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Old 04-08-2017, 12:27 PM   #51
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Default Re: Slow Road to Muckle Flugga

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Originally Posted by twowheeler View Post
Thanks Robbie. Scotland is like a giant Tassie, but with tartan and midges.
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Old 05-08-2017, 12:41 PM   #52
twowheeler
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Default Re: Slow Road to Muckle Flugga

Castletown's pub was like an Oz country town pub - old, a bit worn, comfy, cheap .

The big ferry to the Orkneys leaves from Scrabster, just the other side of Thurso, so cruised over there in plenty of time into the teeth of the howling westerly.

Northlink are a Norwegian company who do most of the Orkney and Shetland routes. No more black, white & red Calmacs -




2 other bikes boarded with me - a couple of guys on R1200RTs (a retired BA pilot and a retired sheep farmer, good company) who'd been to the Orkneys a few times but never the Shetlands. Once on board, while the wind whistled around the ship, our lounge-waitress walked to us sternly about not getting out of our seats unless we had to, "I won't be filling your hot drink cups more than halfway", and showed us where the lifejackets were. Hhmm, that got our attention .

Rather than take the usual direct route straight across the Pentland Firth to Stromness, we avoided a long lee shore by heading east then coming up into the calm of Scapa Flow from the south. Passing Cantick Head -




Impressive swells on the way across but the ship had stabilizers so it didn't roll too much. Into Stromness -







I only had about 12 hours on the Orkneys as the ferry to the Shetlands left at midnight. Headed over to the west coast, to Skaill Bay -




Lots of seals which I mistook as anchored buoys at first, as their heads didn't move as the waves and surf crashed about them -



Continuing the theme of beautiful beaches -




At Skaill Bay, about a 150 years ago, a big storm blew away some sand-dunes and exposed the remains of a village -




Skara Brae, it's been dated to around 3000BC. As in, the Stone Age -




This interior is obviously a mockup but the whole place is remarkably well preserved -




Went for a wild walk to the point -




Surf-going duck. Looks like a duck. Doug ? -







Rain coming and going -




Front of the local toff's mansion's garden, which is included in Skara Brae's entry fee. I you're into moneyed history involving deer shooting and officers'-club stuff you might like it -




Then went down to Yesnaby Head. Very exposed so parked the VFR in the shelter of the local motocross clubrooms. Standing near the clifftop, it was difficult to keep my footing and I was copping plenty of spray from the surf crashing below -

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Old 05-08-2017, 02:02 PM   #53
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Default Re: Slow Road to Muckle Flugga

Kept playing tourist. Went east across the middle of main island (confusingly called The Mainland), to the Ring of Brodgar. Fortuitously a caravan was in the carpark, so parked the VFR in its lee. Brodgar dates from around 2500BC -




Helpfully it's undergoing restoration -




Unhelpfully on this weekend day, the workers on this World Heritage monument which people come from around the world to see, have left their reo, agi pipe and crap scattered everywhere -







Loch of Harray's fishing club -




A mile down the road are the Standing Stones of Stenness, which are around 500 years older than Brodgar -




That makes them older than Stonehenge, something the Scots like to remind the English -




I liked these stones. There used to be another stone just up the road, the Odin Stone, until a farmer dynamited it in the 1800s. He was stopped by enraged locals before he could do more damage -




Headed into Kirkwall for a late lunch, then started south to ride down to Scapa Flow, its causeways and Italian Chapel. But the wind was still increasing and I was getting blown all over the road. Stuff this - I had visions of being blown off a causeway into the sea. So pulled the pin , executed a 9-point turn, and headed back into town, stopping at the Highland Park Distillery to buy a mate a gift -




Kirkwall's harbour front, main pub behind -




A working dive boat, up here . Hard as flint -




Norse influence everywhere -




But constant reminders that we're still in Britain -




Spent some time wandering around and amongst other things was serenaded, in pouring rain, by a group of very pissed girls who were in the back of a slow-moving truck, clearly on a hens night -

Early dinner in the pub, then they let me use their huge upstairs library to kill time until the midnight ferry. Laid stuff out to dry, did some reading and willed the red message ("ferries may not run as scheduled due to weather conditions") on the Northlink website to go away. Would have much preferred to be seeing more of what Orkney had to offer, but it wasn't to be .


