Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The return journey

Got back to Lerwick about 10 past 3, so headed off to Tesco to stock up on fruit and veg. No point having to go to Kirkwall tomorrow just for shopping - and it'll be packed as it's County Show. Then went to Scoop and filled my new little cool bag (£3 in Tescos) with nice food like flavoured ice cream that I can't get at home!! Fingers crossed it's still ok when I get home...... (it was!! Hooray!) Wrapped the cool bag in my big fleece and towel to give it extra layers of insulation, then off to the ferry.

The ferry check in seems to be quite a mess and not well planned at all, the worst I've seen anywhere in Scotland! You have to block the main road waiting to get round, then the queue was so far back the security guy had to send folk along another wee road to join the queue there, then the roundabout at the bottom was also totally blocked by the queue. Took forever (about 45 mins) to get checked in - and that was only the first part, that wasn't getting onboard - that was only getting as far as the correct queue - Kirkwall or Aberdeen! They pack the Aberdeen bit of the boat first - the far away half as you drive in. Then the Kirkwall vehicles all go in and as many as poss turn to face back out the way they've just come (as in Kirkwall it's not drive through).

The crossing was fairly calm (a lot more so than last time!) and nice and clear - if a little dark and grey. So pretty clear views of Bressay, Noss all the way down past Mousa and Sumburgh - and then Fair Isle.

 Leaving Lerwick

 Bressay and Noss

 Sumburgh Head

First view of Fair Isle....

I stayed out on the ferry (cold!!) for 2 1/2 hours to get the views of Fair Isle. What I didn't know was that as the ferry got closer they would make an announcement...... Well they didn't do that last time I was on the ferry in June!

It's been a brilliant holiday, better than expected. Really enjoyed the camping - and coped with it all on my own better than I thought I would. Really pleased. Also done it all quite cheaply (comparatively speaking, obviously getting to Shetland is not cheap!!) As I was camping all the accommodation was cheap,  and the internal ferries are cheap, miles and miles cheaper than Orkney! They're also miles nicer than Orkney's ones... and miles better than the Northlink ones too. At least the Shetland ferries have clean toilets with toilet paper in them!!!

Comfy seating, tables at a sensible height...

... and a kids play area.

And no annoying TVs on the *whole* time with nowhere (inside) to escape from them.....

Can't believe how much I packed in to a short time - without really rushing until the last day when I did have to rush round Noss a bit, because I was clock-watching for the evening Northlink ferry. I wouldn't have beieved it was possible to see so much in such a short time, and to keep enjoying it all so much. I thought that Eshaness and Muckle Flugga couldn't be beaten. Well they weren't - they have to be the most stunning views (out of St Kilda) that I can think of right now - but the amazing experiences kept coming after that too with the wild camping on Fetlar, Whalsay which was so unexpected, the otter and then the gannets. Wow!!!!

I'd definitely recommend Shetland as a place to visit to anyone who likes wild places.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Gannets galore

Had an early start as cars started arriving at the marina very early - fishermen going out to their creels I guess. Headed along to the hide, but no sign of Mr Otter. So had a shower and breakfast. Took the tent down (it was SOAKING - both outside from rain and inside the outer flysheet from condensation? Was also a very very heavy dew last night - the tent was very wet on the outside when I went to bed although it hadn't rained. Very clear, starry night too - and cold!)

Bundled up the tent rather than folding/rolling it all properly as it's so wet, and will all have to be cleaned and dried at home anyway. Then headed off towards Lerwick. Stareted raining - again. Got stuck behind slow foreign tourist camper van for ages on single track road, then behind slow taxi/minibus so missed the 10am ferry to Bressay by what must have been 30 secs. They'd shut the barrier but not yet set off. Typical. Mark and Heather saw ferries like that taking the barrier down and letting folk on - but that was in the north isles, not Lerwick!

Caught the next ferry to Bressay (11am) and drove straight over to the car park for Noss and had a quick march down to the 'ferry'. This must be the only ferry that gives every passenger a lifejacket to wear (Aside - I have now found another, the 'North Isles Fast Ferry' in Orkney which I had to get back from a day's supply teaching once.)

The warden was great, did a really good wee intro in the visitor centre about the birds, best route, etc. Time recommended for the walk is 3-4 hours, I'm planning to do it in a lot less so I can get the 3pm ferry back to Lerwick. Route march around first bit, keeping an eye open for porpoises and otters. Didn't bother stpping to watch the seals - I see seals virtually every day at home, I'm here for the gannets. Managed up to the first cliffs in 1/2 hour - very good going and should allow me 1/2 hour or so with the gannets quite comfortably.

The gannets were spectacular - thousands of them nesting on the cliffs and wheeling around - not so many diving as usually see that further out. Spent about 1/2 hour in the first spot just lying on the cliff top watching and photographing. Some of the folk I'd passed on the way up passed me again at this point, I really couldn't understand why they didn't stop at this place, the views of the gannets are great - can't believe there can be anywhere you get closer to them than this (there wasn't!).

