June 5, 2017
When we arrived at Tingwall from Fair Isle, we took the taxi-bus to Lerwick and picked up our rental car—a red VW Up! rather than a blue one this time—and headed for The South, as the road signs call the area south of Lerwick. We had had two days cut out of our time here by being marooned on Fair Isle, so basically we needed to get as much done today as possible.
Shetland pony with foal at Jarlshof
Soon we passed Sumburgh Airport, where we had started our trip three weeks ago, and headed for Jarlshof. It’s a major archeological site, where people have lived for the last 2700 years, and much of the area has been laid bare and exhibited. There were Bronze Age, brochs, Vikings, and on top of it all the ruins of the laird’s house.
Excavations at Jarlshof
Our visit to Jarlshof coincided with several busloads of cruise ship passengers, so it was a bit difficult to walk around. There were pathways and signs describing all of the excavations, and it wasn’t easy to understand all of the various stone buildings but to be fair, the archeologists haven’t sorted them all out either. But as with almost all the museums we have gone to in Shetland, it was well done.
Ruins at Jarlshof
After a cup of tea at the Sumburgh Hotel we drove up the hill to Sumburgh Head. There was a display there about the lighthouse and its history, including its role in the war. But we spent a lot of time watching the puffins nesting on the cliff tops, where they were easy to see and fun to watch. We also scanned the area for unusual migrant birds while having a cup of tea in the café, but there were only starlings. We had been lucky with the weather; it only rained for a short while and most of that was while we were inside.
Lighthouse complex at Sumburgh Head
It was still early in the afternoon so we made a side trip to Quendale to look at the historic water mill. We looked around the gift shop, which had some interesting items, but we didn’t really want to go through the mill. But there was a huge flock of about 30 ravens in a farm field and the nearby loch had a couple of Common Shelducks.
We found our way to Levenwick and then down the hill to Da Mucklehus, our B&B for the next two nights. Anne and Peter greeted us warmly and showed us around their lovely house. We were the only ones staying there, so we had the sitting room to ourselves. Our bedroom was very large with views out to the sea as well as inland. Anne had made dinner reservations for us at the Sumburgh Hotel for 7 pm, so at 6:30 pm we headed out. The clouds were quite low down on the hill above us, but luckily didn’t come down over the road. It was quite slow driving down the main road to Sumburgh as the road was being repaved and had a 20 mph speed limit in several sections.
The food and service at the hotel were very good; Rosemary had grilled lamb chops and Paul had salmon. We splurged and shared a sticky toffee pudding for dessert, which came with an excellent sauce.
June 6, 2017
We had breakfast at 8:30 am; Rosemary had French toast as well as fresh fruit with yogurt and muesli, and Paul had smoked haddock and scrambled eggs. The weather forecast wasn’t good, with light rain in the morning and heavy rain in the afternoon.
So we headed over to St Ninian’s Isle to go for our planned hike in the morning. The six-kilometer walk started out by crossing the tombolo which joins the island to the mainland; it’s famous for being the only sand tombolo in Shetland. The walk around the island was the usual coastal walk, water on the left and land on the right. Even the birdlife was the same, with no new birds for us, and we hardly saw any puffins. Most of the time there was a strong wind battering us but only the occasional rain shower. But we didn’t get blown over the cliff!
Tombolo at St Ninian’s Isle
Back at the car we changed out of our rain gear and ate our apples for lunch. The rain started coming down in earnest now, so we headed to Lerwick to do some final shopping. First stop was the Textile Museum, which was highly recommended, but we thought it was not as good as some of the other museums we had seen. It seemed rather small and cramped.
St Ninian’s chapel ruins
By now it was raining hard, so we parked the car near the town centre and headed for the shops. We bought Stugeron at Boots, anti-sea-sickness pills for our upcoming New Zealand trip which aren’t available in Canada. We visited the Shetland Times bookshop to buy the complete works of local author Marsali Taylor, but her first book is out of print so we’ll have to look elsewhere for that. Next we visited the shop which sells soap made from goat’s milk; the soap had been recommended by our Norwegian acquaintance way back when we were first in Shetland.
Dunlins in the grass
Today there was an actual goat in the shop, but not the goat that gives the milk, that was his mother. But he was busy eating and paid no attention to us. We chatted with the owner for quite a while and soon it transpired that she was a personal friend of Marsali Taylor. So she messaged her to ask if she had any remaining copies of “Death on a Longship”! We’ll see if we get any reply.
She also recommended the Peerie Café, so we went there and had hot chocolate and cake. Last stop was Jamieson’s of Shetland to buy a sweater. The ones we looked at here were not hand-knit, but they were made in Shetland with Shetland yard and were considerably cheaper than the hand-knit sweaters we had seen on Fair Isle for £300. Finally we stopped at Tesco on the way out of town to buy Marmite and Colman’s mustard on the way out of town.
Back at the B&B we relaxed in the lounge and caught up with writing our journals, waiting in vain for rare birds to drop into the trees in the garden.
Tonight we had dinner reserved at the Spiggie Hotel, so we drove carefully through the mist and rain along the single-track road to the hotel. It was small and not very busy, but it was tidily furnished and well-supplied inside. There was a standard bar menu but we had the specials, which were lamb chops (Rosemary) and monkfish (Paul). They were very well cooked and presented.
On the way back we drove around Loch of Spiggie, which is an RSPB reserve, but the weather wasn’t very conducive to birding so we headed back to the B&B.
June 7, 2017
This morning at 2 am it was dumping down rain—it woke both of us up. But when we got up at 8 am the rain had stopped. We were supposed to have stayed at Da Mucklehus for four nights but because of the flight delays we’d only actually stayed there for two nights. So when we checked out and Peter cautiously asked if we wouldn’t mind paying for three nights, we didn’t mind at all. We just asked him to write up a receipt detailing that, so that we could make a claim on our trip disruption insurance.
The only thing we had scheduled this morning was driving to the airport to leave Shetland. But we had some extra time so on our way there we went over to Loch of Spiggie. Luckily we found a moorhen there to add to our Shetland list, making our trip total 79 species. Surprisingly there were a couple of swans hidden in the reeds as well.
We also stopped off at the Quendale Mill to buy a hot mat with Shetland ponies on it, something which we hadn’t seen anywhere else. Then finally we headed to the airport. Checking in went smoothly as did security, and the weather was perfect for flying so no delays were expected. And right on time our plane for Glasgow departed.