Around 10pm the message disappeared so I packed and rode up the road to the ferry terminal, a couple of miles out of town. I was the first to arrive at the large functionally-styled building and sat in the lonely waiting room, drinking vending machine hot chocolate, feeling & hearing the building vibrate and watching spume blow off the waves in the harbour.
About 11:30pm, waiting room full by now, the ferry rounded the bluff and headed into harbour. Even in the dim twilight, it was clearly on about a 10deg angle broadside to the wind. Nervous glances exchanged -




After being dead-last to board (sometimes bikes are either first or last), we were underway before I'd found my cabin and was glad this ship had plenty of handrails. Actually got a few hours sleep as we headed north across open ocean, heaving about in the swells, obviously hanging on crests before crashing into troughs. Next morning one of the officers said it had been blowing Force 9. All very exciting .


More to come . . . on the Shetlands . . .
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Old 05-08-2017, 04:26 PM   #54
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Default Re: Slow Road to Muckle Flugga

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Old 06-08-2017, 09:06 PM   #55
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Default Re: Slow Road to Muckle Flugga





The wind was starting to wane when we pulled into Lerwick at around 7:30am. Waiting to disembark, chatted with 4 old-bloke cyclists who I’d seen yesterday. They were going to pedal up to Baltasound where I was staying too. They took off north but I moseyed around Lerwick for a bit –













Lerwick dates from the 1600s -







An old-school town, nothing was open on this Sunday morning -




Owned by Norway for ages, they gave the Shetlands to Scotland in the 1400s as part of a royal dowry –



Not knowing what the fuel availability was like further north, I brimmed it on the way out of town. The old tank bag, on its last legs for a few days, decided to break its attaching-zip here so it got binned . A pain, as my good camera now had to go into a back pack where it was a lot more inaccessible for a quick shot .

Headed north then took a western turnoff after seeing a small sign advertising a bike museum, which I never found . So wound up in Weisdale –




(and there was, later ) -




Weisdale from the hill out of town -




Onto the B9071 -




Rejoined the main road north at Voe. Some surprisingly large vistas around here. Frora Ness, lots of fish-farms surrounding it –




The road ends at the ferry station at Toft. Bought a ticket here, which covered all the remaining ferries and defaults to a return (“everyone comes back", the VFR750 owning deckhand told me ) –




The deckhand also told me the next ferry, which goes to the northern most island of Unst, left in 40mins so (ahem ) hotfooted up the great road across the island of Yell, to Gutcher, and managed to squeeze on in between two large trailers loaded with furniture. An advantage of a bike -




Offloading at Belmont, on Unst, was a nice feeling. Getting close to the main aim of the trip now . Went up its only main road, the A896.

Into Baltasound, dropped my panniers at the hotel and got changed into hiking gear. The hotel is more than a bit like Fawlty Towers. Quirky ! –







Further up the A896 is Haroldswick and its Viking ship replica, just sitting beside the road, no signs, gates, entrance fees, etc -







The natives -




Tricky navigation from here with few signs and with roads as wide as driveways so I arrived at someone’s house at one point !

Through Norwick -







Then seemingly rode through a farmers yard to find the road to Skaw -







This strip of road, Holsens Road, leading down to the solitary farm at Skaw, is the northernmost piece of tarmac in Britain -




It stops at Skaw. There is no more




Cracking little beach. Next stop is the North Pole -







Good use of an old boat -




Walked out to the point, where there's the remains of a WW2 radar station -




Then got back on the VFR and for the first time in a fortnight, started heading properly south. Felt a bit sad actually -




More to come . . .
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