Saturday, August 13th, 2005 - Lerwick, Shetland

Much more relaxing today (though yesterday, other than the walk, was not too taxing either). Began the day with a walk over the hill between Chris' house and the far side of town. The ground is very boggy with lots of moss and wet mud in between. The view from the top was very nice with our being able to clearly look out over the harbour area and seeing the islands of Whalsay and, more distantly, Out Skerries. Just on the other side of the harbour is the island of Bressay which is actually quite large. Coincidently, I learned yesterday that you say “BressAH” not “BressAY”.

Lerwick from Above

We made our way down the far side of the hill to come out near the swimming pool and fitness centre where we made our way through the town and down to the harbour area. I was surprised to see that there was so little litter and how well the houses and buildings were maintained. Very nice. Chris pointed out where she worked in the top of a small Victorian house looking out (well, just to the left…) a community garden that she has used for eating lunches…

Continuing down the steep roads we came out at the High Street which is a narrow cobble road (don't let it fool you, people still use it for cars, as we found out) with a number of small shops but VERY few of the big chains I am used to seeing throughout the UK. Much nicer. We visited the book shop for a few minutes which was well stocked before eventually ending up on the harbour at the end of the pier. We were looking for seals but there were none out today. There were a few fishing boats in as we spent some time just watching the water and looking across to Bressay.

Lerwick Harbour

Chris had arranged for us to do a bit of sailing so after returning to the house we dressed up for the wet experience of the ocean (it looked like it would rain as well). At the harbour we sat waiting for her friend with the boat to pick us up. After an hour or so we met another sailor returning from the race we were supposed to be participating in for him to tell us that Chris' friend had expected us an hour before we got there! The race was supposed to start at 4 pm, so we needed to arrive at 3, not 4! Oh well. We spent a bit of time sitting around on the small boat as he tried to sell it to Chris (who is just learning to sail). Quite small and basic, but nice boat…

Deciding to then return back to the house we got out of our wet gear and then returned to the car to head to the far side of the island. We were having dinner at a small place called Hillswick which is on an outcrop of the island even further west than Scalloway.

Shetland Scenery

The narrow winding roads had no traffic over them as we passed over a small narrow bit of land connecting this outcrop to the main island. The landscape was quite barren with a lot of moss-covered hills and scenic valleys with the rocks of the shoreline ever-present. Travelling along some very small roads (single track, passing places, again) we eventually drove through a few sheep fields to arrive at the top of some cliffs at the Eshaness light-house.

The shore-line is spectacular rock formations with the sea crashing below. Evidently today it was quite calm since most of the time the water would be splashing high in the air, today it was just seething around the bases of the cliffs. There is a walk along the the top of the cliffs for a few miles but we did not really have a lot of time so we settled with walking around a small lake and circling back around the far side of the lighthouse (passing by some un-disturbed looking sheep). There is not a lot of livestock around with only two or three herds of cows on the whole island. Sheep are generally the rule.

The lighthouse was, evidently, recently bought by an American woman who never seems to ever visit so the place seems to always look quite abandoned. The sea stretches into the distance with the next stop being Canada – being that we are so far north. There are ferries that leave for Iceland and Norway from Lerwick which gives you an idea of how remote this place is (on a map it seems that Norway is closer by ferry than Scotland).

Looking North from Eshaness Lighthouse

Reluctantly returning to the car we made our way in search of dinner. A wrong turn led us to a completely unexpected dead-end in a small bay with in the car park of a farm-house.

I have noticed that people generally are free to walk anywhere they want on the islands with local people only requiring that gates be shut behind you and that you do not disturb the animals. Very civilised.

Eventually we found Hillswick and drove down a small road to the harbour. An old farm-house belayed nothing of what was inside. Chris went around to an unmarked door along the side with a sliver of light exposed along the frame. Going in we were presented with a room with five or six tables one of which had about 10 people seated. This is a vegetarian restaurant that is attached to a seal sanctuary (the “Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary Trust”). The restaurant (“Da Böd Café”) is a fundraising activity where there is NO cost associated with the meal, it is “donation only” (which means, practically speaking, you probably pay more for the meal than you would if there WAS a cost associated with it). The dinner was lovely with various types of home-made bread, humus and salad to start. The main courses were listed on a board on the wall. I choose the nut-loaf which sounded fantastic (and was). The service was very good with a lady speaking with a heavy accent (I think she was from Norway?). Really good meal that gave us a bit of time to chat and catch up. No real distractions other than a young baby making a bit of a fuss at another table. The sanctuary now operates a small Bed & Breakfast with the room above the dining area now serving as sleeping accommodation.

We quietly made our way out the front entrance and into the dark. Another pleasant day.

⇒ Continue to Sunday, August 14th, 2005 - Lerwick, Shetland