Our weather enforced car trip had a silver lining, allowing us to explore much more of the three main Islands, Mainland, Yell and Unst, than would have been possible by bicycle. Saturday was dry but very windy as we headed north, taking in the magnificent sea stacks and coastal scenery at Eshaness on the north-west coast of Mainland. Then for the moorland hike Gavin and I undertook to view the distant lighthouse at Muckle Flugga, rocks off Unst, considered the most northerly point in the United Kingdom.
Our trip to Unst provided opportunity to visit Gavin’s friend Lisa, whom he met in Australia in 1991 and has traded Christmas cards with ever since. Lisa, Duncan and their delightful 11 and 10 year old sons Callan and Finn, live on a coastal croft complete with Shetland sheep and 11 Shetland ponies. Gavin, Keith and I so enjoyed the evening spent with them; the delicious shanks of lamb cooked by Duncan, the boys’ repertoire of jokes and the insight to Island life. In this world of coincidences, Lisa and Keith found common ground, having both been born in New Zealand and Duncan’s fond memories of attending Seale Hayne college at Newton Abbot and harvesting wheat for thatching on a Devon farm in the 1980s struck a chord with Gavin and me. Thank you so so much Lisa, Duncan, Callan and Finn.
The return journey down the islands, including two, short, inter-island ferries found less clement weather as we headed back to Lerwick on Sunday; with no trees or hedges the few fields and acres of peat moor give no respite from the driving wind and rain. Glimpses of off-shore platforms and the massive oil and gas terminal at Sullom Voe on Mainland Shetland are sentinels of the North Sea oil industry.
With the winds set to increase on Monday night, the three of us decided to join Maree and Phil on the Sunday night ferry to Aberdeen, this proved bumpy enough, with rolling seas making it difficult to walk around the boat or get much sleep. It took a good few hours on terra-firma to get our land legs back, a very bizzare feeling!
Having said farewell to Maree and Phil, leaving by hire car for their Yorkshire home, we spent Monday exploring the maritime museum and the Granite City itself, with its lovely beach, old fishing village, busy port and fine buildings, particularly around the University.
Now for the long journey home, three trains to get to Banbury, near to Gavin’s Mum, where we have left our van, then the three hour drive home, traffic willing.
All in all a great trip the length of the UK, with 1,050 miles pedalled, one puncture and a broken frame.