S2S – Day 2 “The Battle for Burravoe”

47.81 km (cumulative 58.08 km).

A grey start to the morning. Drizzle falling from the mist and at first – no wind…

The breakfast – as with all the food at the Saxa Vord hotel – is exemplary. A definite 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

I passed my Shetland pony once again. The poor thing is alone in a large field but hangs around near the road looking for company. I stopped long enough to realise that she whinnies every time a horse box passed (which was surprisingly frequent..?). She is craving some TLC I suspect.

I soon passed through Haroldswick and met a couple of guys renovating a Viking longhouse, adjacent to a Viking longship. The Viking traditions are very strong and deep rooted in Shetland. In comparison – not one hint if the Gaelic language of the West of Scotland. A different landscape and a different culture.

In Baltasound, I bought postcards from the most northerly Post Office in Britain They are now winging their way to New Zealand among other places – all south of here.

The rain drizzled on, but then a new player entered the scene – Wind! The wind grew steadily until, as I approached the Belmont ferry, I was at a standstill – even going downhill. I caught the ferry to Gutcher and then hid from the wind in the ‘Gutcher Goose’ café. The system in Shetland seems to be ‘ask for a sandwich – get a feast’. The sandwich came with salad and filled a plate. Enough to more than fill me. Even after using up 2035 calories – I am going to gain weight…

The clouds disappeared but the wind built to near gale force. With trepidation I battled my way south into the headwind. I had to stop all too frequently. That in itself was no bad thing since I got to see beautiful, wide, open vistas. However I realised that I could see not one tree. The photos of the moorland show what I mean. There are NO trees. Shetland may be Heaven for ponies, Gannets, Puffins and Arctic Skuas, but it is definitely not a Paradise for any tree-huggers.

On I plodded, until at the Shetland Gallery (beautiful, if expensive, hand made craft goods), I encountered more cyclists. Four adults and four children on touring trailer bikes. They seemed so happy, even in the wind, that I once again felt very humbled.

I passed many a peat cutting. It is still a cut by hand and used for fuel here on Yell.
After stopping in Mid Yell at The Hilltop (which proclaims itself to be the most northerly pub in Britain), I then took the high road towards Burravoe. A beautiful narrow and little used road through high moorland.

I reached the Parsonage at 14:30 where Alma welcomed me once again. I am beginning to realise that what, to me, appears extremely warm and generous welcomes, are the normal levels of hospitality here. Everywhere I go on Yell and Unst it simply great.

After a long, long soak in a hot bath, followed by excellent food and a wonderful single malt – from 1968 (!) – I realised that at 10:30pm the sun was still bright. This is what the locals call ‘Simmer Dim’. I had to go to bed in bright, horizontal sunshine.

Tomorrow I cross onto the main island (called simply Mainland in Shetland) and head south to see St Ninian’s Isle and meet the remarkable Joy, a good friend of Alma’s.

Having started my journey south yesterday on Unst just short of 61°N, I shall ride across the line of 60°N.

Still looking for my first tree…

S2S – Day 1 “Just getting to the start is an adventure”.

4.22 km Walking and 6.05 km riding.

Yesterday evening I boarded the MV Hrossey in Aberdeen, and I had the tingling feeling I always get when setting out on an adventure. A touch of apprehension mixed with some excitement and that almost childlike feeling of wonder.

The ferry pulled out of Aberdeen and I saw once again the city skyline I came to know and love over the 24 years when I called the Aberdeen ‘home’.

I never tire of putting to sea, no matter how tired I feel. Almost two hours later and we were passing Peterhead where SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and Dodo (her mum) were keeping an eye on my progress.
Gliding Gannets and fast-flapping Puffins criss-crossed our route over a near glassy North Sea (which is something I have rarely seen in all my years in the North Sea).
A quiet night and in the morning, Sumburgh Head was passed at 6am. We disembarked at 07:30 and after a short ride, found my Total lift. The excellent Brian Hunter was waiting for me and in no time I was en route to the Toft Ferry. We missed it by just 30 seconds. The next however was only 30 minutes later, and when I arrived in Ulsta, there was Alma Lewis waiting for me.

The bike was in the back of her car on no time and once more I was heading North. We visited landmarks such as the Gloup Fishermen’s Memorial on Yell before reaching the next ferry in Gultcher that would be my last to get me to Unst. The crossing takes just 5 minutes,

We diverted so that I could see Muness Castle, and found Paul prospecting for hidden ancient artefacts in the adjacent fields.
These islands are full of some original public art. One such is ‘Bobby’s Bus Shelter’. Quirky, respectful and original. I met a great Dutch couple there touring Scotland in a Kia displaying the flag of Canada …(?), and who, like me, were seeing the beauty and the humanity. As to Booby’ Bus Shelter, I doubt such a wonderful exhibition would last 5 minutes in the city.

