Sunday, 26 September 2010

Back out west

Timed it beautifully (by pure chance) to get the ferry to Toft on Mainland. Then headed, via Lerwick for supplies, out to the Westings campsite. There's a great view but I'd forgotten it was so near the road, it was very weird hearing traffic from the tent (and certainly a change from the surf last night which was lovely to hear all night).

One of the attractions of Westings was the attached pub - I was hoping to have a Shetland beer as I'd had one last time I stayed there (island games, 2005) but they don't stock them any more! They do have wifi in the bar though.

It was a bit noisy at the pub till about 11.30pm (and the traffic was pretty noisy on the main road from really early in the morning.) The shower was ok - bit of a dribble, but warm - and the toilet had no loo roll (but I had my own supply so I was fine!). The campsite has great views, is cheap and has free wifi and a pub so it was quite good, but I definitely prefer the other sites I've stayed at. It's still better than Clickimin I'd think though! Decided to try to find somewhere quieter for tomorrow night, especially as the plan for tomorrow is having to change anyway as the ferry to Noss doesn't run on a Thursday. Just my luck.... Will have to hope for good weather on Friday, my last day in Shetland....

Return to Yell

Well as I had to pass through Yell again on my way back to Mainland, I decided to drive round the other way this time, so I could enjoy the scenery. Several stops for photographs ensued...

It was sunny, though still quite grey looking towards Unst & Fetlar. Some very pretty scenery, lovely light on the water and some great hay stacks.

Fetlar part 2

Woke to a lovely morning, had breafast and washed dishes (yes, Mum, in the sea!!!!!). Then I headed up to the campsite for toilets and shower. I know that seems a bit cheeky when I wans't staying there - but the tourist leaflet clearly says the public toilets are at the pier and campsite. And I paid for the shower. The campsite continued to underwhelm me - a lot of dead insects and the shower door wouldn't close - it was jamming and I was worried about getting stuck in it!! Luckily the place was deserted! Had noticed yesterday that in the campsite toilets the toilet paper was completely jammed in the holder and wouldn't come out and the paper towel container was totally empty. Later on in the day today I called past there again and the floor had been mopped so someone obviously cleans and keeps an eye on things - but the toilet paper was still jammed (to the extent of being unusable) and there were still no paper towels!!

Fetlar has a lot to learn about how to cater for tourists (more on that subject later...)

 Mark & Heather setting off on their paddle

Anyway, I headed back down to Tresta to give Heather a lift when she dropped off the car at the end of the headland they were going to paddle round. I was going to go a walk so had a look at the leaflet, then Mark said theyd take me out a short paddle when they got in - may be straight across about 1km to Hascosay island. So I decided to maybe go for a short walk then meet Mark and Heather and go for a short paddle.

I went down to the Interpretive Centre first - the Fetlar leaflet (produced by the centre!!!!) says it has free wireless internet access. I asked in the centre - no free access, you pay. I asked about wifi - the guy had no idea what I was talking about. So the free wireless internet is neither free nor wireless...... hmmm, this to me pretty much sums up Fetlar. Also called (in their own leaflets!) the 'garden of Shetland' - well it's certainly not greener than anywhere else, doesn't seem to have a greater profusion of wildflowers and apart from the red necked phalaropes (we didn't see any) had no other rarer birds than the other islands. Hmmmm.

Fetlar *is* a nice island, just don't go believing everything you read about it or you'll be sadly disappointed. Another Fetlar high point was that the very well advertised cafe is shut until further notice!!!! This caught out Mark and Heather yesterday, as did the fact that the shop was closed so they couldn't get any fresh food (luckily they were well stocked with other food and I had onions and peppers to spare.)

