After sleeping surprisingly well on a rolling ship the third day, we arrived to port in Lerwick at 8:00am. Our first views of the island from the ship included rolling hillsides dotted with small stone houses, but before we could get there we had to navigate out of the city (small town really).
Our link to the North
While it was still early we figured we might as well check downtown for a breakfast place, but everything still appeared to be closed. After asking around we stumbled upon a small cafe serving traditional Scottish breakfasts.
First look at Lerwick
Now it was my turn to play navigator in order to find the cottage we had rented to the west for the week. Because the mainland is relatively small, about 50 miles north/south by 30 miles east/west (with many voes between), finding our new home was fairly straight forward.
What a view to wake up to…
The croft house looked out over a secluded bay in the “town” of Raewick, which is really just a random collection of about 10 houses spread over the hillside. After settling in we thought it best to get out into that very countryside we could see out the window, so we drive a short distance west to do the Silwick and Westerwick Circle.
The jagged rock spires were among the first things we saw on the hike, which starts at farm at the end of a one-track road. Nearly all Shetland Islands walks are though farm/grazing land, but it is all (that we encountered that is) publicly accessible.
Gold-sided steam with farmhouses old and new
From a distance the hills looked a greenish tan, which was mostly the peat, but upon closer inspection there were purple, red, pink, and yellow flowers coating the ground.
Pink shoots springing up from the moss
Massive cliffs composed the majority of the coastal landscape we encountered, including numerous sea stacks (more like spikes) like those we found at the onset of our trek. Some sections were more spectacular than others, but that does not mean it wasn’t just as amazingly beautiful.
An extremely rugged coastline…
of inlets, islands, arches, and cliffs
One of my favourite moments from the hike occurred while I was trying to take my sister’s picture (unbeknownst by her). I had positioned her looking over a bay with multiple sea stacks, but after taking a few non so great shots a fishing trawler stormed into the picture. It dodged and weaved between the rocks, then sped toward the shore. I thought it was going to run aground, but at the last instant it spun on a dime and powered back out to sea, which is when I snapped this shot. I would presume this was done to heard the fish into an area where it could trap them easily, but it seemed rather risky to me.
Risky fishing in the voes
After walking along the cliff edge on the way out the route has you turn around and head straight back to the starting point, sending you right through the heart of the peat bogs.
I mentioned a bad bog experience that was seared into my mind on the Isle of Skye 6 years ago, and I was not about to let that happen to me again. This trip I came prepared with freshly broken-in waterproof hiking boots, and boy was I glad! I felt like I could walk through anything (and found out a few days later this was pretty much true, but more on that later). Peat is mostly just water, so every step has the potential to inundate your footwear if you don’t pay close attention to your footfalls.
Getting a sinking feeling
Even so, this hike was a so much fun we decided we had to do some sort of hike every day we were on the island group. This had been the plan from the start, but it is always best to have a good experience before repeating the activity every day for a week. After returning to the car we headed home for the evening, first stopping to pick up some fresh eggs for breakfast from a neighbour’s house.
Nothing quite like fresh free range eggs
No to shabby of a start to a week of island life, this is if you enjoy hiking, new landscapes, wind (lots of wind), and bogs. Bring on the next day!
Photos taken 22 May with a Nikon D7100