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

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