Our second holiday in the Shetland Isles but this time we were taking the ferry directly to Lerwick rather than riding up to John O’Groats and going via Orkney. As always, we had to choose our trains carefully to allow us to book our three bikes. Luckily the 09:22 Virgin Voyager from Bangor connected nicely at Crewe with fifteen minutes between arrival and departure on a pendolino to Edinburgh. Rather than risk a tight connection in the Scottish capital for a connection to Aberdeen for the overnight ferry, we stayed overnight.
Christine and Rowan looked round the city while I visited the Woodman, Arbus and Mapplethorpe photography exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was my first visit, a beautiful building with cycling interest in the portrait of Ion Keith-Falconer (1856-1887), the Champion Cyclist of Great Britain in the 1870s. In 1881 he undertook a tour from Land End to John O’Groats (994 miles) on a penny-farthing bicycle in just 13 days. Back then, there were no bitumen roads in the north of Scotland, only tracks. In 1886 he carried out missionary work for the Church of Scotland in Aden in Yemen where he died of malaria aged just 32.
We usually meet interesting people on our cycling holidays but not normally when passing through cities. This time we came across David who was engaged in a 6000 mile walk visiting all 201 Samaritans offices, putting in a day’s shift at each one. His story is told at http://thelisteningwalk.co.uk/
Next morning we had enough time to walk to Hendersons for breakfast of avocado, spinach and scrambled tofu on a wholewheat roll before the 10:28 LNER service took us on to Aberdeen. We had our main meal of the day at midday to avoid ferry catering, Las Iguanas in the Union Square shopping centre had seats where we could sit with the bikes. I had a muhroom fajita stack with dulche de leche cheesecake.
We had plenty of time before the ferry, which left at 17:00 because it called at Orkney, on some days it sails directly to Shetland, leaving two hours later. A group of 24 motorcyclists also boarded with very flashy expensive looking machines, on their way to a rally. We spoke to another cyclist who had returned from a four year world trip in March and was on his way to Orkney to undertake voluntary work on a farm, where his board and lodging would be provided.