Shetland Kayak Western Seaboard


Day 1. 5 June. Eastshore to Maywick. 33km. 7 hours. Once disembarked the ferry I went up to the Coastguard office arriving about 0800. They were open off course so I told the officer my plans who wrote it all down in a book. Then I had a quick shop for lunch before heading down to Sumburgh to find somewhere to launch and park the car. I wanted to go round Sumburgh Head now rather than leave it to the end when the weather might not be so favourable, I found a small marina just north of the airport which had a slip and parking. It was ideal. 

I took a good 2 hours to try and get everything in the kayak and make my final checks before i set off a midday. By this time a haar or sea fog had blanketed the marina and indeed the whole of Sumburgh Head. As I pulled out into the North Sea a easterly force 3 was sending small waves across the southerly swell, which was small. i saw very little of the cliffs which were shrouded in mist. On the water rafts of auks gathered in the bays. They nervously dipped their heads a few times as I approached before finally diving or laboriously taking off skimming the water. All the familiar birds were here; fulmar, kittiwake, puffin, gullimot and razorbill together with a few tiest. On the rocky shore at the base of the cliffs shags tried to dry their wings in the fog, 

There was a slight tide running south which increased as I approached the head. As the swell and  clapotis were quite small I could keep close to the base of the cliffs and away from the unseen perils which might lurk in the faster offshore tidal stream, like the Sumburgh Roost, a notourious rough patch of sea south of Sumburgh head and extending out some 10 km. Due to the mist rounding the head was something of an anticlimax. The mist lasted round the next headland of Hog of Ness and all the way to Lady’s Holm when the sun broke through the thin veil. Ahead of me know I could see the looming cliffs of Fiful Head. It was perhaps more daunting than Sumburgh even. 

01. Approaching Fitful Head and the start of the West coast Swell

As I approached the swell started to rise concentrating around the promnontories. It crashed onto the base of the cliffs and the stacks with huge green rollers and the plumes of spray. The wave then rebounded back creating a confused sea of clapotis. I kept a few hundred metres offshore to avoid it and also any dormant submerged skerry which would only erupt when a large swell went over it. The head itself was a kilometre of huge coastal architecture formed by the brunt of the Atlantic on the hard rock over millinium. I could see fantastic stacks and ghoulish day inlets or Geo’s but could not explore them. After the head there was an equally impressive buttress off cliffs for 3 km where there was no respite from the huge sea. This was the site of the Brear shipwreck some 30 years ago and I must have paddled over her submerged and smashed carcass. It was only when I rounded The Nev that I could relax my tight grasp on the paddle, but even here in the shallow bay of the Wick of Shunni there was no place to rest beneath the huge cliffs riddled with birds nests, mostly fulmar I think on the grassy precipices. 

02. The Nev is the headland marking the Northen tip of Fitful head. It, and the adjacent steep grassy slopes, were covered in Fulmar nests

It was another 3 km before I reached the end of this dramatic coastline and could veer east into Muckle Sound, between the looming stacks and Colsay Island, and could start to leave the constant roar of the surf behind. I paddled a little out of my way into the Bay of Scousburgh and found an idyllic white sandy beach, gently lapped by small waves. There were a few local families gather for a BBQ here enjoying the sun. After nearly 5 hours I was very stiff and struggled to get out of the kayak. I had a glorious lunch and chatted with the locals for nearly 2 hours before it was time to continue north out of the bay and on to St Ninians Isle. 

03. Approaching the sheltered beach in Scousbrough Bay after rounding Fitful Head and the exposed coast up to Fora Ness

I  tried to weave between the stacks and holms to the south of St Ninians Isle, (which is not an isle but joined to the mainland by a remarkable white sandy tombola). However the swell was a bit unpredictable and I did not want to get caught out by a large one so erred on the side of caution and went round the outside of most. I did go inside Hich Holm as it had a wide deep channel. Although grassy and pastoral on top St Ninians was vicious and dramatic from the sea and very unforgiving. After the final stack of St Ninians I still had another 4 km of huge coastline with no respite. I notice my speed was down to about 4km. I assumed it was a slight tide against me but it could have been tiredness and the general confused sea state which slowed me down. 

I was about 2000 hrs now as I approached the Tiang of Maywick headland behind which was a sheltered beach. I decided to throw the towel in here rather than carry on up to the Burras as was my plan. Besides the wind gusting force 5 in places where it barreled down the cliffs and slopes to the east and whipped up the sea. Thankfully the surf was not too big on the beach with half-metre high waves and I was soon ashore. I loaded my kayak onto my new trolley and heaved it up into the softer sand and unpacked it. 

There was no camping on the exposed beach but I found a spot just over the fence in a crofters yard which was full of junk and sea debris. There was a flat grassy area overlooking the sea and I pitched on it. The nearby stream looked possible for water but perhaps it had farmyard ooze leaking into it but on inspection I found a tap. I was not pitched until well after 2100 and was dog tired. I just ate my dehydrated meal and fell asleep without writing or getting the tent in order. I had only paddle about 5 days or 100km since my trip round Orkney 3 years ago and today had taken its toll.

Day 2. 6 June.  Maywick to Oxna. 17 km. 3.5 hours. The wind calmed down in the night but there was still a catabatic wind of cold mist streaming down the hillsides in ribbons and spilling onto the waters of the bay like liquid smoke. The swell also seemed to diminish. However I did not sleep well and woke frequently when a hip or shoulder I was lying on started to grumble. When morning came it had all the promise of a beautiful day and when the sun arrived it warmed everything and my claggy equipment was soon crispy dry. I lingered in the sun,  wrote the blog and was ready to start packing the kayak by 0900. However it took 2 hours to get it all down and into the boat. 

By the time I launched the sea haar had returned and enveloped everything in a cold mist. I was a bit disorientated by it as all the landmarks were obscured and there was no wind. I had to navigate by compass with only sea birds bobbing on the still waters breaking the grey hue.. My initial plan was to go up east side of East Burra. But i considered this and thought it would be more sportif to go on the west side of West Burra where the full force of the Atlantic spent its fury. As I navigated to Kettle Ness on the south end of it I did not pay attention to my navigation and at one point was going completely 180 degrees in the wrong direction so disorientating was the mist. But eventually when I reached Kettle Ness it cleared and I had a wonderful view up the spectacular coastline.  

I had to keep out due to the feroucious swell and it thundered into and then rebounded off the bottom of the cliffs and stacks. the swell was not as big as yesterday and was perhaps just 2 metres but occasionally a 4 metre set of a few swells would come through and the coastline would erupt into a crescendo of surf and roar. it continued like this for 6 kilometres with only two small sheltered bays for respite. It was a very spectacular stretch of coast with arches, stacks and caves, none of which I dared go near. It is however quite stressful paddling in big seas and I constantly have to be on the lookout for submerged skerries ahead which might surprise me when a monster swell reared up and broke over them. 

After these cliffs the weather stated to clear up and even the elusive, pelagic, Foula Island appeared far out to the west. I decided not to go into Hamnavoe as there was nothing there for me and man-handling my kayak in a marina in a rising tide would be more trouble than the cake and coffee. So I decided to head on to invitingly named Sand Voe on the island of Oxna. It was only another half hour north from the fleshpots of Hamnavoe. My hunch paid off as it was a lovely sheltered sandy bay on the lee side of Oxna. I landed at the beach and coaxed my legs back into life so I could get out of the kayak and stand on them. My hamstrings and knee tendons sieze up and are sore after a long spell in the kayak. As I ate I looked at the frustrating weather forecast which was once full of promise and now is disappointing. I could see from the map there would be no rest now until Walls in about 20 km. Not wanting to give myself an injury I decided to just have a half a day and go to Walls tomorrow. 

05. My campsite in Sand Voe on the Island of Oxna on Day 2. Oxna lay just off the coast from the village of Hamnavoe on West Burra.

Once the decision was made it was easy to stay. A few common seal pups came into the bay to frolick and play and this vindicated my decision. After the tent was up I wandered around the island which had many sheep and lambs. There was a fank and a shepherds cottage also which was in good condition so the island is actively farmed. There were about 3-4 freshwater lochans on the island and I set off to collect water from one. The whole interior was grazing for sheep but there were also healthy gull populations with a few greater black back also. The hillsides were covered in a small star shaped mauve flower that looked like a miniature alpine gentian. Large bumble bee were busy foraging amongst them and I had seen a few flying over the water from the mainland. The island had a cnoc and lochan feel of the Leweisian gneiss areas of NW Scotland although the rock was more granitic. I had a relaxing evening and enjoyed the peace and kind weather. I did feel a bit guilty about wasting it by not paddling on but I would not have arrived until very late and would have risked injury and another chaotic camp.  

04. The delightful Island of Oxna was covered in the small purple Spring Squill flowers and bees were flying to the island to feed on their nectar.

Day 3. 7 June. Oxna to Burrastow. 21 km. 4.5 hours. It was an idyllic stay on the sunny pasture beside the old shepherds house on Oxna. Irises were starting to erupt out of a large patch and the lambs were leaping between them. I peered through the window of the shepherds house. It was tidy and well kept and looked from a bygone era inside;  but very cosy. It did not take so long to pack up camp but it was still a struggle to get everything into the kayak. I set off about 0900 in strong sun across the still waters of the tranquil bay. As I left the inlet I surprised a mother eider duck and 4 chicks who were still vulnerable to gulls. 