Anyway, back to the Interpretive Centre.... The guy was helpful and just charged £1 for me to use the very slow laptop and get online to check the weather forecast for Mark and Heather as they're thinking of paddling to Out Skerries. They can't get weather forecasts easily here due to the lack of mobile phone signal!! The Interpretive centre was excellent, very interesting, and I spent about an hour there then headed back to the loch. The mist (which I'd seen coming in a bit earlier) had really rolled in by now and there was no chance of seeing much in the way of scenery. I again saw 2 red throated divers on the loch and then walked to the bird hide, quite a nice area but didn't see any birds! The wee book for recording what you see showed that the previous day someone had also seen 2 red throated divers on the loch and nothing from the hide also!

When I got back to the car the mist was really quite thick, need the car lights on for sure! Headed to the shop. Not overly impressed with it either (suppose I should have expected that really by now). Was looking for cold juice to take down to meet Heather & Mark - they were going to get some cans for paddling but the shop was closed all day yesterday and not open till 11am today  Anyway, I'd given them my cartons of fruit juice to take so decided to get some cold cans and more wee cartons of fruit juice. No luck - the shop had neither! The fruit & veg was extremely tired and wrinkled looking, so I bought a packet of fruit pastels as I didn't like to go out empty handed and there really didn't seem to be anything else worth buying!

I headed off to Brough Lodge and had a good look round the outside (you're not allowed in). It's an interesting building, a real hodge-podge of styles. Went up to the folly too - very strange as I couldn't see where the stairs would have been. It was built as a folly (he built other follies on Fetlar too) but was used as an observatory for a while too, so there must have been some way of getting to the upstair room.

Old boat on the shore below Brough Lodge.

Looking down from the folly I spotted 2 kayaks, so headed back down to the wee pier and fantastic old boat to meet them.

Do Shetland ponies like chocolate?

I went out paddling with Mark (in his boat as I'd been in it before and he felt it would be slightly more stable for me than Heather's Sirius). We didn't go to Hascosay as the mist was right down so paddled up the coast to the pier instead and Heather went to explore Brough Lodge then drove to meet us. A nice paddle and got some coaching on forward paddling from Mark which I think will help my wrists (need to build up shoulder muscles though...) It was a bit windy and quite choppy in places, especially near the end. I'm quite pleased with how I did considering, only a few twinges from my wrists until near the end when I got quite a few more! But managed ok - and considering that was 2 days in a row and I hadn't paddled for such a long time I was really pleased.

We saw the ferry coming as we were nearly in and had to paddle the last bit quite fast to get out of the way in plenty time. Looked at the time and realised the ferry was leaving in around 15 mins. Decision time - the next ferry is not for another 2 hours - can we find something to do for 2 hours in Fetlar? No? As Mark put it "Escape from Fetlar...." :-) So we did a very quick shuttle to get my car, got changed and into the ferry queue with about 5 mins to spare!!

We arrived in Yell about 4pm feeling really quite light headed and spaced. Ah - none of us has had any lunch, lack of food would explain it! So we all went to the Wind Dog cafe. I had another really good baked tattie - an expensive one this time - a whole £4 :-) Again no frills food, no wee side salad or even a slice of tomato, but good, basic, tasty and cheap - apart from Heather's cake which was supposed to be crispy but was actually soggy!

At this point we headed in different directions, Mark and Heather headed for the Mid Yell shop to stock up on food (unlike the Fetlar shop, the Mid Yell one is extremely well stocked) shop then are making their way to Whalsay. I'm headed for Lerwick then Westings campsite, then hopfully Noss tomorrow.....

Saturday, 25 September 2010

First impressions of Fetlar

After a very wet day on Unst, the weather got sunnier and brighter the nearer I got to Fetlar! Hopefully this was a good sign.....

I headed for the campsite first but there was no sign of Mark and Heather. The campsite is really quite horrible - no view, and very wet and boggy. Walked over it looking for a flat spot - all I got was wet feet! Declined to stay!!! No wonder Mark and Heather haven't pitched their tent here....

It's boggy!!!

The view from the campsite....

