Northern Isles 2011: Shetland to Orkney

I woke up this morning – after not really having slept – to a dark and very windy island. I packed and watched the Hoobs until 8, the time I’d booked for breakfast, then went downstairs to sit on my own in the bar and wonder how it all worked.

The manager appeared at last and offered me tea or coffee, then a choice of things that come in a bowl, like cereal or porridge or yoghurt. I had some cornflakes and having turned down any sort of cooker breakfast he made me toast.

He asked what my plans were for the day and when i said I planned to walk down to the bus stop and head for the airport, he thought about it for a bit and then came back five minutes later to tell me he had to go to the shop which was right by the bus stop and he’d give me a lift. We agreed on 9.30 and I sat and read for half an hour before going down and getting in the car.

I waited at the bus stop for about ten minutes. The wind, apparently down from ‘gales’ to merely ‘strong’ felt even stronger than yesterday. I made the interesting discovery that if I stood behind the bus shelter I was a tiny bit out of the wind but the breeze that cane under the sides was surprisingly warm on my ankles.

My plans had been to explore the headlands and cliffs but in winds I could hardly stand up against and thick mist – apparently all the salt in the air – I went to plan B which was to spend my holiday reading and not doing much.

Which is how I came to spend most of today at Sumburgh Airport getting through far too many books.

Despite strong winds at Shetland and pretty strong ones at Orkney it was quite a smooth flight although it was raining when we landed. This time I only had a ten minute wait for the bus and I knew exactly how to get from the town centre to the hostel.

I had some food and tomorrow I may actually go and look at Kirkwall. I have seen very little of it so far.

Northern Isles 2011: Loch Spiggie, Shetland

Today I got up earlier than I planned, faffed around trying to decide what to take to Shetland, how to pack it and what I didn’t need after all.

It was daylight by the time I left. I got the bus from the travel centre and went to the airport where my plane was delayed because of the weather.

The weather on Orkney was nothing compared to the weather on Shetland. I went outside to look at massive waves crashing onto the rocks and it was so windy you could lean on the wind and not fall over. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too cold as long as I kept my hands inside my sleeves.

I waited inside the airport before getting my bus. The helpful driver dropped me off at the closest stop to my hotel but it was still a mile and a half walk up a single track road. It still wasn’t cold. In fact, if it wasn’t for the incredibly strong wind it could have been a more beautiful day than I could have imagined here.

It was an easy walk and I kept coming across views – the first view of Spiggie Loch was amazing. My room overlooks it but right now it’s dark so I can’t actually see it.

I dumped most of my stuff and walked down the road, made friends with some noisy and curious sheep and then went to the beach.

Obviously the wind made the sand fly around all over the place but the water was turquoise and the sand was white and it looked like a very unexpected piece of paradise hiding on these windy rocks. But the sand was blowing in my eyes and the wind was really picking up so I retreated – backwards – to the road and further down towards the cliffs.

I did not go out on the cliffs. Partly because it’s so windy but partly because I couldn’t figure out how and partly because it’s really really hard work walking against a gale strong enough to literally stop you in your tracks.

Down by a hump bridge I gave in and started to head back. This time the wind was really really against me and it was also determined that I should walk along the left side of the road, so I did in case it blew me across suddenly into the path of a car.

I took shelter in my room and here I will remain until breakfast time. There is no mobile signal here but there is free wifi and I have half a book left.