06. the Island of Oxna was a paradise in good weather with plently of wildlife and pasture. Here are 4 small Eider Ducklings in the shallows of the sheltered Sandvoe bay

I paddled up towards the neighbouring pastoral island of Hildasay and then veered west out of the serinity and into the Atlantic swell. It was a 5 km crossing over to the headland at Skelda Ness. As I crossed this sound called The Deeps I saw numerous parasitic Great Skuas plunder Gannets returning with gullets full of fish. The Skuas are thugs and would lie in wait for them and when they recognised a rewarding vulnerable gannet they would attack and latch onto the gannets wing or tail. The entangled pair would then plummet to the sea. The gannet knew if it did not disgorge it’s gullet of fish the two birds would end up in the sea where the skua would have the upper hand and would continue the attack. I saw 4 attacks one of which ended in the sea with the reluctant gannet eventually disgorging and flying off after being released. After the skua had fed and flown off fulmars descended on the spot to mop up the fragments of fish scattered in the area, while the gannet returned home empty. 

After crossing The Deeps I negotiated the rough headland where surf was exploding onto the base of the cliffs and then headed north into Silwick Bay where thigs started to calm down again.  I was very excited about the next stretch and hoped the sea would be calm here so I could explore a bit. I dont think it is a exaggeration to say the 2 km of coastline between Silwick and the Stack of Glitarump is the most spectacular 2 km of coastline anywhere in the British Isles. As I neared Silwick I passed a steep red stack, rising out of the ocean covered in shags drying their wings. It attracted the swell which spent its fury on the skerries around it and protected the inner sanctum of Silwick Bay beyond. 

07. The Stacks at Silwick are perhaps part of the most spectacular section of coastline in the British Isles and continued like this for 3-4 km

As I approached Silwick I was delighted to see that the sea was calm at at the base of the cluster of stacks and I would be able to explore between them. There are about 5-6 fins of red rock which soared out of the waters of the bay into giant stacks, each one looming over the shoulder of another peering in curiosity at the lone paddler below who had the temerity to explore them. I wove in and out of them enchanted, at their astounding architecture and grace. This was a really special cluster of rock stacks. The channels between them were narrow and deep and while the sea surged a bit there was no white water and it was easy to weave in and out of them. I could have landed on the beach just beyond them it was so calm. After good half hour exploring here I rounded the largest stack, Erne’s Stack, and headed west across the bay and round the headland where the crashing surf reappeared.

09. West of Silwick towers the swell penetrated through the defence of skerries, islets and stacks in places but it the inner coastline was partially protected from the full force of the Atlantic

After rounding the headland I thern went into the next bay, Wester Wick, which had a buttress of a stack, Grossa Stack,  in the middle of it and plently of smaller stacks around its wine-glassed shaped perimeter. Again I think it would have been possible to land at the small beach at the head of the bay. I was in awe again at the dramatic seascape of the red cliffs and the stacks. I knew there were some pull outs for seals on the calmer skerries protecting the beachbut I did not venture far enough in to see or disturb them. 

To the west of Westerwick the drama continued as I paddled down an avenue with huge cliffs, riddled with caves and geos on the right and a row of sea stacks on the left which rose vertically from the sea. Gulls perched on the grassy plateau of their inaccessible summits, which would have been a great place to nest. The stacks towards the sea took the brunt of the swell and so it was quite sheltered in the avenue but I still had to have my wits about me in case of unseen dormant skerries. at the end of this avenue was a deep inlet or geo of red rocky cliffs which cleved a gash into the pastoral turf above. I noticed a green ring on the hillside about 10 meters in diameter where I had seen a ring of field mushrooms in the previous autumn. 

10. Continueing west from Silwick and past Westerwick the protective outer stacks appeared again making a spectacular channel to paddle up towards the massive stack of Giltaramp ahead.

At the end of the avenue was the citadel of Giltarump standing defiant against the Atlantic. I had hoped there was a navigable passage between this monsterous fortress and The Nev which is what the headland was called. And indeed there was. It was about 30 metres wide and quite confused but navigable as the surf was spent on two other gaps further out towards the base of Giltrump which exhausted its fury. I snuck through and noticed even more caves to my right under The Nev.  There was still one more stack, Groni Stack, to negotiate before I was out into the open ocean again. The stack was covered in fulmar ledges and topped with sea pinks. I soon burst through the gap, surging on a swell and entered the wide Culswick Bay. 

I cut straight over the bay towards the next headland, also called The Nev, and the Burga Stacks at it’s foot. As I left the cliffs behind the sea became calmer until it was just the rolling swell again with 10 seconds between the gentle rounded crests. Burga Stacks were also magnificent but after Silwick and Westerwick i was spoilt. However thay were spectacular and aweinspiting enough that I forgot to look out for the 3000 year old Broch of Culswick, which is supposed to be one of the best. I paddled now for another 2 km with the sea becoming calmer and calmer as I headed into Easter Sound between the mainland and Viala Island. 

I had been going for 4 hours now and needed to stop and stretch. Soon a calm bay with a gentle gravel beach appeared and I could easily run my kayak aground and step out. I found a natural bench in the sun beside a tiny waterfall and spent a good hour and a half here in the tranquil warm sheltered cove. I decided I would continue the 3 km to Burrastow where I knew there was accommodation for me and power for the gadgets. I was a very pleasant run down the Viala Sound to the west end where the Burrastow Hotel stood on a promnontory on the shore. I pulled up on a small beach by a fish farm office and was warmly greeted and directed up to Bo’s Bed and Breakfast just above the beach. He was full which was a shame as it looked very inspiring and erudite within. So I tried the Hotel. Pierre greeted me warmly and gave me a reasonable price for a room which I took in the imposing building. I brough my kayak round to the hotels pier and Pierre helped me pull it up. I only took what I needed and went up to my room. 

I was bowled over by the room, It was the family suite and it was dominated by a huge 4 poster bed and the largest grandest Victorian wardrobe I have ever seen. The “childrens” room was also very grand and the en suite bathroom was more than I hoped for. I was soon washing my clothes in the bath with all my gadjets charging. It was a perfect end to a special day. 

Day 4. 8 June. 35 km. 7 hours. I agonised for a couple of hours about whether to go to Foula or not. It was to be the last good day and then the winds would return and I would be stuck on Foula. Also forecast was fir it to be foggy for most of the day so I would be paddling blind and just relying on 2 GPS devices. If they packed in I would be lost as navigating the old fashioned way and factoring vectors in for wind and tide would be hopeless. I mulled it over during an excellent breakfast considering the options, as it seemed likely I would get weather bound in a couple of days whatever happenedd. In the end I reluctantly decided to skip Foula and perhaps come back to it at the end of the trip if the weather was kind. 

With all the deliberating I did not set off until 1100. I said goodbye to the great hosts, Pierre and Han, who owned the old hotel and paddled off into the mist. I could only see 2-300 hundred metres but as I approached the end of the Wester Sound and entered the ocean the roar of the hidden surf resonated and the waters got choppier. I paddled past the Rusna Stacks and entered another world. This world only existed 2-300 metres in each direction and there was just me, the kayak, the roar of the surf and the looming headlands and stacks I paddled past, giving them all a wide berth. It was lonely, eerie world of primeval danger and I felt very much alone. 

Occasionally the mist would start to lift and the sea birds would fly past to inspect me and then the world would close in and become grey and opaque once more. It was a shame as I am sure this was a magnificent bit of coastline. On and on I paddled for a couple of hours past a few turbulent headlands until at last the fog thinned and some ghoulish giants appeared in the sea ahead. They were a magnificent collection of stacks at Weinnia Ness. The surf churned between them and there was no way I could get close so I admired them from a distance. Soon the mist returned and it stayed with me all the way to the headland and the start of the Sound of Papa. 

11. North of Burrastow the coast line all the way to Papa Stour was wild and rugged. These are the stacks at Wienna Ness just north of the relativerly sheltered Voe of Dale bay.

The sun broke through more and more,  and suddenly there was blue sky ahead. It seemed the whole world had been in sun while I slogged alone up the eerie coast. Sea birds came to investigate with the fulmars making their effortless, graceful glides across the tops of the swell and skuas circled to see if I was edible. Across the sound Papa Stour was still covered in mist. I paddled up the sound where the swell was huge and had to make a long detour to avoid dangerous skerries which would only erupt in great pyramid turbulent waves every 20th wave or so. 

I pulled in on the delightful beach at Melby and had lunch sitting in the grass with the sun warming me. Ringed plovers chased insects in the piles of washed up kelp while some large blackback gulls just sat on the still waters without a care in the world. It was an idyllic scene and far removed to the one I was in just an hour ago. 2 solid three story stone houses, almost Lairds Houses, overlooked the small stone pier. I lingered over lunch hoping for the mist to clear on Papa Stour before I paddled over. 

I set off about 1600. I was surprised how much tide was running in the Sound and it swept me to the east. I let it and then made up the ground in the lee of a holm. As I paddled west into the waiting mist I saw another Great Northern Diver. it was unmistakably large. As I entered the mist at the southern point of Papa Stour I had to make another large detour out to sea to avoid a reef where huge waves occasionally formed and crashed down, their crests shedding plumes of spray. 

The whole west coast of Papa Stour had the biggest swell of the trip so far with some waves 5 meters high perhaps. They were gentle rollers from a distant gale. However as they approached land they reared up and crashed down on the skerries with extreme violence and then rebounded back making very choppy water. My kayak was being tossed about in this confused water so I paddled further out, perhaps 200 metres from the turbulent cliffs, to avoid it. I could have got into a lot of difficulty going inside Swarta Skerry as the swell refracted round each side and collided together in the strait. After that I became more wary and went outside everything. This was no place to throw caution to the wind. 

