garden she told us that it was up near the top of Wormadale hill on the main road. Well it was a case of dropping down to bottom gear and grinding our way up, just what you need at the end of the day. The campsite is actually at the Whiteness Inn it wasn’t open as there was a sign on the door saying it was open at 7.00pm. There was a grassy area in front which we assumed we could pitch on with a door at the end of the building which lead into some rather grotty cramped and dirty wash-rooms with showers that were covered in black slimy mould. Oh well it will do for one night. Come 7.00pm I popped into the bar to pay the chap and couldn’t believe the price he charged us, £10 for the night, the most expensive campsite on Shetland with the worst facilities. The only saving grace was the free wifi in the bar and the beer which was luckily quite good.

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20.08.14 - Whiteness to Bridge End

map linkWe were just ready to take the tent down when it started raining fortunately it was just a short shower so the tent didn’t get too wet. At least being near to the top of Wormadale hill we didn’t have to start off with a stiff climb and after a short stop at the parking place at the top to admire the view we were soon heading downhill and passing Tingwall airport which has flights to Fair isle. We turned of to Veensgarth or Vikings-garth another norse name meaning Vikingr’s Farm. The landscape is less rugged here with more hay meadows and less moreland. We turned off down the B9074 to the Loch of Tingwall and stopped at a small chapel which had a mausoleum in the churchyard with loads of ancient tomb stones. It was a fortunate stop as there was a sharp shower and we could shelter inside until it past us by. Soon after the chapel was the site of the ‘Thing’ which is a small spit of land that jutted out into the loch, it is where in Norse times they held the Shetland parliament. There are numerous ‘Thing’ sites throughout northern Europe mainly in the parts where there were Norse and Viking settlers.

The B9074 is quite a pleasant road as it runs alongside Loch of Tingwall and then Loch of Asta. It was as we were passing Loch Asta that we spotted a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers. It didn't take long to get to Scalloway and we soon found the Scalloway museum which is right next to the Scalloway Castle. Scalloway and its museum had very much been on our to do list for Shetland due to its association with the 'Shetland Bus'. The Shetland Bus was the nickname of a clandestine special operations group that made a permanent link between Shetland, Scotland, and German-occupied Norway from 1941 until the German occupation ended on 8 May 1945. They ferried resistance fighters and arms to Norway using a variety of small Norwegian fishing boats. We had both seen the film that was made just after the war and had read the book published by the Shetland Times so we both wanted to see the exhibits in the museum.

After the museum we had a look at the castle before having a ride along the harbour side to see the Shetland Bus memorial, some of the buildings that were used by the Shetland Bus and the slipway where they repaired their boats. After picking up some supplies for our evening meal we headed off for Bridge End along the B9074 and over the bridge on to the Island of Tronda. We were only on the island for a short time as we were soon passing over the bridge on to Burra island. Just before Hamnavoe we turned left to Bridge End and there was a steep hill which we both struggled with due to tired legs and perhaps not eating enough earlier in the day. The road follows the top spline of the island and was a bit of interval training as it was quite undulating and we were glad when we finally dropped down into Bridge End. The camping is at the Bridge End Outdoor Centre which is right next to the marina. The centre was closed but there is an honesty box with envelopes for the campsite fee.

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21.08.14 - Bridge End

map linkI woke up fairly early and popped my head out of the tent. It was a wonderfully still sunny morning and there wasn't a breath of wind so the surface of water was like glass with beautiful reflections. I quickly got dressed and grabbed the camera and just had a great time taking loads of shots of the wonderful reflections of the boats in the marina and the houses that surrounded the Voe. Later we cycled down to Papil in the south of Barra and then on to where we grabbed a cache. We then headed down a track to have a look at Banna Minn beach, where the track ended we left the bikes and wandered over the beach which was really a tombola connecting the island. There was an interesting little little hut with its roof made from an old boat. As we headed over to Minn to have a look at the cliffs we were overtaken by a young man in jeans with a climbing rope over his shoulder carrying a shopping bag and wearing a pair of sand shoes. I was intrigued as to whether his shopping bag contained the rest of his climbing equipment. On reaching the cliffs we came across the young lad again he seemed to be just wandering around as if he was looking for something. On seeing us again he headed back across to Banna Minn beach! from the cliffs we got a good view of Foula away in the distance. Unfortunately my left heel was playing up again so we decided not to walk much further and headed back over to Banna Minn beach where we watched several ring plovers looking for food on the shoreline and Wheatears looking for food in amongst the thistles. After we had cooked our evening meal we sat outside reading and watched a lovely sunset which made for a lovely red glow it the clouds around the voe.

