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Union flagShetland Tour 2014

The 'Irn Bru' Tour

Cycling on HarrisLast year on our Orkney tour we said we would leave Shetland for another year, well this year we got ourselves organised. We had thought about driving up to Aberdeen and catching the ferry. However when we worked it out it would have been 3 days getting to Shetland and 3 days getting back, where as if we flew we could get there the same day, when we worked out the cost it was about the same.

We really enjoyed our time on Shetland and we were quite glad that we had left it for another year as there was loads to to see. We certainly wouldn't have had enough time to do both Orkney and Shetland in one tour. Shetland is certainly much different to Orkney, there is far more open moorland and sheep farming on Shetland and less agriculture. This is probably due to Shetland being much more hilly than Orkney. The roads are very good and apart from the A970 which is the main spine road on Shetland the roads are relatively traffic free. All the Shetlanders we met were a very friendly and welcoming.

The main highlights of Shetland for us were:
1.The RSPB bird reserve on Noss. It has an amazing bird life, Bonxies, Puffins, Arctic terns, Arctic skuas, Black guillemots with their wonderful red feet and an enormous gannetry with nearly 12,000 gannets.

2. Sitting on a bench at 2 o?clock in the afternoon in Mid Yell overlooking the harbour where we watched an otter stroll across the road right in front of us by the post office, run across the beach, have a nose around the harbour jetty before swimming off across the bay. Absolutely amazing!

3. The Keen of Hammar nature reserve, which has some very rare alpine flowers growing in amongst some Serpentine and Harzburgite debris at the extreme height of 45m above sea level and we were delighted to find flowering the very rare Edmondston's Chickweed which is found nowhere else in the world.

4. The Unst Bus shelter, we had seen pictures of this in someone else's cycling blog and we just had to see it for ourselves.

5. Mousa Broch, the most complete broch in Scotland.

Oh and lastly we got involved in a helicopter rescue. Fortunately it wasn't us that needed rescuing, it was a 71-year-old gentleman called Terry who had fallen and twisted his knee whilst descending from Hermanes hill on Unst. Unfortunately it was the knee that he had had replaced just 8 months earlier! We tried to assist him down but after a few yards it was obvious that he was in too much pain and it was a good 2 miles to get to the road head. The coastguards were called and a chopper was dispatched from Sumburgh. When it arrived Frank and I helped the crew to get him into the stretcher and carry him on-board. Funnily we met Terry with his leg in a splint two days later at a petrol station with his son who had just picked him up from the hospital. His x-rays had shown that he had chipped a bone in the knee when he fell so that was his holiday over. Apparently the rescue had made the Scottish television news.

You may be wondering why we called it the 'Irn Bru' tour, well Frank hadn't tried the famous Scottish soft drink 'Irn Bru' before and got a taste for it and so we ended up drinking quite a lot of it!

You can read more about our 'Irn Bru' tour in our travelogue pages using the links below:

We have outlined the route that we took on the map below:

Things to take note of on Shetland
  1. There aren't that many food shops on Shetland so you will need to stock up on supplies when you can. Have a look at our map below where we have indicated the food shops we know about (We think we have got most of them but if you no different please let us know).
  2. If you use gas cartridges for your camping stove then they are not that easy to get hold of on Shetland. There are 2 shops we know of and they are John Goudie's shop in Toab (thanks to Molly for telling us about this) and The Brae Builders Centre in Brae.
  3. Although the hills are not that high (the highest is Ronas Hill at 450m) Shetland is still quite rugged and if you look at our GPS profiles you can see that there was a fair amount of climbing to be done at times.
  4. Due to Shetland's exposure to the North Atlantic it can get a bit windy at times so be prepared.
  5. We were generally quite lucky with the weather but Sheltand’s weather can be quite variable so be prepared. Within Shetland the weather can vary dramatically, it can be cloudy and raining in Lerwick on the east side but go over the hills to the west side and it can be lovely and sunny!

Map of Shetlands campsites, food shops, cafés and points of interest

We have put together a interactive map of the campsites, food shops, cafés that we know of on Shetland. Where we have been to them we have generally added a comment.

If you would like to view this map to the full sized to your screen please use this link.