Today is the road trip up the spine of the islands. Shetland consists of 100+ islands. Most are small mounds & humps of rock around the largest island calked Mainland, where most of the 22,000 population live. This is stretched out northwards in a thin line equidistant between Norway and the UK.. It takes about an hour to drive up the island from one end to the other through the brown & grey moors, dropping down to a settlement on the east coast before rising up and over the claggy peat landscape to descend to another on the western side. The North Sea breaks on the east coast and on the west is the Atlantic Ocean, both as wild as the other. Ruined walls of toppling stones and unroofed outlines of past homes and farms are evidence of the travesty that was the clearances when humanity was forcibly moved to make room for sheep.
Around every rolling, peat-covered mound or low hill water appears. This is either one of the numerous puddles, lochans or larger lochs of fresh water which dot the landscape or one of the straggling fingers of sea, called voes, which poke and point their way into the interior of the main island and almost touch the ocean on the far side before they are halted by a low rock barrier.
Lines of buoys are arranged along the voes. If they are arranged in rows then it is a mussel farm with the molluscs clinging onto dangling chains until they are ready for harvesting. Whereas the salmon swim around and grow in circular or rectangular cages.
The ferry terminal at Toft is my first destination.
This takes me across to the island of Yell. Yell is another boggy, undulating island full of gobsmacking views & vistas of sweeping, browny-grey heathered covered moorland, cloud-skidding skies and wide spreading seas, all highlighted by an artist’s palette of golden glows and rays and piercings.
The first stop is Global Yell where Andy welcomes us to his textile and music education centre. Glorious textiles hang from the walls and peep out off drawers as he knots up his state of the art loom. This place must be visited. There is also a craft gallery within the complex.
The clouds and sun play chasing games over the surrounding landscape to produce different moors and colours to inspire weavers and artist’s alike. I rather like the office chair in the bus shelter to allow the locals to rest their bums as the next bus might be a while.
Then it is a quick dash to Gutcher to take us over to the island of Unst and the glories of Victoria’s Vintage Tea Rooms.
This bus shelter really takes the prize. The locals give it a theme each month and then decorate it accordingly. Well what else does one do during those long winter nights? From here it is a short drive up to Burrahfirth and the most northern beach in the British Isles.
The sun starts to drop down to meet the horizon and the clouds thicken making for a dramatic return journey to Mainland. Mrs Seal acknowledges my passing as we drop down to the local store which stocks everything from bicycle oil to cornflakes where I make my own self-serviced tea before boarding the 5.15 ferry.
Wow. What a day, full of sky and sun and and coast and sweeping blankets of moorland.