Friday, 6 September 2019

Day Five - Hamnavoe and the West

Careful readers will remember that we mentioned Hammond Innes' book North Star earlier when we went to Sullom Voe.  Another place featured in the same book is Hamnavoe and as you know by now, that's reason enough to visit.

Before we set off, we revisited Lerwick to find that two enormous cruise ships had docked and were disgorging their passengers into the town.  Here's one of them - the other was larger still.  Between them, they must have held more people than the entire population of Lerwick, but they must be a godsend to the local shops which were swamped with cruisers buying anything and everything.  They seems to be mostly Americans, but maybe that was just a perception. 

All around the town were parties being given conducted tours and as we progressed on our own travels, we kept coming across coachloads of them.  All bringing wealth to the area, so not to be sneezed at.

Hamnavoe is a couple of small islands away from Mainland, just down from Scalloway and the other side from Lerwick.  This time, the islands are reached by bridge rather than ferry and one must cross Trondra to reach West Burra. The bridges are great, but single track and one gives way to cars already on the bridge.  In practice, this isn't an issue because there really aren't many cars around these parts!
 The journey is lovely and here we found yet another different "style" of Shetland.  We've discovered that everywhere is slightly different from everywhere else which means an interesting trip wherever.  Here, the emphasis seems to be on fishing since there are lots of little harbours with fishing vessels tied up.  It seems to be quite well sheltered here.  The pics are of Hamnavoe harbour.A quick word about public toilets ... do you remember when every village, town and city in the county had one?  And over time councils have closed them, presumably because they would prefer people to bespoil their verges than provide facilities for their visitors.  Well, in Shetland they still exist.   Everywhere.  And they are really well maintained, in good working order, well painted and stocked.  It's refreshing (and at times a great relief).On the way back, we revisited Scalloway and went to the excellent Museum there.  As well as some super information about the area, there is also a lot about "The Shetland Bus".  This was the nickname of a clandestine special operations group that made a permanent link between Mainland Shetland in Scotland and German occupied Norway from 1941 until the end of the war. Crossings were mostly made during the winter under the cover of darkness. This meant the crews and passengers had to endure very heavy North Sea conditions, with no lights and constant risk of discovery by German aircraft or patrol boats. There was also the possibility of being captured whilst carrying out the mission on the Norwegian coast.  The fishing boats were armed with light machine guns concealed inside oil drums placed on deck (see above). The operation was under constant threat from German forces, and several missions went awry, several fishing boats were lost during the early operations.  Fascinating stuff.As we arrived, a coachload of cruisers had just left, and as we left another arrived.  Result!Just across the road from the museum is Scalloway Castle.  It wasn't a castle in sense of being a defensive place, more a statement of power by Robert Stewart (1533–1593), illegitimate son of King James V, who was granted lands in Orkney and Shetland and subsequently established himself as a powerful but unscrupulous figure in the islands.  Well, actually, this was his holiday pad since his main residence was in Orkney.  The castle also served as a meeting place for The Thing (parliament) of Shetland.  It was also the location for the Courts who amongst other things, tried witches here.  If found guilty they were taken to Gallow Hill to the west of Scalloway where they where hanged if men and garrotted or drowned if women and then burned.  It is said that the soil is still red with their ash!     

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