Then went a bit further round and had to keep stopping trying to photograph the gannets flying past. Spectacular.

Fulmars and bonxies too.

Stopped at the top for another 10 mins or so. Nice views back to Lerwick from there too - last time I was in Bressay (start of July when I came up for the interview) I could barely see Lerwick from the Lerwick side of Bressay - this time I could see it from the far side of Noss. Although the weather was closing in a little, low cloud on the hill on Bressay now with the radio masts on it, they kept disappearing behind the cloud. Also a hint of rain in the air.

Had a slightly slower route march on the way down as on this side you pass the other geos and the place where there might still be some puffins - although most have now headed out to sea (inclduing the baby puffin from the puffin webcam as seen on Simon King's Shetland Diaries on TV; it apparently left Tues night/Wed morn according to Radio Shetland last night). Saw puffins in 2 different places, but just a few and only stopped for a minute. Did the whole walk, including my approx 45 mins gannet watching, in about 2 1/2 hours. Good going.

Just time to watch some sheep shearing while waiting for the ferry...

Ferry back then a quick march up the hill to the car - should have time for a quick drive to the lighthouse if I'm lucky. Rain started just as I reached the car. Good timing.

Quick drive down the island to the lighthouse - more nice views.

Then back through Mail to the ferry - second in queue so got on no bother, and got back to Lerwick in time to hit Scoop for supplies of ice cream and other nice food to take home. Ahhhhhhh.... :-)


Well after Whalsay and Lunna, surely that was enough for one day... I was looking forward to a possible trip to Noss the next day, but the day had more in store for me!!!

I headed out to the west again and had a lovely drive to Walls, by Burrastow House and then round to Skeld.

Took a detour to Westerwick - amazing cliffs and stacks, unexpectedly impressive.

The view just kept getting better....

It started raining though, so after a while I headed off in the hopes that I would reach the campsite and get my tent up before rain really came - if it was going to come to anything and not just go off that is.

The campsite at Skeld was a little unexpected - it's surrounded by a white picket fence! Does mean there won't be a view from the tent - but the wee building with the toilets, etc is great and has a deck with a picnic table. It's a community owned site, and they've made a lovely job of it. Most expensive campsite I've stayed in - a whole£8! Very very clean and well stocked - a wee kitchen with crockery, cutlery, microwave and kettle, clean toilets and showers (2 of each but the bigger shower room has another toilet in it too, good for a family as plenty room to shower the kids. Showers also more expensive here (£1) but get 11 mins of hot water for that! Also a folding table and chairs in the building, and a laundry with washer, dryer (£2 each if I remember right), an iron and ironing table, and a hairdryer - oh, and a library! Also lots of leaflets about the area. And outside the decking with the picnic table, and more picnic tables on the site (if I'm remembering right). It's right next to a lovely wee marina - and along at the end is a wildlife hide, apparently a good place for otter spotting......

I pitched my tent (it stayed dry!) and cooked tea - beans on bread :-) easy and quick as I was starving by then. By then it was 8.30pm so got myself organised for the night - sleeping mat and sleeping bag unrolled -  then packed my wee rucksack with waterproofs, midge jacket (the midges at the tent are bad), cameras, lenses and spare batteries, book, wine and trusty red plastic cup, put on all 3 fleeces and headed off for the wildlife hide.

Couldn't believe it - the otter was there straight away. It's apparently a resident dog otter and does have occasional females coming in from time to time.

first view ... the bubbles...

It stayed in near shore, but was quite hard to see as ther's a wooden fence and it was behind it and too close in to see from the hide at first. Then it came down towards the hide!! Exciting or what!!!! It was about 5m away at its nearest, was getting fairly dark but still got a good few photos. It heard the shutter and looked straight up at the hide! It then swam about fishing for a while, just a little offshore. Then a wee fishing boat came in to the marina, the wake washed up and the otter headed out further. Watched it gradually get further and furether away until I lost it - about 9.15pm by then. It was a beautiful still night with a very calm sea. Lots of midges though! Got bitten while watching the otter - including on my eye! The midges seemed to ease after that as a little breeze sprung up so I stayed in the hide, drinking wine and reading a book, until 10pm, looking up and scanning the sea every 30 secs, but the otter didn't reappear.

What a day!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Shetland Bus connection

Arriving back on mainland (from Whalsay) at Lund I decided to head off towards Lunna - that's where the Shetland Bus was based. Saw Lunna House (where it was masterminded).

The Shetland Bus was a Shetland based boat operation to and from Norway that took place during the Second World War. They used small fishing boats to land agents, radio sets, arms and ammunition and returned with refugees.

Lunna House

Lunna Kirk was quite interesting too - looked fairly modern but is actually quite old. It has 2 trees growing at the side of it - kind of built in.

Gorgeous scenery and lighting out this headland too.