I have just returned from exploring the Shetland Islands – the most northerly place in Britain, over 60 degrees latitude. Watched puffins (early August) and lots of seals. Slept in the doorway of a Bod each night, caught the overnight ferry from Kirkwall and flew back from Sumburgh in a twin engine Saab. Rented a car for 3 days from Star rental, which worked well, except the car had an unpleasant smell I attributed to cleaning chemicals and the new upholstery. My nasal passages were much happier when freed of this noxious asault, to enjoy the salty air, the peat fire, the smoked salmon and seaweeds.
Cooked fresh scallops in garlic butter with a dusting of paprika, followed by reestit mutton and tatties. Ate mouthfulls of alfalfa, fruits and veggies. Made scambled eggs and then toasted wholegrain bread with a fork, holding it close to the orange embers of the peat fire. Toasted in under 10 seconds. Smothered in unsalted butter. I didn’t eat this myself – it was for my guests!
The Bod was too hot to sleep in – thanks to the peat fire in the stove (the only source of cooking heat, except an electric kettle. So, I slep in the porch, in a sleeping bag, with the door open. Fine until 3.30 when the birds all woke up and bugled me awake. Another night was very calm so the midgies were biting and I closed the door to all but a whisper of cool air.
The “Bod“ at Skeld, best described as a cross between a bothy and a hostel, or camping barn, is a mix of modern and ancient, of electrical appliances and basic simplicity. Bods are clean and cared for, provide only mattresses (wafer thin too) on wooden bunk beds, and some like this one have electric showers, lighting and a kitchen, indoor toilets and a black stove. At £8 per person, a night (plus a £1 for electricity and £5 for a bag of peat, which lasted 2 nights continous use) they are a good alternative to b&B or self catering. The only youth hostel, being in the town of Lerwick, is functional but lacks character. Self catering is charged by the week, so is too expensive. B&Bs do not provide places to cook, and it can be tiring eating out and not having control over your diet.
For more info go to Shetland’s Bods run by Sheltand Amenity Trust (branch of the Sheltand Islands Council).
Highlights were the puffins, seals and the rugged coastline, the wonderful hospitality and good weather, making walking to Staneydale a delight with a picnic of smoked salmon, oatcakes and cheeses. Looked at Mousa broch, Clickimin broch, croft museum, Scatness, Jarlshof, Lerwick, Sumburgh Head and lots of Atlantic Ocean and North Sea water! See Doug Houton for some pictures.
Slept ok on the ferry from Kirkwall (Orkney) but the noise of the engine and thrusters took some getting used to. Never the less, it was mighty convenient to have a shower in my cabin and get breakfast before leaving the ferry at 9am. The only downside was being woken at 6.30 am to be told, by a loud announcement, that breakfast was now being served – a totally unnecessary disturbance that wakes everyone! This is followed at 7.30 am by the announcement that we have docked, and a number of other messages for the car drivers (who have to leave and remove their cars – at least they are allowed back on board for breakfast). So, not enough rest for this wicked person. Please will Northlink Ferries cease this practice of waking everyone to promote breakfast sales and let us tired drivers sleep one more delightful hour of cosy dreams? Please.
26/8/08 Here is a blog i just read, about a 6 day tour of Orkney & Shetland, which you might find interesting. Everyone in tourism should read and analyse this fascinating insight into a visitors experience.