It was only when we were sitting in the departure lounge of Kirkwall ferry terminal waiting for our boat, dear friends, that it really started sinking into my head: we WERE actually going to Shetland – no storm, no boat cancelled (and they don’t even go every day), we would really make it to our final destination, the northernmost part of the British Isles (which, actually is as far north as I ever want to go)… And there it appeared, our midnight ferry, ready to take us!
Here I must confess we’d allowed ourselves a bit of luxury for the nightly passage: a cabin. Sleeping on the floor or in a chair is all right when you’re 20 or 30, but it’s not advisable for a couple of almost 50 and almost 75 respectively, with their various ailments of arthritis, rheumatism and sciatica…
So, on our comfy beds the night passed in no time, and at 8am we were in Lerwick! What a modern ferry terminal the northernmost town of the UK has got…
First thing we did was get a taxi up to our hotel, the Glen Orchy House – a beautiful early 20th century building, with comfortable rooms equipped with all amenities including a bathtub, run by a lovely international couple and decorated in the most stylish way. And what a glorious view on the town and seaside from the hill it’s situated on!
Then, we went back into town, right down to the waterfront, for our first real impressions of Lerwick – I can assure you, dear friends, it’s simply enchanting! Little boats and deep blue sea on one side, and picturesque buildings with little roads and stairways in between on the other.
We found a perfect place for a substantial brunch, too: a good old-fashioned working-class café in a side road, called the Harbour Café – here you can get a full Scottish breakfast served in a burger bun! And on the wall, a beautifully colourful painting of Lerwick harbour…
After that, we went up into Lerwick’s charming high street – little shops, cafes and bars, and buntings everywhere. We even found a good old-fashioned proper bookshop, where we bought a couple of history books and a collection of Shetland folk tales.
One of the jewels of Lerwick’s centre is the old Grand Hotel, which is still functioning and also contains a pub where all the locals gather and chat with the tourists – it’s like entering a different era, with all the dark wood, high ceilings, wallpaper and chandeliers!
We also found a lovely place to eat, a little Thai restaurant with delicious food and wine and a beautiful, relaxing ambience – actually, we liked it so much that we came back again the next evening!
With a full stomach and our hearts filled with love for this beautiful town, we went back to the hotel, and as we’d expected, just a few days after Summer Solstice, we witnessed our first midnight sun from the hotel room window – we’d never been so close to the North Pole before!
The next morning, we picked up our rented car and set out into the magnificent Shetland landscape. First we paid a visit to Scalloway, less than 10 miles from Lerwick, Shetland’s old capital and well aware of its history; more motives for our Shetland picture book here…
Then, we went all the way down to the southern tip of mainland island– it’s paradise, dear friends, believe me, it’s just like driving through a postcard… The green fields, the wild North Sea, and we even got a glimpse of a couple of Shetland ponies!
We’d read about the Broch of Mousa, of course, the best preserved broch in the world, which until this day stands 13 metres high and is situated on the island of Mousa about a mile off the coast of mainland; thing is, if you want to visit it you’ve got to be an early bird (something my darling husband and me aren’t) – the boat only goes once a day, at 11am… Anyway, we visited the little harbour where the boat goes from instead, complete with a little museum depicting the history of the Mousa Ferry!
And now we were on our way to the most important archaeological site of the Shetlands – a place called Jarlshof. I’ll devote a lot of space to this in my next post, though, dear friends, because, believe me, Jarlshof is VERY special!