We were due to catch the 17:00 Northlink ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick on Shetland. This one calls at Kirkwall, Orkney on the way so it takes a bit longer - it docks at 7:30 the following morning. I'm afraid, as usual, we overestimated the travel time so arrived at 14:00 for a 15:00 checkin! Still, the Northlink team were very nice and we joined a short queue (we were third) of people who were also far too early. At spot-on 15:00, we checked in, got our boarding cards which also double as keycards for the cabin door, and received our instructions. The instructions included "don't set your alarm" since the rocking of the ship would set it off, which is tricky since the alarm sets with the locks but a visit to the instruction book showed that BMW had thought of this eventuality and allowed a way. We drove on at about 15:45, found our cabin and had an explore.
The cabin was great - really surprising. Built-in shower, kettle and loo (which had a spectacular and really quite aggressive flush). Cabins are not essential - they don't make you book one - but we'd thoroughly recommend getting one. It was lovely and cosy, comfortable and somewhere to escape the excitement of the public areas! These got progressively noisier as the parties of children went to bed leaving the adults behind. Not the way around we'd have expected, but parties from the Shetland Girls' Football Team and from Girl Guides Shetland were happy but under control .... couldn't say the same about many of the adults who stayed up late in the bar.
Here are some pictures of the ferry leaving Aberdeen:
So, we were now "properly at sea" as we seafarers say (or don't say, actually) - but the ship started to go up and down a bit, Lois started to feel queezy and hit the Kwells (scopolomine based - isn't that the truth drug the Germans used in "Guns of Navarone"?) and Ian helped and supported her lovingly by wolfing into a "Viking burger" while sitting beside her which was brilliant (but unhelpful).
The light swell (as described by the Captain) was actually quite interesting and felt like a kind of corkscrew motion as we slept. Yes, we slept ... rather well actually ... only woken when the ship moved oddly but otherwise being rocked gently. It was quite calm in fact.
We landed exactly at 7:30 as timetabled and were off the ship and rolling into Lerwick by 7:41! All very efficient and good humored. Great, in fact, and we can't praise Northlink enough for their service.
So, on to breakfast. Northlink offer the option of breakfast on board but no, we thought, there'll be plenty of places in Lerwick on a Monday morning. There aren't. We found one that opened at 8:00 which was a fantastic find! Wonderful smoked salmon and bacon with scrambled eggs to die for. This was the Peerie Cafe and it's near to the Victoria Pier which also had a lovely memorial. "Peerie" mean "little" - it's the Shetland equivalent of the Scottish "wee". We can thoroughly recoemmend that vafe after the crossing ... it opens at 8:00, which is just right for the landing time of 7:30!
This was originally a drinking fountain that has now been replaced by a chalice with "liquid metal" spilling from it. The inscription reads :
IN MEMORY OF The providential return of the S. Whaler "DIANA" of Hull 1866 - 67. Captain : Late John Gravill. Surgeon : Late Charles Edward Smith. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and HE delivered them out of their distresses.
The Hull-based "Diana" with 50 crew on board, including some 30 Shetlanders, made an ill-fated whaling expedition to the Arctic and became trapped over the winter of 1866-67. The Captain and eight of the crew died over the winter and four more crewmen were near death's door when the boat eventually reached Ronas Voe in Shetland on her return journey.
And so on to Scalloway, which used to be the capital of Shetland until it was moved to Lerwick. It's a lovely drive on excellent roads. We'd expected lots of single track and so doubt there are some of these, but not here. But there's very little traffic - there was a dead bird in the middle of the road that had clearly been there for some time (and which we saw and used as a landmark for a key turning several times during our stay here - "Right at the dead bird" became a direction!) We lunched at the pier in Scalloway ... from Tesco food bought in Lerwick. We'll come back here later.
Then to the hotel for checkin and a snooze ... it seemed a very long time since we had departed from Aberdeen! The hotel is a bit tired, and has clearly been very grand. The public areas still are, but the rooms are looking a bit jaded! We'd hoped for a sea view but actually got a room out the back. (Note later ... it was very rainy and windy on Wednesday afternoon and we understood why "being out the back" might actually have been a good idea!) It's very comfortable, warm and - like everyone we've met so far here - the staff are lovely.
After a snooze we headed back to Lerwick for something to eat. Now that we know our way around a bit we could get to the Victoria Pier and its car park easily ... and just across the road was a fish and chop shop that turned out to be excellent!
We ate, in the car, overlooking the little harbour (we are not at the place where the big ferries come) and were watched the whole time by this seagull who was eyeing up our chips! We practiced ignoring him so that we'd be better prepared for eating with a greyhound nearby.
We were, a little later, entertained by the launching of the lifeboat for an exercise. All very exiting!
Then back to hotel for bed!