So I arrived in Shetland last Friday morning with the aim of being as far north as possible for the summer solstice, and I can pretty well say that I have achieved that goal.
Shetland is basically an archipelago of long skinny islands stretching about 100 miles north to south. Arriving in Lerwick I made a beeline north following bits of cycle route 1 and the lesser A roads to get to the northern Island of Unst in a reasonable amount if time.
As it happens there are a lot of hills in the Shetland group as the twisted and convoluted geology is the result of oceanic continental collision. While nothing is particularly tall there have certainly been a few hills that made me question whether hills and headwinds are a bad combination (they are) and whether perhaps luggage and light weight touring has merits (untried but unlikely). As such I rode about 80km north from Lerwick to camp in a lovely valley not far short of Mid Yell on the island of Yell and managed to find the one flatish piece of not soggy ground I had seen all afternoon. Anyone free camping here. Bring a ground sheet!
Anyway from there it was up to Unst where I found a campsite at the lovely hostel right at the bottom of the island and set about having some “rest days”. As usual rest days just mean you aren’t carry all your panniers so I rode the 20 odd kilometres up to Hermaness Nature Reserve on the day of the solstice which officially gave me my “as far north as possible” claim, although pesky skuas stopped me heading any further north. Check out the “Where am I” tab at the top of the page to see exactly how far north I got.
I am now headed back southwards towards Mousa Broch in the south of the Shetland Mainland. For anyone visiting the islands be prepared to find amazing history everywhere you go. In one day I came across three viking long houses, a bronze age broch, a norse farmstead, innumerable old bods. On top of that I have seen seals, puffins, skuas, shetland ponies en masse and I am pretty certain I saw an otter from a great distance. It is a pretty awesome place to visit!
The sign associated with this water course was "protecting Shetland's trees". I couldn't work out why.
Ferries are cool, and convenient
Not a bsd campsite after a long day on the bike.
I can see why the vikings put their long houses here
Dramatic cliffs, sheep and puffins.
So many sea birds!
The sail loft bod. A great piece of history where I am sleeping for a few days until I feel like riding. Edmund Hillaries jumper was made here.
Free mussels from an great bloke in Voe with whom I chatted for a few hours. I did eat some of most of them
Not sure I'll ever look as surly as a viking!
So I am in Aberdeen where the sun only serves to make the world look a little more dreary ( sorry Aberdonians) after three and a half days on the road. According to the odometer on my bike I have ridden about 560km over the 7 days of riding I have done so far and despite a few grimaces it appears I am still alive and pedalling, though I clearly not in full swing as my food consumption is still working its way upwards.
The ride so far has been quite lovely, and it appears that the weather gods have been smiling on me as I have had predominantly tail winds. Every day the local Scots have been laughing at me for my ability to become sunburnt here, though as I bought sunscreen yesterday I fear it could never be needed. Still, it is a talking point right?
In other news I broke a tent pole the other night. Nothing catastrophic but I still need to work out a proper mend for it as replacement sections aren’t easy to come by. I am sure my McGyver skills will get me through. Apparently setting a tent up in a castle while in a stupid rush while tired is not the best idea i have had recently. Oh yeah i camped in a castle!
So I have spent the past few days riding a loop south and east of Edinburgh enjoying the massive amounts of sunshine that have been laid on presently. In fact is has been so consistently sunny that I am sun burnt!
My riding has followed cycle routes 76 and national cycle route 1 (NCR1) down the east coast and then across to Innerleith and back up to Edinburgh. Starting out flat with some nice pinchish climbs and lots of golf courses and varied track surfaces (at one point the trail was a two inch wind single track through paddocks for a few kilometres) has been great to get used to the handling of my very heavily loaded bike.
The hills have been something of a shock to the system, but I have already noticed myself getting fitter and now I am just tossing up whether to change the rims of my bike to try to reduce some of the massive rolling resistance I have with 2.3″ tyres on 50mm rims giving me well over an inch of contact width.
Anyway enjoy some happy snaps while I plan the next stage of my trip!