Travels in the North

Musings on arctic holidays

Tag Archives: Lerwick

Reliving an old trip – June 14 2005 – Hitchhiking & Mousa

Another early start this morning, had to be up at 6am in order to catch a bus from Unst back to mainland (mainland the main island on Shetland, I don’t mean back to the mainland).

The bus was late and I was starting to worry about missing my ferry connection to Yell (where I was due to catch another bus which went all the way back to Lerwick via another ferry). Spurred on by yesterday’s impromptu offer of a lift from a local I tried hitchhiking for the first time in my life – and to my surprise the first car stopped. I suppose people in these rural communities tend to help each other out like that. The driver was an old lady and drove me all the way to the Yell ferry which I was very grateful for.

Lerwick Bus Shetland

My main sightseeing activity of the day was a trip to Mousa Broch, brochs being old iron age forts specific to the Northern islands and the far North East of Scotland. Mousa is the best preserved of the brochs, on an uninhabited island of the same name, a tour company charters boats to go out there.



We had about two hours on Mousa which was plenty of time to see the broch and go for a walk. I’d asked on the boat if anyone was driving back to Lerwick as the bus times would’ve left me with a two hour wait, and a German couple had offered, only for me to realise when we got back that they thought I was offering them a lift, they didn’t speak much English.

Mousa Broch

Mousa Broch

With all the other boat passengers rapidly driving away I was a bit panicked but managed to ask the last remaining couple if they were headed back to Lerwick and fortunately they were. They were a very friendly couple from Nottingham and invited me back to their rented cottage for a cup of tea before heading back, after a few days on my own I was really grateful for the company.

Back in Lerwick and again at the mercy of the limited eating options I got some chicken and chips from a takeaway and sat on the harbour eating them, which annoying and predictably attracted a lot of seagulls. I then had a few hours before my 1:30am ferry to the Faroe Islands so went to a couple of pubs.

Da Noost was the first place I went, nice enough but quite a young crowd in there, although there was an eccentric bloke at the bar which added a bit of interest.

Then I went to Captain Flints, which as the name suggests was a nautically themed pub. I didn’t want to drink too much before my ferry so left about 10:30pm to head to the ferry port.

We finally boarded (slightly late) the Smyril Line ferry at 2:00am, it had been slightly late arriving from it’s last destination, Bergen in West Norway. I’m far enough North now that it still wasn’t completely dark, we are just a week off the longest day of course.


Reliving an old trip – 12 June 2005 – Stormy Shetland

The crossing was fine last night in the end, a bit choppy but I’d taken a couple of seasick pills which seemed to do the job. Probably got about five hours sleep which wasn’t too bad going. There was a bar and restaurant on board but I was too tired to go to either.

I woke up at 4:30am just as the ferry was passing Fair Isle. Even at this ungodly hour I was impressed with the scenery and the remoteness of it. I didn’t get back to sleep, but before long Sumburgh head at the Southern tip of Shetland came into view. Immediately I was struck by the lack of trees, which makes Shetland look very bleak, certainly when combined with the concrete houses in Lerwick which seems to be the dominant architectural style here (no Faroe Islands brightness for the houses!)


The ferry docked in Lerwick at 7:30, I walked to the campsite and pitched my tent. Eager to start exploring I made my way into town via Clickimin Broch (which was interesting in an unremarkable kind of way)

Clickimin Broch

Sunday morning is evidently not the time to visit Lerwick. Other than the helpful tourist information centre, everything was closed. I checked out Fort Charlotte, and am sorry to say I was somewhat unimpressed – a few walls and cannons but not much to really hold my interest.

Somerfield supermarket back near the campsite was at least open so I was able to get some breakfast and stock up on food.

It’s a bit of a culture shock nothing being open – I guess I’m used to London life but when you think Lerwick is the “big smoke” of the whole of Shetland, I wonder how people manage! Then again I suppose it’s not so different to how a lot of towns across Britain were 20 odd years ago before Sunday trading took off.

So after something of a slow start to the day, I got a bus down to Jarlshof, the viking settlement. This I was really impressed with, more so than I thought I would be. As the audio guide (one of those walk around with headphones efforts) pointed out, I was viewing several thousand years worth of architectural history, some of which was unique to the North Isles and North West Scotland. I hope I get the chance to see Mousa Broch while I’m up here, which is the best preserved Broch around here (Brochs are old cylindrical forts unique to this region).


Just as I’d finished looking around Jarlshof, it started raining. It got heavier and heavier as I walked to the puffin colony at Sumburgh head. Impossible to believe it’s June, it felt like the lake district in March. Still though the walk to Sumburgh head was well worth it, I saw plenty of puffins, all looking very cute because they tend to look a little sad! On the way there some other birds (arctic terns?) were trying to attack me, I’d obviously ventured too near their nesting ground and they were squawking like mad and trying to dive bomb me – first time I’d experienced anything like it!

A Puffin at Sumbrugh Head

I sheltered from the rain at a bus stop but had a rather depressing 50 minute wait for a bus back to Lerwick – to be expected in this part of the world I suppose, and although they’re infrequent they do seem reliable.

Arrived absolutely drenched back at my tent and realised I could be in for a tough three weeks! The tent was leaking a little, obviously wasn’t built to withstand Shetland rain. This got me down a bit, not even one camping night into the holiday – would I have to give up and stay in B&Bs from here on?

I dropped my bag off and wandered back into town and mercifully found an Indian restaurant open for dinner. The food and service were distinctly average, as my guidebook warned “Shetland is no place for Gastronomes”.

Afterwards I checked out the number one drinking establishment in Lerwick, “The Lounge”, which is a little shabby but in a nice way, and attracts a good crowd. Really I was just grateful to be out of the rain for a bit.

The Lounge Lerwick

The Lounge, Lerwick

On the way back to the campsite I saw an estate agent where they had a 2 bedroom mid terrace for sale at £50k – having been dreaming of getting onto the property ladder in the South of England for years it made me wonder if I was just looking in the wrong place!

Reliving an old trip – 11 June 2005

Aberdeen Northlink

Leaving Aberdeen on the Northlink ferry bound for Lerwick

I’m going to write up my three week trip I did in the summer of 2005 (a scary seven years ago, can’t believe that). For the most part I’ll just write up an old journal I kept at the time.

Left home at 8:30 this morning, fairly uneventful journey to Aberbeen via Luton and easyJet. Aberdeen seemed a few degrees cooler than London, according to my GPS I’d travelled 400 miles North but this was just the start.

I’m writing this on the North Link ferry to Aberdeen, the North sea is predictably a bit choppy so it could be a long night! But it’s great to be surrounded by the North atlantic, which will be a constant for the next three weeks, save for perhaps a few days in Iceland.

Not sure how I’ll cope for three weeks on my own, it’s the longest I’ve been away for and it seems strange to be going to an unknown place with noone to meet up with when I get there. Still, got my iPod for company [edit – this was a first generation iPod I was very proud of at the time]

Just read up on Lerwick in the guidebook so I’m ready for the 7am arrival tomorrow.