It was a great shame it was so rough and misty as this is a famously spectacular bit of coastline and I was missing it all. I could occasionally see into the deep clefts, called geos here and Orkney, and the odd arch or cave but most were wasted. However at the north end two very dramatic islands of square rock rose from the sea, each a few hundred metes in length and with vertical sides. Even in the mist these were impressive and certainly eerie. I went close to the inner one and could see it was riddled with caves. It had a pillar of rock at each side which rose some 40 meters straight out of the deep water. I think one is called Da Snolda. I was fortunate the sea was not too rough here so could admire them a take a photo.

12. The “Railroad Tunnel” cave on the block of a stack called Lyre Skerry off the west coast of Papa Stour. This solid stacks was in fact riddled with tunnels and the tide flows strongly through them.

From here it was a lumpy paddle for another good kilometre under red cliffs to the NW headland. Only when I rounded it and went into the bay on the east side was there some respite. The mist was absent from here also. The bay was a amphitheater of huge red cliffs. there were numerous sea caves here and one apparently goes all they way through to the other side where I had just been. It is about 350 meters long and reputedly the longest sea cave in Britain. It would be impossible to paddle it in these conditions. 

13. Just after the NW point of Papa Stour is a large bay ringed by red cliffs. The base of the cliffs is riddle with caves one of which goes right through the headland to the otherside and at nearly 350 metres isd the longest sea cave in the UK.

It was a relief to paddle the north coast of Papa Stour. The big violent swell had gone replaced by smaller waves which lapped the skerries and cliffs and the even sun was out. I cruised along in the calm evening enjoying the coast rather than being terrified of it. I explored a few stacks, covered in shag nests and even a gloup, or cave where the inside had collapsed leaving a hole with a beach at the bottom. After a leisurely hour I turned the corner and was coming into Papa Stour ferry pier.

15. On the NE corner of Papa Stour is gloup. A gloup is a sea cave where the inner roof has collapsed so one has to go under an arch to get to the inner portion open to the sky.

There was a ramp here so I assembled the trolley and heaved the full kayak up the ramp and 200 metres along the road to a small ferry terminal building which I knew was open. It was a delightful cabin with a toilet, heater, microwave, kettle and even some books and items for sale via an honesty box. As I unpacked two burly men came up from a yacht. They were from Lossiemouth and on a lads sailing tour. They had just come from Foula and said it was unfriendly. After they had gone I made myself at home in the cabin and settled in for the night sleeping on the floor. 

Day 5. 9 June. 0 km. 0 hrs. I was again in a quandary as to what I should do. I had perhaps 2 hard days paddling after the Eshaness Peninsula to get to the north end of the Mainland and that was still a day away. However there would be 2 days of a force 5 before a steady force 6 arrived and pinned me down. I did not want to be hunckered down for 3 days under the flapping ripstop of the tent on a remote exposed beach in the deserted NW mainland of Shetland, so it would be best to wait somewhere comfortable until this gale had passed, hopefully in 5 days time. 

It seemed my two choices where to stay here on Papa Stour. I had heard there was lodging across the bay in the Blue House or I could go on to Hillswick and hunker down there. I said goodbye to the 2 burly sailors from Lossiemouth who were heading north and then down the east side for shelter, and headed over to the Blue House via the hamlet of houses. Only 8 people lived on Papa Stour. At the Blue House the owners were away but Jane, an friend and confident of theirs invited me in and gave me a cuppa. Jane was a fascinating local who was a retired supply teacher in the Shetlands and had also crofted on Papa Stour until recently. She was a wealth of knowledge about the Shetland Islands. She suggested I stayed here for a day and then go to Brae to hunker down instead. I had not considered it as it was out of the way but it would take me along a gentle route which I could do tomorrow in the anticipated force 5. 

I could either spend another night in the cabin or speak to the owners, Andy and Sabina, when they returned on the ferry and see if I could stay at the Blue House. Reluctantly I left Jane as she had to get on with the day and returned to the cabin as the rain came on. On the way back I met a harbour employee who also confirmed Brae was a better place to hole up rather than at Hillswick. So When I returned to the cabin I booked a single room there for 3 nights starting tomorrow night. 

Jane reappeared to clean the cabin and then take the ferry back to the Mainland as Andy and Sabina arrived back. They said they could put me up so i walked over later. They were a couple of ex hippies who came here some 48 years ago to take over an abandoned croft. Slowly they built up the croft and became somewhat self sufficient and brought up a family here. When the family flew the nest they converted their accommodation to a rehabilitation centre for alcohol and drug users, mostly from Shetland, and this was very successful. They provided the crofting routing and hands on purposeful duties in a Christian community to the lost souls of Lerwick who lived a chaotic life, often generations deep. Andy and Sabina oozed warmth and compassion. They had another couple of guests, a young couple from Glasgow who were hoping to buy a croft somewhere. We all ate together before everyone scattered to various bits of the buildings complex and left me alone in an enormous room with television, hundreds of books, games tables and a drumkit. I can imagine it was a gathering hall for services and events. I wrote and planned my route tomorrow to explore the shehelterd coves of Vementary Island before heading north to Brae. 

Day 6. Papa Stour to Brae. 25 km. 5 hours. By the time I walked back from Andy and Sabina’s the wind had picked up from a force 3 to 5. I looked through my binoculars out to the Papa Sound where it looked mayhem, with wind and swell against the tide. There were large whitecaps everywhere. I was not going out into that especially as the forecast said the wind would drop back to a 3 and the tide would also ease mid afternoon. So I waited at the cabin for 3 hours before launching  at 1400.

It was choppy in the bay but calmed down when I got to the southern jaw of the inlet, where there were numerous stacs. It now became very calm. I found a cave with light at the far end of it,  so I paddled into its calm waters follow the sides as they bent to the left narrowed. After some 30 metres the sea passage emerged into the sun again were the roof of the cave had collapsed. Beyond this bright pool of light the cave returned briefly as it went under a broad arch, emerging on the edge of the papa Sound. It was an exhilarating passage. At the exit I looked round for the fingerlike Maiden Stack but could not see it amongst the stockier, massive stacks.

I now veerred SE and started to paddle across thhe Papa Sound towards the Brough Skerries on the Mainland. There was a good force 4 pushing on my starbord (right) side and the ebbing tidal stream on my port side. The two vectors just about balanced themselves out and the two land features I choose as transit markers on the south side stayed true for most of the crossing. I passed to the north of the near island of Snarra Ness and then paddled over the deep inlet of West Burra Firth where the Papa Stour ferry was based.

I could now turn NE and put the wind behind me. I immeadiately gained 2 km per hour, from 5 to 7 kmph. I went inside the very green islands of The Heag and West Burrafirth. The vibrant green of the islands was in stark contrast to the dull green just 100 meters across the channel. A few hundred Shags and Cormorants were gathered on a grassy slope on the islets. I was surprised to see them shunning the rocky cliff tops for the verdant slope of the island. I cruised up the coast passing through the jagged Tianga Skerries where the small swell just gently gurgled as it lapped their base. 

Just before I got to the steep lush headland I passed through the long skerries where common seals were high above the tide on rocks, a few crashed into the water as I surprised them but most just watched me pass on to the grassy cliffs ahead. These cliff were covered in nesting fulmars with nest stacked upon nest in a large colony. The Island of Vementry was now on my left and I wanted to explore the passage between it and the mainland which looked like a setting for Swallows and Amazons. The landscape here reminded me of the cnoc and lochan of NW Scotland. 

As I paddled into this sound I saw the unmistakable flash of a kayak paddle beside Linga Island in the middle of the sound. Soon afterwards I could make out about 8 kayaks. I paddled towards them like Crusoe towards Man Friday. They were a group of friends from Cumbria and Northumberland who were in Shetland for 2 weeks. As we chatted one of them, Simon Milligan, realized he had met me when I gave a talk to the Kendal Mountain Festival in 2010. He was on the door to the lecture hall. It was a small world. I left them after 10 minutes of enthusiastic chat and carried on down Linga Island. It was also very green and a farmer had put about 15 black Soay-type sheep on the island for the summer. 

What I hoped would be unblemished channels and coves filled with wildfowl and divers was scarred by an enormous mussel farm which had grids of long lines in every opening. Vementry was only just an island with a channel about 15 metres wide. It looked like livestock was taken across this strait as there was a sheep fank and shepherding huts on the Vementry side. After passing though the basin on the north side of the strait I rounded the corner and was just south of the red cliffs of Muckle Roe.  

I paddled straight over to Muckle Roe island intending to follow its gentle eastern shoreline up to Brae in about 7km. With the following breeze I sauntered up the small cliffs exploring the occasion small geo and stac, mostly at the headlands, while between them were boulder beaches. As I pased the bridge over to Muckle Roe island I entered a bay with the large village of Brae at te head. I passed another Great Northern Diver as I approached an old stone jetty. 

I ignored the advice to land at the marina and chose this jetty instead as it saved a good kilometre walk. It was below a large old house which was once a trading building which now looked liked it was in preserved but empty. I am sure the jetty was private but I pulled the kayak up so it was behind a wall and above the high tide mark. I then unpacked just what I needed and walked up to the Brae Hotel where I had booked in. There was just time for a shower before dinner. I had booked into the hotel as there were predicted force 6 winds for the next 3 days and I could not get round NW Shetland in those so would hunker down in comfort. 

Day 7. June 11. 0 Km. 0 Hours. I had a very sedentary day leaving the hotel just once to go to the Co-op to get lunch. I took the time to write and look at the maps and charts for later in the trip. The weather forecast was not good for ther next 5-6 days really but there was some light at the end of the tunnel as it seemed another high pressure would start to establish itself in a week or so and this should allow me enough time to get round the top and some way down the east side. But a weather forcast that far ahead can easily disappoint at the one a week ago has done.