After brunch at the UK’s most northerly team (Victoria’s in Haroldswick), it was on to Hermaness Car Park where the road ends

This is THE most northerly part of the UK. The most northerly outpost is Out Stack just beyond Muckle Flugga Lighthouse. My nearest railway station is Thurso, but only a few km closer than Bergen in Norway, a few km South of East from where I stand.

Hermaness is a nature reserve and home to millions of Gannets (they cover Muckle Flugga making it appear snow covered); thousands of Arctic Skuas (known locally as Bonxies); hundreds of birdwatchers (identified easily by their incredibly long telephoto lens) and a sadly depleting population of Puffins. It is a beautiful mix of grassland, moor, seabirds and cliffs. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

My intended path was closed for the nesting season and so I made for the cliff route to my destination at the northernmost point. When I was within 100m, the aerial attacks by the nesting Bonxies left me in no doubt that I was an unwelcome visitor. One caught me a glancing blow and so I realised I was the intruder, a position I never want to be in. I picked up a small rock to carry with me, then turned and started at last on my way South. I waved goodbye to Muckle Flugga.

At the car park, after 4.22 km of walking, I started the big bike ride, and covered the 6.05 km to the Saxa Vord Resort – and ex-RAF camp turned hotel and home to the Shetland Reel Distillery and Valhalla Brewery (their Simmer Dim ale is wonderful stuff) and the food is pure, dead, brilliant.

Tomorrow I head to Belmont for the ferry to Yell and on to Burravoe

And now – The Camino Portguês GPX files

Dear Readers

I can now use the plural form as I have received not one but TWO requests for the Camino Português files.  I am sorry it took so long.

These are my walking files.  I have made some edits where the GPS signal was wayward due to the tall buildings.  This only tended to occur in the towns such as Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto and a couple of others.  The eagle-eyed among you will see where I went off the main track.

These files will get you from Lisbon to Santiago following the most ancient of the Camino Português routes.  Following the old ways is the way I prefer to walk, but some of you may prefer to take the more modern variations (e.g. the Coastal Route out of Porto – and I cannot blame you as the ancient – Central Route – would expose you to a lot of narrow, winding roads and a LOT of cars travelling at higher speeds than I would use.  I know, because as the GPX tracks show – I walked those roads – and I dodged that traffic).  So – I leave you with that warning.  I cannot be responsible for your safety, so use this at your own risk.

Incidentally, I really and truly do not advocate that anyone follows exactly my path.  You – and I – are – are unique individuals.  Feel free to make your own way.  The Camino is YOUR Camino.  Make it up as you go along.  My only requests to you are these:

(1) ENJOY your Camino

(2) Let me know how your Camino went and whether my files helped you.

Best of luck!

The Man in the Blue Blazer

Camino Português – Stuart Nelson – 2016


Getting ready for the BIG ride.

YES – The BIG bike ride is fast approaching. I now have most of my itinerary planned. Ferries booked to Lerwick, Kirkwall and John’ O’Groats I wish my training was going as smoothly. I met a very interesting church gentleman in Hutton-le-Hole this morning who will be giving me a conducted tour of Lastingham (which for those who may not be aware is where the originators of the Easter dates we still use did their thinking ready for the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD)
The more I get into the planning, the more I realise there is just sooooo very much to see in this country. This is going to be a true exploration – of my own home country.

Shell search…!

Dear readers,

As most of you are aware by now, each year I like to walk one of the many Caminos. It is the tradition that each peregrino carries a scallop shell. It is the symbol of St James. You can see my shell in the photo of me collapsed in front of the Santiago City Limits sign.

Each year I carry a shell from somewhere special. The first year the shell was given to me in Hout bay, South Africa. Last year, my shell was a gift from someone in Wellington, New Zealand (I also carried smaller shells for my two granddaughters which I carefully left, with words of dedication, at a significant place on the Camino Português).

This year, I am going to ask one of my readers – you in fact – if you would kindly donate a scallop shell to be my symbol on the Via de la Plata from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela in September this year. It will travel on my rucksack, every footstep of the way for over 1,000km.

Send it from your country- wherever that may be – with your best wishes, and I shall carefully carry it for the whole of the Camino to the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago, where I shall definitely be giving thanks for having finished my walk.

At the end of the walk, I frame the Compostela and the shell together and they all hang in pride of place in TOPO in Farndale.

(Note – I would have asked for two shells as I shall also be doing a riding Camino, from Shetland to the Scilly Isles in June, but I do not want to stretch your goodwill too far).

Looking forward to someone taking me up on this request.