Friday, August 12th, 2005 - Lerwick, Shetland

An interesting day. Quite relaxing actually despite running around a bit. It did not really start off relaxing though. Chris had indicated that she had to visit a client so would I mind tagging along and amusing myself elsewhere while she talked with the client? Of course, this sounded interesting to me.

After a bit of breakfast we caught a small local ferry from the main island of Shetland to Whalsay, a small island off the east coast just north of Lerwick. I was lucky enough to catch sight of an otter in the water as we sat down on some rocks waiting for the ferry. Evidentily you do not see a lot of otters around and this was quite unusual.

Whalsay Ferry

The ferry is quite small but very nice holding a few cars and having a bit of a seating area (with a coffee machine) for passengers. According to Chris the cost of the ferry is subsidised so all ferries in Shetland cost the same amount of money (we paid £3 each). We were lucky the seas were quite calm (though the skies were not terribly inviting). The views of the rather stark coastline as we travelled out of the bay and across to the island were quite interesting. Not a lot of people here, no.

Her client picked us up at the ferry and we made our way along the narrow winding road through some small villages to the far side of the island passing by THE pub on the island. Before they arrived at their home they dropped me on the road so that I could walk back the way we came to return to the pub for lunch before coming to get me later. An interesting proposition and one that I accepted. Walking back I don't know if this was such a good idea as it was far further than I thought and my legs were hurting (after discussion with Chris we agreed that it was probably all of the road and hill climbing I had been doing around Edinburgh – nice city, lots of hills, tough walking).

Whalsay (near Brough)

Walking along the road I saw only a few cars. There is essentially one road that circles the island with another road crossing across in the middle. Throughout the island are small villages but also the signs of peat harvesting which is actually quite prevalent here. People cut the peat to use to heat their houses in the winter. The peat is cut (very hard work) then tried for a bit before burning. It burns very long and very hard.

Whalsay (near Isbister)

Gasping over the top of yet another hill as I hurried to make it back to the pub for our pre-arranging meeting-up a car pulled up alongside. “Do you want a lift?” “Sure.” “Where to?” “The pub” “No problem, hop in”. It was a very nice local gentleman who talked about living on the island in a thick, but understandable (to me), accent. He talked about how all the young people seemed to be moving away and about the importance of fishing to the islanders. Evidently this island is also home to some very wealthy people. I suppose you have to have money to live like this with having to bring in things from so far away.

He dropped me on the road just below the pub as I staggered in and sat down at my “reserved table” (there were only two, two-person sized, tables along with a pool table). There were two other people at the bar eating a bit of lunch – breaded Halibut and chips. We started a bit of a conversation as I ordered halibut in batter (on their recommendation) and gave up sitting at the table and sat at the opposite end of the bar with them continuing the conversation. The fish was wonderful – VERY tender and tasty. The conversation was about what it was like on the island and the fishing boat the father owned (a serious fishing boat, as in, trawler). Quite expensive thing to own. Another friend of the son came in and the father disappeared into the back while they started a game of pool. I was busy eating as they continued to chat a bit. There is not a lot to do on the island though there is a local pool hall (members only) that is essentially just a hut that people have a key to get into. They book it when they want it but if they book it and don't use it, they still have to pay.

Chris eventually arrived and we hurried to catch the ferry which was leaving imminently. We made it just in time to head back to the mainland.

Business over, we headed over to Scalloway which is on the west coast of the island almost directly across from Lerwick (on the east).

Scalloway Castle is right in the middle of Scalloway and was built in the 1600s by the “tyrant” Earl Partick Stewart. We were happy to see someone was visiting before us – They had got the key from the local café to open the door. The smaller stone castle is in very good shape with our wandering through the various rooms and really being able to visualise what it must have looked like when in use. Must have been terribly draughty though. Very impressive looking from the outside too with it's turrets and high towers.

Going along the water a small distance we stopped at a school of fishery where we picked up some sweets for dinner tonight. We were hoping to have been able to eat there this evening but they were fully booked (it serves an excellent assortment of fresh fish – as you might expect). Leaving the car we walked to the end of the car park and up into the fields surrounding the town. It was a slow walk (well, we took it slow) as we were able to look out for many miles around seeing the nets that encircle the various fish farms and the smaller islands all around us. Very peaceful at the top as Chris took a few minutes to sit on top of one of her favourite spots on the whole island: The “Witches Pimple” which is just a pile of rocks at the top of a rather large hill (ok, mountain). It was very peaceful with not even many sheep around. We enjoyed the wind sweeping over us and the clear view for miles around until Chris had to take a phone call on her mobile…

Taking a Call on the Witches Pimple

Returning down the hill we once again set out and paid a visit to one of Chris' friends living in Scalloway. We knocked quickly on the front door then walked right in, winding our way through the front room to end up in their kitchen were the family were sitting around talking. We joined them in their rather crowded kitchen sipping on a bit of tea and chatting. Very personable. Here I was a stranger that they thought nothing of, talking as if I had known them for years. Very nice.

A bit later we went back out the front door – the house is an older house with a rock wall enclosing the area in front of the house though only a few meters wide with the road on the other side of the wall. Making our way around to the back the garden and chicken coop are on the side of a rather steep hill (which must make mowing the grass interesting). Huffing after the climb up to the chickens we admired the two new hens Chris' friend has only just recently bought. They are a Chinese variety with feathers all around their eyes with dark brown feathers. Very pleasant. The rest of the chickens are all characters as they were fed the older one was going about pecking the others to keep them from the food. Chris only found a single egg today, oh well.

Before returning to the house we assembled a bucket of peat for Chris who has never used it before (so wanted to try it out).

Chris decided to show me a house she had been thinking about buying. It was this small house on the side of a hill with wonderful views out and around the area. We walked a small way up the hill and enjoyed the views. She was a bit upset at not getting the house which, though small, she would have really enjoyed. It is quite surprising the cost of houses she was saying. Things have really gotten more expensive in the past few years. More than I would have expected though generally it should be considered that all houses seem to come with a bit of land as well (this small house had two or three small, enclosed fields, up the back).

The evening was relatively uneventful with our going into town (Lerwick) to pick up some fish and chips for dinner (Chris and her room-mate do not eat meat well, her room-mate does eat fish but not meat). We chatted quite late and I was also able to check my e-mail on their high-speed Internet connection. Evidently there is no cable connecting Scotland to Shetland but they do have high-speed Internet connectivity through the telephone company. Faster than my connection at home…

⇒ Continue to Saturday, August 13th, 2005 - Lerwick, Shetland