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22.08.14 - Bridge End & Hamnavoe

map linkI was up early and decided that while Frank slept I would pop out and take in a cache that was just up the hill behind the village. There was a good view from the top and it was clear enough to see Fair isle in the distance to the south and Foula to the west. Unfortunately I could see in the north that the clouds were building and there looked like rain was on the way. Soon after I had got back to the tent and was cooking some breakfast we heard the tail tail noise of raindrops hitting the tent and soon it was raining hard. We hoped that it was only going to be a short shower but it seemed to be set in. We still had a few days left as our plan was to go to St. Ninians isle before going on to Sumburgh for the 27th so we were in no hurry to get going, we would see when the rain stopped. We sat and read whilst listening to the rain and by midday we had to decide whether to stay or go. Our main problem was that we were running out of food if we did stay. The nearest shop was a Hamnavoe 4 miles away, there was nothing for it but to don full waterproofs and head out in the heavy rain, I elected to go on my own as I knew Frank was feeling tired as she hadn't slept well. It was hard work initially as I was heading uphill most of the way into a head wind and driving rain, fortunately as I came over the brow of the hill at Meal the rain began to cease and by the time I was coasting down the hill into Hamnavoe the sun was coming out.

I found the shop down by the harbour and I quickly stripped off the waterproofs before I broiled inside them as the south facing harbour was sheltered from the wind and it was a lovely sun trap. Having nearly bought the shop out and wondering how I was going to get it all in my pannier with all the waterproofs, the lassie from the shop came out with my packet of sandwiches which in my haste to get out of the shop as there was a queue forming I had obviously left on the counter. It was really pleasant sitting on the picnic bench by the side of the shop in the warm sunshine eating my sandwiches, such a contrast to the heavy rain of the morning. I headed back up the hill from the harbour this time a little heavier than I had come down so it was a case of dropping down a few gears and grinding my way up. I was glad of the rest as I stooped at the top of the village to take a few photos of a lovely shed covered in a wonderful pattern of shells, and a very cheerful lobster pot that was being used to grow flowers. At Meal sands I stopped to have a look at the lovely beach there and found a cache before heading back over to Bridge End this time in lovely sunshine.

When I got back to the tent Frank was getting a brew on and while it was brewing I decided to ring my dad to see how he was. Having spoken to him I was a bit concerned as he sounded quite down and I rather guessed the reason why. It was coming up to the 25th and it was a year ago that mum had passed away. They had been married for 62 years and they had been childhood sweethearts since they were 14 years old and I knew he was missing her deeply. Unfortunately my sister had to go to London so there wouldn’t be anyone with him on the 25th. I chatted to Frank about it and we both agreed that if we could get our flights changed we would try and get back on the 24th. Well I went off to the bridge (it was the only place we could get a signal) to make a few phone calls to Logan air. It took quite a long time to sort out as it was a little complicated as we had the bikes to consider but luckily they managed to book them in. I also contacted the Sumburgh hotel and managed to bring forward our stay.

Our only problem was getting to Sumburgh by tomorrow night, it was a fair distance in one day with quite a few hills, we decided that looking at the forecast which wasn’t that good we would try and get a taxis firm with a minibus that could take our bikes. This meant another trip over to the bridge to make another phone call, as I walked past the Outdoor centre I noticed that the centre was open and there was a chap outside. I got chatting to him and asked him about taxis firms. He said there was a telephone directory inside and a telephone and showed me where there were. I noticed that there was a BT hub and asked him if they had WiFi and whether I could use it. 'No problem, the password is here help yourself but I don’t think it was working cheerio I must go' and jumped in his car. Oh well I will give it a go, I logged into the router but no internet. A quick look at the router and I had it fixed the ADSL line wasn’t plugged in properly.