Drove all over the island seeing as much as I could while the weather was good, just in case...

There's a nice beach at Funzie (pronounced Finnie), the coastline there looks interesting. Looks like it would be a really nice bit of coastline to the north of the island too but you're not allowed to walk in the reserve area in the summer.

Funzie Loch had 2 red throated divers on it.

There's a gorgeous beach at Tresta - sandy, sunny ...... and quiet. Found Mark and Heather already there with their tent up. Decided to wild camp there also.

I went for a paddle in the sea - in the hopes that it would help my blisters... (it did!)

In the evening we had a nice walk along the beach before cooking a very late tea. It's a really lovely beach. We watched the arctic skuas chasing kittiwakes to force them to drop their fish; one chase came very near me when I was paddling (not the kayak variety!) - exciting to watch. There were lots of signs of otters along the beach but we didn't spot any (Heather spotted otter footprints in the morning after we'd camped overnight though.)

My tent at sunset

We found some driftwood, so we had a campfire and started cooking by it. The rain started, so we just put on waterproofs and carried on! Some may think we're mad............. :-)  We ate and had a drink and chatted round the fire for ages as the tide came in. When the tide got to within about a metre of us the rain got quite a bit heavier we moved into the 'millennium dome' and had a final drink before heading to bed. A lovely evening with great company.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Exploring Unst

Morning at Uyeasound - my view from the tent.

Mark lent me his kayak (P and H Cetus, very nice and just seemed to fit me nicely) and buoyancy aid, etc. and Heather took me out a short paddle. Did about an hour - just along the bay at Uyeasound, past the piers and all the fish farm stuff then a wee bit of coastline and 2 very small beaches, then back stright across the bay through the fish farm (the fish were jumping). It was just so great to get out on the water again - and my wrists didn't twinge once which was fantastic! Nice and calm and not much wind.

Had to be back ashore in time to get up to the north end for my boat trip to Muckle Flugga. I headed up to the Burrafirth Shore Station, got there about 1/4 to 11, no sign of the boat (11am tour).... There were 2 other cars waiting there too (6 other folk). It started raining...... About half 11 with no sign of movement and us all sitting in a row of cars in the rain, I got fed up and phoned the boat tours number (amazingly, got a signal down at the shore station but not up at the SNH reserve visitor centre!). The woman didn't know what the problem was and thought they would be just getting the boat - said she'd phone back. Turned out everyone had separately phoned her!! About 15 mins later a wee van with Muckle Flugga Charters written on the side drew up, an old guy got out, totally ignored us all standing chatting and looking (!) (the rain was mostly off by then) and went into the wee shed without even a glance. Not quite the reaction we expected!! We all started laughing, then one person went down to talk to him. She had just come down to say that the boss had cancelled the tour early that morning and had told the boatman guy that he was letting everyone know. But he'd let nobody know - not even the woman (his wife??) who answered the phone at his phone number!!!! She phoned me back about 30 secs after we'd heard it was cancelled, to give us the same news and apologised profusely but nobody had told her either. Quite unbelievable really - the whole north isles of Shetland seem to have quite an old-fashioned attitude to tourists - i.e. they're a bloomin pest, grab their money but that's it!!  So I needn't have rushed to get ashore from paddling this morning after all .............

Is the weather *really* that bad???

Luckily, due to my amazingly good mood following the extremely special experience of seeing Muckle Flugga on my own the evening before, and the paddling this morning, I wasn't actually nearly as disappointed as I thought I'd have been at the boat trip being cancelled. I'll just have to wait and see Mark and Heather's photos to see what Muckle Flugga is like close up..........

I decided to see as much of Unst as possible, given the weather (the cloud was descending fast again by now). Went up to Skaw, to see the most northerly inhabited house in the UK - there's a lovely wee beach there too. That's where Mark launched his kayak from yesterday for a paddle out round the north and west of Unst (including Out Stack).