Day 8. June 12. 27 Km. 7 hours. 1030m up. 1030m down. Looking out of the window I could see the bay was full of white caps as a force 5-6 swept across it. I had always wanted to walk round Muckle Roe and this was the perfect chance. Many Shetlanders say the walk from the road end to the Hams of Roe and is their favourite. The manager of the hotel kindly lent me a rucksack and I set off around 1030 stopping at the Co-op to get lunch. I walked the 4 km to the small bridge over the narrow strait to Muckle Roe and then walked for about 5 km down the road to the end. There was a modest house here which had a splendid garden and sold some plants via an honesty box. I went in to have a look and was soon joined by the delightful older lady whose garden it was.

I walked on down the path to a beach with small breaking surf on it but across the sound there was a large swell crashing on the rocky coast of Papa Little island. I followed a small path for a couple of kilometres to reach the automatic lighthouse which marked the start of the west coast of Muckle Roe. To the south across the sound, which was full of larger white caps, the NW coast of Vementry was fringed with surf. It was a far cry from the tranquility of the protected south and east shorelines which I paddled a couple of days ago. 

16. Murbie Stack on the west coast of Muckle Roe just north of tyhe light during a gale. This was a hiking day

From here Muckle Roe had the most magnificent coastline for the next 6-7 kilometres to its northernmost point at Lothan Ness. Huge red cliffs of ryolite rock rose from the churning sea to the grassy plateau some 50-100 meters above the sea. There were numerous stacs and geos between the headlands. Sheep grazed on the plateau oblivious to the drama below them and I followed the paths they had made over the centuries. About half way up the west coast I reached the Hams of Roe which consisted of South Ham and North Ham. They were two deep bays with a couple of beaches in each. There was very little swell which reached the beaches of South Ham and the surf was small and it would be easy to land a kayak here. Around the Hams were grassy pastures where sheep grazed and there were 4 or 5 ruined croft houses from a bygone era. I explored many of the fingers of land which extended defiantly into the Atlantic and saw many hidden beaches between them. As I sat and had lunch in the sun on the peninsula of Strom Ness I watched a pair of Great Northern Divers work the bay. The dived in tandem and seemed to be able to spend a minute under water. 

17 The Hams of Roe on the NW corner of Muckle Roe. The Hams are two bays with relatively sheltered beaches. Many Shetlanders consider the Hams of Roe their favourite place on Shetland. This was a hiking day.

The magic continued after the Hams of Roe with the coastal architecture getting ever more impressive with stacs, arches and caves separated by deep inlets where i could hear the sea churning in the clefts. Although it was still a force 6 the showers had passed and the sun was out which made the walk even better. There were no paths after the Hams but the hillside was easy to traverse. Just before the spectacular coast ended at Lothan Ness was the enormous Roda Geo which was surrounded by red cliffs, but had a beach at the head. Far to the NW I could see the Drongs of Hillswick where I would hopefully be in a couple of days. After Lothan Ness the sheep tracks appeared again and I followed them down to Otter Ayre beach where a rough track appeared again. 

18. Looking back down to the Hams of Roe from the hill to the east. The North Ham is visible but the South Ham is hidden in the background behind the prominent headland which is riddled with caves, arches and tunnels. This was a hiking day

I followed this track and it quickly became a narrow road which connected a string of crofts on the north shore of Muckle Roe overlooking the sheltered inlet which separated it from the mainland. The crofts were a mixed bag with some being very well kept, while others were a riot of abandoned machinery and scruffy buildings. After 2 km this lane reached the bridge where I had crossed some 5 hours previously. I headed back over to the mainland and then sauntered into Brae passing the marina and then the village centre. It had been a magnificent walk and looking at the sea from the top of the cliffs on the west side vindicated my decision not to paddle and wait it out in the hotel until this queue of low pressures has passed.

Day 9. June 13. Brae. 0km. 0 hours. When I looked out of the window in the morning the bay was full of whitecaps, whipped up for the force 6-7 wind, and the rain was battering against the window. It kept this up all day and I did not venture out. I had one of the laziest days I have had for years. I was grateful I had the foresight to hunker down in the friendly Brae Hotel rather than be lying in a sleeping bag in a flapping, claggy tent on a remote gravel beach.  

Day 10. June 14. Brae. 10km. 3 hours. The force 7 wind persisted through the night and continued all day today also. However it was dry and I resolved to go for a walk. There were some Neolithic chambered cairns in the vicinity of Mavis Grind, just 2 km up the road, and I set off to explore them. 

Mavis Grind is the text book isthmus and it connects the peninsula of North Mavine to the Mainland. On one side of the isthmus is the Atlantic and on the other the North Sea and they say you can throw a stone between the two. Certainly in the past fisherman and travellers used to drag their boats over the 60 meter neck. 

On the Atlantic side was a perfect bay with a narrow mouth. The large Atlantic swell spent itself on the jaws of the bay and inside the the bay it was quite sheltered, almost like an inland loch a km long. There was a small island in the middle of the bay fringed with seaweed. I could see this would have been a  good place for prehistoric hunter gatherers to establish themselves for a season. 

The chambered cairn was only recognisable as I knew it was there. To a casual passing eye it would have just been a rickle of stones. Nearby was the remains of a homestead but I am not sure what era it would have been from but guess it was continiously used for a couple of thousand years, albeit seasonally probably. It consisted of the remains of a square building and beyond it was a wall some 70 metres in diameter within which I guess the animals were kept overnight. As humans we lived in this type of settlement for 1000’s of generations before we abandoned it in favour of towns and cities just some 10 generations ago. Beneath the veneer of urban, chic, sophistication is our cultural DNA of a simple, egalitarian, existance in harmony with the seasons. We are now totally disenfranchised from these halcyon days,  but it lurks there under the Italian Suits. 

I admired the spot and then retraced my steps to the isthmus and now walked round the south side of the bay. Sheep and lambs grazed along the path and fled as I arrived. Outside the jaws of the bay the Atlantic surf pounded the coast. At the widest point of the bay I headed south across country on sheep tracks for half a km to a small loch called Bays Water. A Diver,which was resting on the shoreline, took off and flew across to the other side. I could not see what it was but I think it was a red throated. 

I sauntered up the loch looking for another chambered cairn but I could not discern which pile of stones it was, as there were some croft house ruins here too. At the end of the loch it was each to beat a path across the short windblown heather towards the Busta House Hotel where I picked up the minor road which connected Muckle Roe Island with the village of Brae. I followed the road north for 3 km to reach the sanctuary of the Brae hotel. At last the forecast was promising so I planned to leave early the next morning in the half day weather window and paddle to Hillswick where I would wait until the last low pressure had passed and the predicted settled weather arrives in 3 days time.

Day 11. June 15. Brae to Hillswick. 19 km. 4.5 hours. The alarm went off at 0430 as I needed to catch the calm forecast of the morning before the gale returned mid afternoon. It was low tide when I launched at 0700. The wind was just a force 4 but it had a bitter edge to it in the early morning. It was due to drop further later in the morning. I paddled across to the west side of the bay to get some shelter from the land and then paddled south towards Busta Hotel and the Muckle Roe bridge. I saw an otter here, I think it was the first I had seen this trip. I had to keep 100 metres from the shore as the long strands of the spaghetti seaweed was snaring my paddle like an aquatic triffid. 

There was a stronger breeze coming down the channel between Muckle Roe and the Mainland, especially under the bridge so I kept to the north side. It seemed much shorter to paddle than walk as I did a few days ago, and before I knew it I was paddling out in St Magnus Bay. The swell built quickly and it was soon 3 metres but there were no white caps. I had a camera malfunction so veered inside a cluster of islands where I discovered a beach on Egilsay. It was a beautiful bay. As I approached I could see geese on the grassy hillside muster their goslings and march them over the crest to the otherside. Geese are very cautious birds and often take to the air even when I approach an island. The beach I was heading for was full of both common and grey seals and they slid into the water as I neared the beach and then swam towards me to investigate. Seals are much more confident in the water than on land. I also noticed many eider ducks gathered on the grassy fringe above the beach and they slowly waddled to the water and swam off. Many ducks had young. It was an idyllic seascape, Egilsay was split from its neighbour by a deep craggy slot but the cobble beach linked the two islands. 

I then went round the north of Egilsay and headed over to Lang Head which I could see was anything but tranquil. The swell grew rapidly and some of the larger sets were perhaps 5 metres from trough to crest with the crests some 10-12  seconds apart. It was a gigantic sea. The swell in itself did not matter so much but when it hit land or a skerry it erupted into a fury and pounded the rock sending plumes skyward. This swell would then rebound and head back out with its power only halved. The rebounding wave crashed into the raw incoming swell to create a sea full of holes and spikes. One minute I was on a pinnacle of water with my paddle swiping through thin air and the next I was in a deep hole. It was textbook clapotis. To avoid the worst of it I veered out and went up the coast 3-400 metres from the violent surf at the foot of the cliffs. But even out here it was mayhem. 

I slowly bounced my way up the coast making poor time as paddling in large confused seas is always slow until I approached the Isle of Nibon. There was a channel here which I hoped would lead me to quieter waters. However this channel must have been deep as the swell seemed to magnify as it rushed into it. In addition it was full of the rebounding swell from each side of the channel opening. I had a manic 500 metre paddle into the sound hoping a large set would not come in and overwhelm me. It was definitely the most exciting paddle of the trip so far. I surfed a couple of swells which broke on the skerries each side of the channel and was disgorged into calm waters. 