With the internet working on the phone I soon had a list of taxis firms in the area and went back off to the bridge to give them a ring. As I was phoning I noticed several caravans arriving at the site so it looked like we were going to have company tonight. With the taxis booked for 1.00pm the next day I headed back to the tent, the chap from the outdoor centre was back and was lighting a BBQ and asked me if I had got hold of a taxis. I told him that I had and that I had got his internet working for him for which he was quite grateful. He said he was getting things ready for a group of caravanner’s who were coming for the weekend some of the children were staying in the centre. I headed back to our tent as I knew Frank was keen to get on with our evening meal.

After our meal I headed back over to the bridge to phone my sister, I’m sure the locals were wondering why I kept lurking around on the bridge. On my return I got talking to one the ladies from the caravanners, they were a from a Shetland caravan club that meet up at different campsites around Shetland at weekends. She very kindly invited us to join their BBQ. I thanked her for her kind invitation but told her that we had unfortunately just eaten our meal of smoked haddock, 'Oh' she said, 'was it Blydoit’s smoked haddock?' Well I happened to remember noticing the name, 'Oh' she said 'then your haddock was probably landed by her husband as his boat supplied Blydoits smoke house'. We had a long chat about Shetland and she asked if we were enjoying our holiday in Shetland, they are so friendly these Shetlanders.

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23.08.14 - Bridge End to Sumburgh

It had been a bit of a windy night and we could hear the wind turbine speeding up in the gusts, fortunately it didn’t seem to keep us awake too much which I thought it might. The weather although a little overcast wasn’t too bad and we managed to get the tent down dry and got everything packed up for our taxis at 1.00pm. The taxis ride felt a bit like cheating but under the circumstances we thought it was justified. There was no point arriving at my dad's absolutely knackered.

24.08.14 - Sumburgh to Home

map linkOur flight wasn’t until 4.00pm so after we had our breakfast we loaded up our bikes and headed around to Scatness and then down to the end of the road to have a look at the Ness of Brugi where there was the remains of an iron age fort. We parked our bikes next to a wall at the end of the track and proceeded on foot to the ness. It was open grazed grassland with evidence of a good rabbit population although we didn’t see any. Just near the Hog of Breigeo there is a narrow rocky link to the Ness of Brugi, although it is not difficult they have put in a chained railing to stop you falling, we laughed and said it was Shetland’s equivalent to a ‘Via Ferrata’. On reaching the fort at the Ness of Brugi it was quite different from others that we have seen and was described as a ‘Blockhouse’ by its rectangular shape. It is unclear as to whether this was a defensive structure or a dwelling however I would think it might not be a dwelling as it was quite small for a dwelling. Time was pressing on and we headed back to the bikes and headed off to the airport as we needed to give us time to pack up the bikes. On arriving at the entrance to the airport we couldn’t help but stop at the sad memorial to the victims of the various helicopter crashes that had happened to flights from Sumburgh. Fortunately when we got into the terminal building it wasn’t very busy and we found a quiet space to pack the bikes in there poly bags ready for the flight. I flight was on time and it was sad to be leaving Shetland as we had had a great tour with some great memories. We had good weather for our flight to Edinburgh and as we flew over we had some good views of the forth rail and road bridges and on our flight out to Norwich a good view of Edinburgh. On arrival at Norwich we had arranged for a taxi to pick us up to take us to Dad’s.

I was so glad we did decided to leave Shetland early as my father was so pleased to see us and he really appreciated our company on the anniversary of mother’s death. Sadly he passed away from a massive heart attack on November 4th 2014 aged 89. Mum and Dad had been childhood sweethearts since they were 14 years old and had been married for 62 years. I know he missed mum terribly, November 10th would have been their anniversary and November 14th would have been Mum’s birthday. At least we know they are now together again!

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The End