17.07.2016 - 20.07.2016
Sunday was a lazy day – a day for Skyping, walking the dogs, and booking flights to Prague. As you do. We took the dogs down to one of the nearby beaches and encountered a dead sheep AND a dead seal, which I suppose it was happens when the sheep farm has its very own private beach. We saw four live seals frolicking in the waves as well, which improved the mood of the walk considerably. And as we walked home down the road, we saw a plane taxi along the runway at the bottom of the street, perfectly filling the gap between the houses. Because Shetland.
Monday saw us return to Lerwick on the ol’ faithful Number 6 bus. The weather was grey and wet, but we explored Fort Charlotte nevertheless and admired the cruise ship anchored out in the harbour, and wondered what all the German tourists were making of the experience. We returned to the chocolate shop to stock up on deliciousness, and I had a quick look in a charity shop to find some more reading material but it was full of ‘holiday books’. You know the kind – the sort of books people buy specifically to read on holidays because they are not particularly challenging and they inevitably have sparkles and stars on the cover, and the title is written in a big, flourishing font. One step up from Mills & Boon. I’ll pass.
We found the Peerie Shop & Café (after some serious questing) and all I’m going to say about that is salted caramel latte. Winner. After coffee, we collected Ringo again (I’m not being boring and uninventive – we actually got the same car back) and then went for dinner at the horribly drab looking Shetland Hotel. Thankfully the interior was somewhat more inviting than the exterior! Our waiter (‘Ogydon’ or something) was Bulgarian and had been in Shetland for approximately 20 days, and still needed to brush up on his beverage related knowledge. When Simon asked for a beer from the Lerwick brewery, he offered Peroni. When I asked for a cider, he offered Appletiser. But we got there in the end. The food was better than both the exterior façade and the waiter’s knowledge of drinks, and we left feeling full and content and ready to enjoy another night of the Shetland Showcase.
We were sitting comfortably in our back row seats when we saw a familiar face walk through the door. A Camperdownian had arrived! After a look of considerable confusion, Liz recognised us (or more specifically, recognised Simon) and then it felt just like being at the Robbie Burns festival back home. Scottish music on stage – Australian accents in the audience.
On Tuesday we headed to The North – not the north islands, but just the north of the mainland. The weather was forecast to be ‘bonny’ (i.e. not raining) until about 5pm, when strong winds and thunderstorms were predicted. So we planned to climb Ronas Hill in the morning, and be back at home before the storm hit. The radio was full of talk about how wonderful the British summer was, and they kept playing songs with summer themes but it was all a cruel joke, as we were completely enveloped in fog. We could see nothing but fog, and sheep. And the occasional tree – just for something different. We arrived at Ronas Hill, but couldn’t even make out the hill for the fog, and so decided in favour of warmth and safety, and abandoned our climbing plans in favour of visiting the cliffs of Esha Ness.
On arrival, it seemed that this was going to be an equally unsuccessful spot to visit in the heavy fog, but as we wandered around we were able to make out the impressive cliffs and little by little, the fog started to lift. It didn’t clear entirely, but visibility improved to the extent that we were not at any serious risk of falling over the edge of the cliffs, and we were able to take in the coastal walk and enjoy the rather eerie atmosphere that the mist provided. We enjoyed our egg sandwiches (a step up from the usual picnic provisions of peanut butter sandwiches) before mooching along to Tangwick Haa Museum, a collection of memorabilia from the families of the northern mainland region.
After that spot of enlightenment, we returned to Lerwick and scampered around Clickimin Broch (because you can never have too many brochs in your life). By this time, the sun had come out and made all the summer references seem legitimate. We shared the ambience with a very excited young boy and his heavily pregnant mother and grandmother, and the rubbish around indicated that the Historic Scotland site had been well preserved in order to make it a preferred location for drinking beer and eating bananas. Ah well. At least the local drunks are getting some vitamins in as well. We met Liz for a coffee at Fjara café, which afforded excellent views over the water and the town of Lerwick (and the Tesco carpark, if you happened to be facing the wrong way).
Dinner was at the Sumburgh Hotel, but before taking our order the staff had to inform us oh-so-casually that there were killer whales swimming around if we were interested. So the building was pretty much evacuated as all of the diners stood in the carpark looking out to the ocean. Past the Shetland ponies, past Jarlshof – there they were! We met some Orcadians who had been coming to Shetland for years in the hope of glimpsing the whales – we didn’t have the heart to tell them that this was our second sighting, but only our first visit to the island.
We stopped and spotted the whales again on our way home from dinner, and had the most glorious sky to accompany our evening walk with the dogs. Beautiful sunset colours and fascinating cloud shapes – and we even made it home in time for the season final of Taskmaster! So much for the wild winds and stormy weather…
The next morning, the storm still hadn’t appeared, and we had very pleasant weather for cruising back into Lerwick. We completed the lower level of the Shetland Museum, where I was most amused to hear a young Mancunian girl bossing her father all the way around, and Simon was proud of himself for managing to converse (mainly in Italian) with an Italian tourist – all by himself! Also the museum was interesting… but as so often happens, the people were the main attraction.
We headed north again to Brae to try out Frankie’s, which had apparently won an award for being the UK’s best fish and chip shop in 2015, as well as being the best fish and chip shop in Scotland in 2014 & 2015, and the best eatery in the highlands and islands in 2015. Big claims! However… we were happy to endorse this establishment as being the UK’s most northerly fish and chip shop, but I don’t know about all that other stuff. We had better chips in Otley, which made no such grandiose claims, and thought that both the Sumburgh Hotel and the Spiggie Hotel would count as better ‘eateries’ than Frankie’s. That said – the view was good, the sun was shining, and now we can say we’ve eaten fish and chips as far north as we can without leaving the UK.
We returned to Lerwick, returned Ringo and finished off the top floor of the Shetland Museum before stopping for a coffee overlooking the harbour and the Northlink ferry that will be taking us back to the mainland in a few days. Shetland, you’re not bad at all.