There were a few houses in this sheltered inlet protected from the violence of the Atlantic by the islands. As I approached the northern end of the channel I could see the surf building again. The North Channel was not as bad as the South Channel but on each side of the opening were skerries where the huge swell reared up and crashed down  The one on the north side was especially spectacular with the water drawing back off the skerry in the trough before the steppening crest approached until it rose into a 4 metre wall of water which shot forwards creating a tube. I gave them both a wide berth as I entered Ura Firth in the middle of the channel. 

I set a course for the west side of this firth hoping the headland opposite would act as a breakwater. As I left the channel and shoreline behind the clapotis slowly diminished and by the time I was halfway over it there was just a large gentle rolling swell. By the time I got into the lee of the headland the swell was just a metre high and the sun was out. I could relax and just cruise up the coast towards Hillswick. It was an interesting shoreline with plenty of caves, arches, and gloups but not on the grand scale of Silwick or Papa Stour. 

As I turned west into Hillswick bay the swell vanished entirely and the still waters of the bay were almost a luminous racing green. I counted 5 red throated divers in the bay but they kept their distance from me. I landed on the pebble beach and extricated my stiff legs from the cockpit. I made the trolley, put the kayak on and hauled it up the beach and into a parking place beside a camper van with a couple of grown up NDK kayaks on the roof. 

It took a while to sort everything out in the sun and then once it was secure in the kayak I took what I needed up to the hotel some 200 metres away. It was a bit more expensive than the friendly Brae Hotel but was no better. In fact the wifi and TV were worse. After a shower I went to the shop where I met the owner of the campervan with the kayaks. Barry recognized me from a talk I did at Boat of Garten 18 months ago. I went back to the camper with him and met his wife Wendy. I had a few cuppas with them and chatted for a couple of hours and we could have chatted longer, They were a great couple and we had a few friends in common.  By the time I got back to the hotel the television had been fixed. I had a good supper, wrote the blog and then an early night. The weather tomorrow was to be a good force 4 and this swell is likely to be big as the predicted gale and rain arrived in the late afternoon to whip the seas up again.

Day 12. June 16. Hillwick. 8km. 3 hours. The forecast today was for a steady force 5 all day and the swell was to decrease from yesterday’s 3 metres to 2 metres.  However when I cast my gaze over the bay it looked benign and there were patches of sun. I was in a quandary as to whether I should make a dash for it. I went down to the kayak where Barry and Wendy were parked and chatted with them. He had a look at his forecasts and they concurred it would be a force 5. They were going to drive over to Ronas Voe later to paddle there tomorrow.  They pointed out the obvious that we were in the shelter of the bay and it would be more exposed on the south side. It was enough to convince me to stay. I did not want to go round Eshaness in a sea state a step up from yesterday, which was already beyond my comfort zone. 

We stood outside chatting for ages and discovered more mutual friends. I could have chatted for ages. They are in Shetland for another 6 weeks and hopefully we will meet up later for a paddle, either as part of my circumnavigation or a seperate day trip. It seemed the most obvious thing to do was a walk round the Hillswick Peninsula. I set off at 1100 loaded with cameras and binoculars. My first mission was to try and spot the numerous Red Throated Divers which were in the bay yesterday, but I saw none. 

The walk down the east side of the peninsula was warm, gentle and verdant.  En route I could see the gloups, arches and small sea stacks which I paddled amongst yesterday. I noticed the swell was a lot less than I remembered from yesterday at these coastal features. It took an hour to saunter out to the automatic light beacon with the cliffs getting steadily bigger. On many of the north-facing slopes fulmars nested on grassy ledges. I don’t know if they chose the shaded side to avoid the driving weather in gales or to avoid the sun, as they were nearly always in the shade. 

19. The Drongs of Hillswick from the Ness of Hillswick. The Drongs are pillars of rock which have withstood the fury of thre Atlantic. This was a hiking day.

After the light beacon I started to walk back up the west coast. The character of the sea scape changed as soon as I started. The coast twas full of stacks and skerries at the bottom of steep cliffs. The swell was crashing in down below fringing the coastline in surf. I was pleased to see there were some white caps in the sea which vindicated my decision to stay,  but in reality it was no worse than yesterday and by now the sky was blue and the sun warming. It was a fantastic coastline with a couple of spectacular stacks, not least the 50m high, narrow fin of Geordi Stack. However the seascape was dominated by the Drongs. a collection of 3-4 pillars rising vertically from the sea to a height of perhaps 40 metres. Although they were a kilometre offshore they were the star of the show. Hopefully tomorrow I would be able to paddle beneath them. Sheep and their plump lambs grazed on the lush grass on the plateau at the top of the cliffs. Many had not been sheared and were shedding their fleece. I wandered along the sheep paths weaving in and out of the geos and peninsulas until I got to the isthmus at Hillswick again. There was a beach on the west side also but it had a small surf on it. 

20. A close up of the Drongs of Hillswick from the Ness of Hillswick. This was a hiking day

By the time I crossed this isthmus got back to Hillswick Barry and Wendy had gone. I sat on a picnic bench by the beach and searched again for divers,  but saw none. It was mid afternoon before I returned to the hotel. I spent the afternoon chatting with the owner, Paul. He was an extraordinarily bright eccentric. After spending his youth on trawlers he became a naval architect and then eventually had his own business designing modifications and repairs to small ships and boats. His forte was fire-proofing. He had carried this passion up to Shetland and the hotel had the most sophisticated fireproofing and sprinkler system of perhaps any hotel in Scotland. It was a exemplary example and way beyond current regulations. Paul was very versed in most topics and held a wise opinion on everything we touched on. It was a joy to converse with him. After supper I had the usual routine of going through all the weather forecasts to try and decipher what might happen. It looks like it could be OK tomorrow in a force 4 and definately for the two days after that, which should see me rund Muckle Fluggga before the next gale arrives in 4 days time.  

Day 13. June 17. Hillwick. 26 km. 9 hours. The best laid plans were dashed by the morning’s weather forecast. While the wind was to remain at a steady 5 all day now the swell from a distant gale in the Atlantic had arrived and it was huge. I looked back to the coastline I had paddled up 2 days ago and it was frightening. The coast was white with crashing surf erupting 20 metres up the rocks and the sea in the Urafirth was white with foam heaving in the swell. I dreaded to think what it would be like as Eshaness. The swell was forecast to only diminish slightly through the day combined with the force 5 wind was prohibitive for paddling so I checked into the hotel for another night. As I had all day I decided I would walk to Eshaness, go round the peninsula,  and walk back. 

I borrowed a rucksack from helpful Paul and set off north through fields and down to the northern beach of Sandwick Bay. I met a local retired fisherman en route and he gave me some insight into the coast here, reiterating it was tricky around the Isle of Stenness. I crossed the beach, passing the skeleton of a small whale, and weaving through terns who objected to being disturbed even though it was not a nesting colony and climbed up to the road.  I then had the humiliation of walking along the road for 3 km however the views seaward were spectacular on this bright sunny day. The sea around The Drongs was heaving and even far out to sea I could spot numerous flashes of white caps. I was glad I had postponed my paddle for the day. 

I left the road and crossed a few fields down to the gravel bar on Braewick Beach. There was a heavy dumping surf here and it was no place to land a kayak. More terns were resting in the stones of the bar up by the freshwater loch which the dam of the bar created. At the far end of the beach I went cross country across moorland covered in prostrate heather and where crofters have been collecting peat. There were a lot of ground nesting birds here; Curlew, the excitable Oyster catcher, Golden and ringed plover. I knew there were chicks nearby as a few of the birds tried to lure me away by feigning a broken wing so I would pursue them. 

21. A small raft of Eider Duck and young in the sheltered Tangwick Bay on the Eshaness peninsula. This was a hiking day

The walk from Tangwick to Stenness was a delight. It was warm in the sun and the wind was deceptively quiet. I could have easily landed a kayak in any of the bays, which were full of seals and eider duck, with rafts of 10 ducklings. The delicate Shetland sheep and their lambs watched me pass. Out to sea was the spectacular Dora Holm with its huge arch through which one could take a fishing boat. This island is also called horse or elephant island on account of the silhouette of the arch. However I could see there was no way any boat would go through the arch today on account of the foaming swell. After another bay with some small stacks I crossed a pastoral headland and entered Stenness Wick, the bay inside the Stenness islands. 

22. The massive stack of Dora Holm, is said to resemble a horse. It has a huge arch and is riddled with caves. This was a hiking day.

Here the sea ramped up a notch. The skerries on the south end of the two islands attracted the swell which spent itself on them so the south entrance was reasonably straight forward but the north entrance was violent. Huge waves smashed into the northern tip of the island rebounding into the channel, while on the north side the Bruddans Skerries were taking a pounding. There was a way through and hopefully the sea will be smaller when I come to paddle this section. From here the route climbed up to the lighthouse where the full glory of the Eshaness coastline burst upon me. I admired it for a few minutes and turned to go just as Barry and Wendy arrived in their camper. 

23. The west side of the Eshaness peninsula is exposed to the full force of the Atlantic swell. On this day it was 5 metres with a force 5 wind also so it was a hiking day.