Then I tried to find my way up Saxa Vord hill to see if I could see Muckle Flugga. Got a vague view of Muckle Flugga lighthouse in the mist before the rain descended again.

Looking across to the Burrafirth Shore Station, and still wondering if the weather was really so bad that it was necessary to cancel the boat trip without telling *anyone*!

Last view of Muckle Flugga

Went to the cholcolate factory - another place with a strange attitude to tourists, so I left without spending any money there!!! Very short sighted attitude I would say. Then I went to the Northern Lights cafe which I'd heard was good. However, I was disappointed as the menu was very restricted as the chef was apparently just back from holiday, so they wreen't doing any of the usual fresh fish, etc. There was nothing at all I could actually eat on the menu there, so I didn't bother staying. Went to the Boat Haven - at last, I've found somewhere welcoming and friendly!! The curator was great, very chatty and knowledgeable.

The boats were really interesting - there was one Norwegian and one Swedish boat there, the rest were all from Shetland. The yoal (not sure of the Shetland spelling, the Orkney one varies yoal, yole ...) is the original and the rest are adapted from that. The sixareens are amazing when you see them and think of the distances they travelled fishing. 2 days to Faroe, another 4 to Iceland ... !!!

I totally loved this folding boat.

Was funny to find a Marvin Elliot seal head and poster (the 'oh bl**dy hell' boat maker poster that I've got from years ago when he had the old boathouse by the old Nature Centre in Arran) - didn't get the chance to ask the curator about them as he was busy with other visitors by then.

Went to the heritage centre - it was pretty good but I wasn't really taking in what I was reading, and an extremely noisy English family with kids came in, so I didn't stay that long.

Went to the cafe/shop - it's well stocked and seems quite the centre of the community.Good food too - bought a tin of mixed beans (for potential tea) and had a baked tattie with tuna mayo and an irn bru - grand total £4.74. Tasted good - lovely tasting tattie - apparently from the sandy soil at Skaw.

Went to the Keen of Hamar nature reserve - in the rain!! Very low plants, shale type soil, with lots of serpentine. There's apparently a lot of quite rare plants there, I found quite a few of them including Edmonstone's chickweed which I don't think is found anywhere else in the UK?

Edmonstone's chickweed.

Headed back to Uyeasound and went to the school - lovely to see it in person as I'd seen photos of it at a couple of the CPD sessions I went to. Gorgeous playground - very inspiring. Walked the labyrinth, a very calming experience.

I can see why it's known as the "rainbow light" school!

I headed off to Muness to the castle - again, fairly reminiscent of the Earl's palace in Kirkwall. There were torches (same as at Mousa) but this time instead of not being bright enough - compared to the camera flash!!) - they were dead! So downstairs was very dark! Upstairs was ok as it was open to the sky.

Drove along the road which apparently has the best views in Shetland - towards Westing - could barely see 200m at times - horrible misty rain, a little heavier than Scotch mist. Went to see the broch and the standing stone (biggest in Shetland) - the standing stone was an interesting shape, from the side it curved over.

It's a broch, honest!

Best views in Shetland apparently. Sadly, the rain stopped me from appreciating this fact!

I met some funny Shetland ponies too...........

Posing for the camera, but.....

... this one decided he (or she!!) would like to be the centre of attention instead!

Ok, I'll photograph you both then!

Then I headed hopefully for the ferry to Fetlar. I reckoned I'd finally worked out how to read the very confusing timetable and reckoned there was a fery at half 5 and luckily I was right (Mark and Heather read it wrongly earlier apparetly, it was very difficult to follow!)

While I was waiting I had a play on the "plinky boat" - well worth a go if you ever visit Unst, it's great fun!

And despite the somewhat old-fashioned attitude a lot of the Unst businesses seem to have towards tourists, it is well worth visiting Unst. I'd recommend the camspite and hostel at Uyeasound too, great facilities and excellent value.