Mid Yell to Saxa Vord

"Bobby's bush Shelter", Unst
“Bobby’s bush Shelter”, Unst

The camping bods are similar to camping in that only a bunk is provided, you have to supply your own sleeping bag. The very firm mattress was a close approximation to the hardness of the earth too, and I slept badly. It’s been a couple of years since I last camped and I found it hard to cope with the restricted movement afforded by the sleeping bag and the firmness underneath me. We were all up before 07:00 so were away for 08:30 in plenty of time for the 09:35 ferry across the Bluemull Sound from Gutcher to Unst, surprised to find it’s free of charge.

We rode north along the new road, weather cool and cloudy with a moderate wind, comfortable for cycling. Shetland ponies were abundant in the fields, and we saw a lovely group reflected in a pool of water, but they’re so friendly and curious that it’s difficult to get a good photo, they come right up to the fence. We stopped at Baltasound, home of Britain’s most northerly post office and also the “John Peel memorial traffic island” and “Bobby’s bus shelter”, which Buses magazine declared Britain’s best bus shelter. This was celebrating the queen’s diamond jubilee, the shelter even boasting a well filled visitors book. It was heartening to see that it hadn’t been messed with, I was very impressed with the respect for others that is so evident on Orkney and Shetland.

At Haroldswick we stopped at the Northern Lights bistro for an excellent lunch of pea soup, carrot cake and coffee. It was only a few more miles to the Saxa Vord holiday resort, a former RAF base. Here we left our luggage and rode off to the end of the road where we left our bikes to walk to the Hermaness nature reserve. The walk took us across the bog on a boardwalk past lochans with great skuas nesting close by and to the coast overlooking the Muckle Flugga lighthouse, the northerly tip of the British Isles. Puffins were active on the cliff edge with huge noisy gannet colonies on the rocks, an incredible sight. One night wasn’t going to be enough here, we resolved to return to Shetland for a fortnight but next time to take warmer clothing.

Back at Saxa Vord, we noted the poor choice of vegetarian food in the restaurant, only pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese for £13 so we were glad we’d stocked up at the village shop and could make use of the communal kitchen. I slept well, although the mattress and pillows were overdue for replacement.

Saxa Vord to Windhouse Lodge