It was good to see them again and we decided we would join each other for a walk north along the clifftop. These two kilometres must be a strong contender for the UK’s best bit of coastline, which has some extraordinary features all on a huge scale. First up was Calders Geo, a deep narrow slot almost half a km, slicing deep into the volcanic rock. The sea churned and frothed in the depths below which could only been seen by leaning over the edge and again at the end. Next there was a huge cave, Britian’s biggest apparently. Wendy and Barry had been in it and had paddled all this coast in exceptional benign conditions. Today there was no chance of coming within 300 metres of the coast due to the surf and clapotis. Next was the solid Moo Stack, the most prominent of all Eshaness stacks. After this was the most remarkable feature of all, The Hole of Scraada. It was a large hole in the ground some 200 metres inland from the cliffs. Yet in the bottom of it was a beach onto which frothy white wave were surging. There was a subterranean passage connecting the hole with the sea. Wendy said she had padded through it and they had lunch on the beach !. We admired this mesmerizing feature and watching the surf surge through the cave and onto the beach before moving on north. Here the headland slanted down to sea level with plenty of steep promononteries, often with an arch between each one, until we got to the Head of Stanshi which was besieged with offshore skerries which the swell was battering furiously. We saw a pair of Arctic Skuas here, a sleeker more acrobatic version of their thuggish cousin,  but no less vicious, especially for terns.

24. Another view of the west coast of Eshaness from near the lighthouse. This coast is riddled with caves, tunnels, stacks and arches and is immensely spectacular. This was a hiking day.

I said goodbye to my new best friends here as they headed back up the coastline to the lighthouse while I continued east round the headland. It was surprising how quickly it became placid again with small surf gently lapping in the bays. I headed up to the hamlet of Ure and picked up the road. Just before Braewick cafe I passed a small loch with a few islets covered on long grass. I tho6ugh this looks perfect for Red Throated Divers and then I spotted one with its head sticking out of the grass and its partner nearby on the loch. I am sure the young would have hatched by now and the parents would be busy fishing in the nearby sea bays and bringing the sprats back for the young. At the  Braewick cafe I hoped I could get some lunch as I had eaten nothing since breakfast. However it was 1730 and it was closed.

I walked back along the road for an hour before cutting off down across the beach with the whale carcass and then returning to Hillwick across the fields. That evening the weather forcast changed again but it seemed that by midday tomorrow I would have a weather window of 48-60 hours which I would endeavour to get round the top. But on past performance this might not be set in tablets of stone as the small low pressures and minor high pressures of the NE Atlantic jostled for position and depending where they brushed against each other, the local weather was determined. There were no significant low or high pressure systems which would dominate the weather. 

Day 14. June 18. Hillwick to Hamnavoe. 20 km. 4 hours.  Paul and Andrea of the St Magnus Bay Hotel looked after me very well and capped it all by allowing me to stay in my room until late afternoon as it was blowing a force 5 all morning, however the swell was going down. Barry and Wendy arrived at the hotel as Paul was responsible for dispensing Shetland’s LPG fuel which they needed for their campervan. However there was a problem with the calibration of the machine so none was available but the ever knowledgeable Paul suggested a work around. I eventually launched at 1700 hrs just as the predicted calm weather arrived.

It was a perfect late afternoon as I paddled out of the sunny bay and along the east side of Hillswick peninsular. The swell was negiable here, but I could see it was perhaps 2 metres on the other side by Nibon Island and this it what I could expect as the minimum later. I could have gone into every cave and between stacks here, but wanted to push on. As I rounded the southern tip, beneath the huge grey cliffs with the light perched on top, The Drongs came into view a couple of km to the NW. 

I paddled past the incredible spire of Gordi Stack and was spoilt for choice as to which route to paddle, given the number of interesting islets and stacks I could have weaved my way through. This was an incredibly rich coastline with The Drongs the jewel in the crown. In the end I veered straight for The Drongs some 20 minutes away. There were skerries around them but the swell was now not so terrifying and I could paddle up to their feet, where there was sheltered water.  The Drongs were pillars of rock, probably volcanic and I guess a magma vent of hard rock. Incrediblably everything else around them had been eroded away leaving this collection of 4-5 pillars rising some 30-40 metres straight out of the sea. They must show incredible defiance against storms which must pulverize them without mercy. I circled round them for a good 20 minutes before setting course for Tangwick. 

25. The Drongs of Hillswick on a relatively calm day. These pillars of very hard rock are perhaps 30 metres high.

As I paddled west there were incredible colours on the red cliffs and red stacks along the Heads of Grocken coastline. They almost glowed iridescent red in the evening sun. As I neared Tangwick I decided to skip it and head on to the infamous Dora Holm instead just some 20 minutes away. It was a squat block of an island with no vegetation as I am sure winter storms would wash over it 36 meter summit. As I approached the swell increased to 2.5 metres, exponentially more powerful than 2 metres, and it crashed against the base. I could see it was riddled with caves and on a calm day it would be possible to paddle under the main block. However, the star of the show was a enormous arch on the SW side, which was almost the full height of the island with just a narrow roof. It was shaped like an elephant or horse silhouette with the roof being the neck and the pillar the head. I looked at the swell surging under the arch and contemplated going under it but every so often a big set would go through and my caution prevailed. 

26. Dora Holm from the south side . The arch is nearly 30 metres high and was just a bit too lively to paddle under today. The stack is riddled with caves and tunnels

I now paddled NW for a km to the Isle of Stenness for a moment of calm, steeling myself for the commiting 4 km paddle up the exposed west side of Eshaness. I landed on a tranquil beach on the east of the island which was full of a mix of Grey and Common seals. about 40 of them avalanched into the sea, a mass of heaving blubber. Once I was on the beach the seals surrounded me in the water, curious as to who disturbed them. I noticed some of the pups of the common seal were riding piggy back on their mothers back clinging on with their flippers in a tenious grasp. Eider ducks with rafts of ducklings cruised in among the rocks and along the shoreline. There was gathering of terns here but I don’t think it was a nesting colony as when I approached their arial attacks were very half-hearted. 

It was approaching 2100 when I left the sanctuary of the bay and set off into the Atlantic. By now the wind had dropped completely. I noticed it was now possible to paddle in the channel between Stenness Island and Stenness Skerry. It was certainly not possible yesterday and this was a good omen. However the crashing surf on the outlying Bruddans skerries heralding the start of the Eshaness west coast was still violent and I gave it a big detour going out into the Atlantic for perhaps half a kilometre. The swell ramped up another notch and was now perhaps 3 metres but there seemed to be the SW swell and also a NW swell, remnants from 2 far flung distance gales. and this confused the sea and I was heaving. In addition there was a tremendous clapotis from the rebounding swell off the cliffs, which really added to the liveliness of the sea. I was bouncing about all over the place and my progress was very slow at 3-4 km p h as I was tossed from peak to trough. The cliffs were sheer with very few skerries as the bottom to absorb the swell so the rebound was almost as big as the original wave. I had to keep at least half a kilometre out to avoid the worst of it. I passed the lighthouse perched on a prow on top of the black cliffs and then could see into the gigantic cleft of Calders Geo. Just to the north of it was the entrance to the huge cave which is reputed to be the biggest in Britian, but I could do no more than gaze in awe from a distance.  All the other features of the Eshaness coast passed slowly by, Moo Stack, the cave entrance to the Hole of Scraada and numerous arches to the north but I could not go anywhere near any of them which was a great sham as this is one of the top paddles in the UK on a clement day. At the north west tip of the peninsula it had to make a big detour out to sea to give the skerries and shelves here a wide berth, They were a potential banana skin if there ever was one, as suddenly the sea would erupt out of nowwhere as an once in a 100 swell of 4 meters surged over them.

27. the west side of Eshaness peninsula with the lighthouse on top of the cliffs. The swell here was now about 3 metres with lots of clapotis. The photo was taken about 2200 in the long June evening

As I paddled along the north coast towards the safe refuge of Hamnavoe I had to detour out for another cluster of skerries called the Targies. The surf was crashing on them but with every minute I paddled east the swell started to deminish until I could relax my grip on the paddle and lean back in the seat. To my left I could see the cliffs to the north where the surf was 1aincreasing again but it was tomorrow’s problem. Soon I was cruising between the welcoming, benevolent arms of Hamnavoe into a mirror calm sanctuary of peace. I paddled to the far end where there was a jetty and boat moored. I put the trolley together and heaved the kayak up and found a place to sleep. I just had to find water now. There were a few houses but none had lights and looked abandoned. The jetty was a mess of fishing paraphenlia but the hoped for water hose was not there. All the rivulets were dry. In the end I had to take water from a bucket someone had put out for the ponies trusting my constitution for that part of it I drunk without boiling.  I just slept al fresco, cowboy style, on my sleeping mat. as I did not want to go through the palaver of taking the tent up and down as I needed a quick get away in some 4 hours. I fell asleep near midnight with a magnificent fed glow in the sky just west of north with just a smattering of midges to bother me.

Day 15. June 19. Hamnavoe to Cultivoe. 50 km.12.5 hours. I woke at 0400 and noticed the midges now. They had homed on on the CO2 I was emitting and gathered outside the sleeping bag for a dawn raid. The sun was already up and not that far from where t had gone down a few hours previously. With the midges pestering me I quickly packed and was on the water for 0500 paddling away from the shore to put my spraydeck on I paddled out of the bay and was immeadiately onto the impressive coastline. The sea swell had diminished in the night but there was still enough there to surge onto the skerries at the bottom of the 50 metre high cliffs which grew and grew until I got to the impressive Ockran head and then the majestic prow of Clew head which rose 100 metres straight out of the sea. There were not many features to this line of cliffs composed of hard black rock with few weaknesses the sea could exploit and shape into stacks and caves. The most notable feature was the uniformness of the vertical cliffs rising from the sea. A few km to the west were the Ossa stacks which stood resolute in the Atlantic despite the sea’s unremitting onslaught. I still had to keep offshore as the rebounding swell created a lot of clapotis which slowed me down. This section of the coast came to a head with The Faither, a sharp sloping fin of black rock just after Clew Head. The Faither had an high arch through the middle of it and I sat watching the sea in it. I contemplated going through it’s usually benign waters, but occasionally a pourover would spill from a side entrance and it would erupt into a white chaos, so went outside. Just after The Faither was a stack and it seemed possible to go round it. I was just setting off when a huge swell reared up in front on me and surged forwards. I paddled like fury to the side as I knew there would be another coming in 8-9 seconds and just got out of the way in time before it exploded where I had been sitting. It frightened me and I headed out into deeper water to start the crossing to the red landscape across the bay.

