73.99 km (cumulative 135.07 km).
A bright start after a great stay with Alma at the Parsonage in Burravoe. She cooked a wonderful meal last night and a superb breakfast this morning. It would have been nice to linger longer, but The Ulsta/Toft ferry waits for no one. I made it with one minute to spare.
I crossed to the ‘Mainland’ and began my long ride south towards Lerwick.
The Southerly wind was not kind today. To say it was merciless would be to understate its constant and unrelenting push against me. On some hills it was just to much to ride against, so I walked up some long stretches.
Even coming down was slower. In the stark but beautiful Dales Voe, the wind was funnelled by the steep valley slopes into a wind tunnel. At the bottom of the descent I stopped to photograph the only trees I had seen. The trees have apparently fostered new species of insects to thrive there. The area is also very popular with the more colourful ‘Hooded Crow’, of which I saw many.
The road followed its undulating route south. Three kilometres after leaving the ferry, I passed the only roadside shop that I was to see. The road which runs through this narrow island is the A970, and from top to bottom, it is a well surfaced standard arterial road. There are Lerwick Ferry and Sumburgh Airport in the south and Sullom Voe Terminal and Toft Ferry in the north. The aim seems to be to get between them in as little time as possible. As such, and on such a good road surface, speeds are VERY high. Having said that, the vast majority of cars and trucks showed me great consideration. There were however a few – very few – who passed very close, including one in the opposite direction who was overtaking a string of cars at very high speed. In short – it is not a road for the faint hearted cyclist – albeit National Cycle Route No.1…
The wind increased towards lunchtime and brought with it the rain. The road to St Ninian’s Isle bypasses Lerwick. I looked for a roadside café or hotel to stop and refuel myself, but there were none. Thank goodness Alma had known this and insisted that I carry two sandwiches and two cereal bars.
There were beautiful views out towards Bressay sound, which had an ethereal quality,
From Unst to Bigton, the villages have all displayed signs – handwritten by someone – proclaiming a ‘Chinese Buffet Night’ on different dates to be held in each village hall. I finally found the reason is that a local Chinese family provides such nights so that communities can come together and fund raise should they need to. The family takes only a nominal fee. It is so widespread throughout the islands that the family must have a full time occupation just doing these functions, but what a great idea for bringing communities together.
Just before the turn off to Bigton, someone had kindly placed a marker ’60°N’ – exactly where my GPS marked that line too.
On I struggled – on empty tanks – until I finally turned off the A970 just before Sumburgh to the village of Bigton. Here lives another remarkable and hardworking lady – Joy Whitelaw. Her house overlooks St Ninian’s Isle, which I shall visit tomorrow before taking a short ride back to Lerwick. She fed me local scallops and a great curry. I feel spoiled by the hospitality of Shetlanders. They are great.
My left knee felt the effects of today’s struggle, so I shall take it easy for a couple of days. I want to see St Ninian’s church and the copy of its treasure trove to be found in Lerwick Museum, so I shall concentrate on that, rather than riding long distances tomorrow. My watch / heart monitor tell me I used 3989 calories today, by the way…
My next port of call will be Orkney, reached by ferry on Friday night. I can vary my route slightly to ease the demands on my knee. Hopefully – less of a full-on headwind will help…