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…