This red landscape was determined by the red rock which dominated everything in front and down to my right, where the fjord-like Ronas Voe, where the Atlantic stretched an finger of ocean deep inland, filling a slot that a glacier had carved out in a series of ice ages. I dont think the rock was the red granite of Muckle Roe as it was too soft and fragmentable. Indeed the whole bare hillside seemed to be crumbling with the 250 meter high face covered in loose rock and debris. At the bottom was the 2 km long beach of Lang Ayre, which was composed of red sand. I could see through the binoculars that it was no place to land, as the swell was dumping heavily on the beach, which must have been quite steep. So instead I paddled past Turls head and onto a collection of red stacks dominated by Gruna Stack. 

Gruna stack was fantastic. Perhaps the best of the trip so far. Above its vertical ramparts were lush  green slopes that lead up to its castellated crest. The green slopes were full of puffin burrows and through the binoculars I could see their while chests standing beside their entrances. Fulmars nested on the steeper slopes and cliffs. The red ramparts at the base of the island had vertical striations of rock layers and the sea had worked at these and had managed to punch a hole right though the stack from one side to another no less that 4 times so there were 4 tunnels under the stack. On the north east side, in the lee of the swell and basking in the sun was a large raft of puffins bobbing about in the ripples,  jostling into each other like Brownian Motion. I paddle towards them and then took my paddle in and drifted into the middle of the raft. They slowly swan out of the way as I passed through. The more nervous ones would bob their heads repeatedly as I approached and then dive, while the more relaxed one watch me glide through. At the end of the raft was a gullimot with a fish in its beak the size of a small mackrell. I was astounded it had caught the fish and it was now trying to position it head first so it could swallow it. It eventually succeeded and I was surprised it managed to get it into its gullet.

Heading north,  Turls head and Grunna stack, split the coastline into two. One the south side was the red Lang Ayre and on the north side was the ochre Valla Kaimes beach and above it ochre cliffs which were even more loose and crumbling than the red ones.  It looked like there could be rockfall at any time and in one area a huge block had fallen off the mountain and into the sea, no doubt creating a tsunami. This continued all the way to Hevadale head when the harder grey rock returned. I paddled past a low headland called Fugla Ness which I expected to be covered in birds, as the name suggests, but there were none, They have obviously abondoned the colony since the Norse named it 1000 years ago, Just beyond Fugla Ness was Burrier Wick, a deep bay between Fugla ness and the island of Uyea.

At the head of the bay I had read there was a short portage between 2 sandy beaches across a narrow isthmus or tombola. However as I paddled towards it I could see nothing other than a beach surround by cliffs to the north of the supposed isthmus,  and ranks of stacks, many with flashes of white surf at their bases where the isthmus was supposedtobe. I was preparing myself for the dissapointment of having to paddle round the outside. Even when I got to within a few hundred metres I could see nothing which would indicate a way through. Then the colour of the sea changed from a grey blue to a dull green and I knew I must be over sand. As I paddled further I could see there was a route weaving between the pyramidal stacks. I entered the narrows between the first two stacks just as a tricky wave broke with me and surged me forwards into clearer water with a green hue and more stacks. I had just paddled into a utopia. All around were small stacks rising out of beaches and crystal clear sandy channels. It was completely wind still in here and the sun beat down. I saw a family of eiders guiding their ducklings away from the passage I was in towards another behind the adjacent stack. I paddled up the channel in the stunning coastscape with the water progressively shallower as it twisted and turned between beach and stack. Suddenly I saw two people who came to take a photo of me. I pulled up on the beach at the side of the channel beside them to stretch my legs and have lunch. As coincidence would have it I had met them previously on Papa Stour while I sheltered at the ferry terminal. We chatted a bit before they left. I needed to get some blood into my legs so followed them up a steep path with a loose rope to haul yourself up as a safety measure, to gain the plateau of North Roe some 40 metres above the isthmus. From here thare was a stunning view across the maze of stacks, beaches and channels to the small Island of Uyea on the other side. To the east I could look out to Fethaland, the northern tip of the mainland and off this peninsula the Ramna Stacks and the rocky island of Gruney. Far beyond them in the blueish haze was my next destintation today the island of Yell and beyond that, in the opaque haze, was the island of Unst. I returned down the rope to the nirvana where my kayak was, which was the most remarkable spot on the trip so far and pulled my kayak up the very shallow channel to the east side where I launched.

28. The enchanting sandy isthmus between the mainland and the island of Uyea on a calm day. It was possible to drag the kayak up the channel over the isthmus at this relatively low tide

Although Fethaland was a draw due to its “Haaf “fishing history where teams of 6 used to go off in small fishing boats for 30 miles or so into the ocean in the 1800’s it was in competition with Gruney Island a km to the north of it. I had heard it was home to a Leach’s Petrel colony and I had never seen these tiny sea birds. So I set a course for them and the Ramna stacks to rectify this. It was 9 km of open water to get there with a small tide against me towards the end so took nearly 2 hours. While the island and the neighbouring stacks were spectacular in themselves I was disappointed not to see one Petrel. I turned and headed ENE towards Yell. 

The crossing to Yell was hard work. it was about 12 km and it took 3 hours. There was nothing pleasant about it as I plodded into the force 3-4 headwind at 4 km p h. Much too slowly the land drew close but it was almost imperceptible from half hour to half hour. It was only when I could see the white flashes of surf at the base of the grey cliffs that I knew my eye level had overcome the curvature of the earth enough to manage it. As far a crossings go this was the dullest I can remember for a long time. My legs, and especially hamstings, were cramping up and were extremely uncomfortable. I headed for a barely discernable headland, which I eventually calculated was Head of Bratta,  as it seemed to be in the right direction. I knew there was a large inlet called Whale Firth roughly on the same latitude as me but I could not work out where it was in the line of uniform grey cliffs, with an undulating grey green plateau of moorland above it. It was a desolate coast which I pulled towards and was glad when I eventually arrived. The cliffs were much bigger than I anticipated and up to 100 metres high. There was a bit of a swell and some clapotis but nothing to make me uncomfortable. What I could really have done without was the headwind which to be fair was diminishing, but its had already cost me dear. As I expected there was absolutely nowhere to land on this bleak unforgiving coast and I still had to paddle for another 1.5 hours past headland after headland until at last I reached Begi Stack and the clifftop light beacon which marked the north end of the west coast of Yell. 

There were many stacks around Begi Stack and I am sure there would have been an inside passage in clement weather. However, I was now just wanting to land on a beach and stretch my legs. I went through the channel between the headland and the wonderful looking island of Gloup Holm. It was covered in pasture on the plateau supported by it’s grey ramparts and I am sure it must have been great for birds. Slowly I paddled east along the north coast hoping there would be no surf on the Wick of Whallens beach as the swell of a a metre was now coming from the north. Soon enough I could turn into Gloup Voe and see to my delight the beach I was heading for was calm and sandy. It was fringed by pasture, where a group of black shetland ponies were grazing. They watched me arrive and slowly approached as I struggled to get my dead legs out of the kayak after nearly 7 hours. It was a wonderful beach and I could easily have stayed here but wanted one last bite today. I lingered in the sun for a good hour stretching my legs and enjoying the stable grassy shelf I sat on.    

When I left the beach in the early evening I still did not have a destination. It was either Westing on Unst or Cultivoe on the NE corner of Yell. I figured it would sort itself out en route as I pondered safe landings and water sources. By now the wind had dropped entirely and it was a gentle paddle in the evening sun. I paddled past the headland of Gloup Ness and then past a big sandy beach to Ousta Ness. I could see Westing in the sun ahead of me in bay on Unst across the tidal Blue Mull sound. However I could not see any obvious water source so opted for the Bay of Brough on the Yell side of Blue Mull sound. There was a freshwater loch on the map and Cultivoe looked a better place to get stuck in if the weather changed. 

I entered the large sandy wine-glass shaped bay and a couple of red throated divers welcomed me. There were some house about but they were up on the hill away from the bay. Just above the sand and cobble beach I found a nice grassy spot to camp. I then went off in search of water but could find no piped supply and it was after 2200 so too late to bang on peoples door. I was resigned to go and get some from the stream which fed Papil Loch, which I would definately have to boil. Back in the tent I was still heaving from the clapotis and my legs were knackered. Even as I ate my meal I could see the grass in the porch moving in the same patterns of the the waves. When I tried to look at the map and tidal charts to plan tomorrow I had to put it to one side. I could not even be bothered to charge the batteries for the gadgets but lay down in the clothes I had on all day and pulled my sleeping bag over me.

Day 16. June 20. Cultivoe to Baltasound. 39 km. 7.5 hours.  I woke at 0400, still drained but with enough strength to look at the Admiralty Tidal Charts. It seemed the best time to go round Muckle Flugga was 5-4 hours before high water Dover (or Lerwick as it was nearly the same) and that would be at 1500-1600 this afternoon. Assuming it would take me 4 hours to get there I would not have to leave before 1100. Deep joy washed over me when I realized I did not have to get up until about 0800 and I rolled over and went back to sleep. 

In the morning I lazed around and wrote a bit when Helen arrived. She was a very friendly crofter who owned the adjacent field. She was also the local English teacher. She had a wealth of knowledge about Yell, and Unst having lived there previously. We chatted for half and hour and I then went up to the house to get some tap water and meet her husband where we chatted more, and she gave me a beautifully packaged bundle of date flapjacks. By ther time I got back to the tent it was nearing 1100 and a sense of urgency took hold. I packed up with determination but it was still 1230 before I pulled out of the delightful bay.  

There was a bit of a lift from the northgoing ebb tide exiting Blue Mull sound and that sped me up the coast as I paddled towards Unst reaching it at the South Holms. The mirror calm of the morning had gone and there was now a force 3 against me as I headed north. It was all I needed as the time was now nearly 1400 and I still had a long way to go. I was going to be cutting it fine. Luckily the wind diminished as I paddled between the South Holms which were riddled with caves and on to North Holm and then Brough Head where a north going tide gave me a slight lift, possibily from a back eddy in the bay as it soon dissapeared, and even hindered me, when I got round the corner and started heading towards the great headland of Tanga. More and more birds, especially gannets, started circling above me. By the time I passed the stack at the bottom of Tanga headland they was a vast throng of thosands of birds and they all seemed to be circling above my kayak. 

The sea was calm, the sun was out and it was just 1430 so I was more relaxed about the time especially as the jagged skerries of Muckle Flugga had just come into view some 4 km away and everything looked benign. As I approached Neap Head I saw thousands of gannets nesting on its steep rock faces and thousand of fulmars on the steep grassy slopes on the north facing side of the bay. The throng above me was now vast and looking up it felt like was looking up the eye of a tornado with debris swirling above me. The noise was intense with thousnds of birds honking randomly. Gannets are a very successful sea bird and one of the few where numbers in Scotland are actually increasing. This is probably due to the shifts in the warm and cold currents in the Atlantic meaning the herring and mackerel and other nomadic pelagic fish have changed their migrtion patterns accordingly, and are abandoning their traditional routes and are now coming closer to Scotland. The established colonies like here, Noup Head in Westray and even the Bass Rock in the Forth are flourishing.

The gannets can travel far to their fishing grounds, up to 200 km, and then return with a gullet full of fish to feed their young. One can often see them returning flying in lines with 5-20 in a group. However waiting for them to arrive are not only their hungry chicks but Great Skuas, the merciless, greedy, thugs that prey on the eggs and chicks of other birds, and by mugging gannets of their food. I first became aware of the battles around Tanga Head but as I approached Hermaness they became more and more frequent with hundreds of skuas joining the throng of thousands of gannets. I dont know why the gannets were circling above me but perhaps it was to confuse the skuas and provide some camoflage for the gannets which were returning with a heavy load. 

The skuas would sense a gannet with fish in its gullet and immeadiately attack. Once one had started the attack others quickly left the circling throng and joined in. The leading skua would try and latch on to the gannets wing, tail or even underbelly and the pair would spiral down with the gannet twisting to get away. Eventually the gannet would end up in the sea and try and take off, but it would being a big, heavy, cumbersome bird with a full gullet and would make heavy weather of it. By now the skua realized their target was laden with fish and would attack on mass pouncing on the gannet and forcing it into the sea again and even underwater if need be. There would be about 20 skuas in on attack. The gannet had to disgorge some of its gullet to escape and the skuas would fight over it. Fulmars would then arrive to mop up the remains while the gannet escaped with a light load. I must have seen over 100 muggings in the couse of an hour as I paddled round Hermaness and Muckle Flugga, some right in front of me. The skuas, with their panache for merciless violence, were extremely good at getting a free meal at the gannets expense. 

29. There are about 7 stacks on the west tip of Hermaness peninsula at the north of Unst. Most are covered in gannet nests and are stained whiye with guano.

Leaving Neap Head behind I paddled towards the stacks of Hermaness. They were jumbled at the foot of the very steep hill. many were covered in gannets and gleaming white with guano so they looked like giant teeth. One of these teeth, Flodda Stack had a cavity right through it, which it was almost possble to paddle through. After another 500 metres of fantastic stacks they came to an abrupt halt and there was just an 500 metre channel before the jagged stacks of Muckle Flugga, which looked even more like a set of gleaming white, giant teeth, due to the nesting gannets. 

30 Approaching Muckle Flugga with a flooding tide. It is a collection of 4-5 stacks covered in gannet nests and a Stevenson built lighthouse. It is the northernmost outpost of the British Isles

I knew the tide would rip me east so I ferry glided across the channel pointing west to go round the eastern end of the stacks. The tide was not as strong as I thought, perhaps 3-4 km per hour. Once I had passed the SW skerry I relaxed and drifted north along the west side of the line of skerries taking photos of the gannets and the lighthouse, built of course by the Stevensons. Ariel battles continued to be waged as I sped along at 6 km p hour towards the northern end where the light house was. Out Stack, the most northerly part of the British Isles, was just beyond and I wanted to go round it to.

In fact it looked like I did not have a choice. It was only 1530 and still 4.5 hours before High Water Dover and the charts said it sould be reasonably benign now, but that was not the case. I was speeding uncontrollably to the NE much faster than I could paddle. I saw some white flashes ahead and assumed they would be skerries around Out Stack but soon realized with a dread they were the crests of large waves. I was in a tide race would have to see it through. I pointed my kayak down stream, switched on the head mounted gopro and started the roller coaster of waves. At the top of each I cranned my neck to see if I was on a conveyor belt to disaster. The waves were perhaps 2.5 metres, some even 3 metres. After 5 minutes I realized very few were breaking. The odd flash of surf was enough to sow terror. I was carried a good kilometre in about 5 minutes with the GPS reading 10-12 km p before the waves eased a bit and I could veer to the south and find the southern boundary of the race in the lee of Out Stack. 

31. Looking bacl to Hermaness on the left, Muckle Flugga in the middle and Out Stack, the most northerly on the right where there was a strong and bumpy tiderace.

The water became remarkable calm here but then I had to go through it all again as I paddled across the other tiderace which came up the inside of Muckle Flugga and Out Stack. This one was only 2-300 metres wide and the waves were not as high with very few breaking. Suddenly I was out of it into calm waters again and heading towards the headland on the east side of Burra Firth called Noup Head which had the early warning defence system giant golf ball on it. I wondered if they were looking down on my plight.  There was very little tide of current here now. It was now just 1600 and still 4 hours before High Water Dover so I could not understand how the strong tide race appeared so early. As I learnt in Orkney ofter the Admiralty Charts state movements which are later than reality and it is best to be an hour early. I cannot imagine what this tiderace would be like in a full spring tide with a 10 metre NE swell smashing into it. Even the giant Shetland trawlers would avoid it I imagine. 

It was an easy paddle across the bays of the NE coast of Unst as I paddled towards the Holm of Skaw. I knew there was a route through the inside of the Holm, but as I approached it seemed blocked by a few rocks. I though I could either wait for the tide to rise 15-20 cm or portage but as I paddled a bit further a channel appeared on the left. It was more of a ravine 5 metres wide and quite deep and perhaps 100 metres long. The water was flowing down it like a river and I could see the drop was about a metre between me and Skew Wick beyond. I shot down it doing 15 km p h and was spilled into the calm bay beyond. There was a beach here and the waves were small so I went in. 

32. Safely round Muckle Flugga and celebrating in Skaw Wick bay with a piece of date flap jack the Yell school teacher had given me that morning. Now it is just the less exposed Eastern Seaboard of the North Sea.

After landing I met John from Fife. He was camped right at the end of the road with his bike. The end of the road here was also the very end of National Cycle Route 1. We chatted for a good hour until the rain came and he fled back into his tent. I set off again eager to get to Baltasound. I passed Lambs Ness where there can be a tremendous tiderace at pretty much slack water and then crossed Nor Wick bay heading for the next big headland with the Horns of Hegemark, two rock pillars, on top of the 160 metre cliffs. There was a gentle NE swell perhsps a metre high and it did not have the menace of the Atlantic swell which I have seen the last off now. This peninsula was much more rugged than I remembered when I walked it, and there were numerous stacks. The cliffs here looked like they were in occasinal rockfall or landslide and I wondered if some of the stcks were in fact giant boulders which had slid into the sea. 

At the southern tip of this rough headland I crossed Harolds Wick bay heading  towards the northern opening of Baltasound beyond which was a large well protected natural harbour. I was undecided what to do; either camp on the island by the entrance and push on to Fetlar tomorrow, or try and find some accomodation in Baltasound village. I passed through the jaws of the natural harbour to see there was a large fish farm in from of the beach I hoped to camp on. It was still possible but it was no longer an idylic spot. I took my phone out and looked at the weather forecast. It was not ideal to paddle round the east coast of Fetlar tomorrow so I phoned for accomodation. I had a bizzare conversation with the owner of the Baltasound Hotel who hung up on me after I was sarcastic with him. I then phoned Winwick B and B who had a room and was right at the end of the sound beside the shop and near a beach. It seemed ideal. And it was. within an hour I had the kayak stored, had unpacked what I needed and was in the shower with a comfortable bed awaiting. I was tired and sore. I had paddled nearly 120 km in the last 48 hours to get round the top of Shetland while the weather window permitted. At the very least I deserved a table to write at tomorrow.

To continue the Journey go to the next Section. Shetland Kayak Eastern Seaboard

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