This next trick has amphibious elements that, with the great precision of any military campaign and any luck at all, dovetail into the master movement of Escape Velocity all the way north to Hermaness. It all starts with a romp across Mainland Shetland to Toft and meeting a smallish ferry where, if our tipsters are correct, one can purchase a ticket to Yell and if you keep driving north on the road up to Gutcher you can hop the even smaller ferry to Belmont in Unst, continue the length of Unst to the northernmost settlement in UK, all for the low low price of one ferry ticket.
It’s very popular. Admittedly it’s better without rain but then again, it takes the better part of a day so you’re going to have to deal with rain at some point. Nobody comes to Shetland for a suntan.
At this point, dear Escapees, I imagine you’re wondering why we came all that way.
And that’s just the view from the parkup. Tomorrow we plan a four hour hike up into the clouds. Yours Truly takes no solace in that cloud business.
You can tell the serious nature of a hike when the poles come out of the garage. We also packed water, gingernuts, binoculars, the GPS tracker and rain jackets. We’re learning.
Much of the main trail was prepared with a boardwalk over the boggy bits but there were also steep hills and long flights of stairs. This hiker never enjoys giving altitude back after slogging up a long slope but whoever laid out this trail was from the Up and Down school.
It was a long tramp across the width of the peninsula and when we crested the hill to the cliffs there was the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before us. Next stop Greenland.
I love a hike with a good payoff and this had it in spades. We were chuffed. Birds, I’m guessing gannets because we heard there were a lot of them, were circulating back and forth on the updraft hardly needing to flap and we could even see the occasional puffin nesting in the ledges.
While we were oohing and aahing over this magnificent scene a German hiker turned to us and over her shoulder spat, “Forget the cute little puffins. This is nothing. Go south along the ridge.”
I hadn’t noticed that a preponderance of the hikers had turned to the south and were marching up the steep and lumpy, sheepdung-infested, ankle-twisting slope. We followed.
As we approached the top we smelled the gannet colony before we saw them, but nothing prepares you for the tens of thousands of gannets, squawking, flapping, soaring, circling, diving.
Then you notice tens of thousands of bright white dots covering the massive craggy cliffs, each dot a gannet nesting just out of pecking range of her cranky neighbor. We both gasped at the sight, the sound, and the smell.
All we wanted was to sit in comfy lawn chairs with a cup of coffee and perhaps a pastry and soak in this drama for the rest of the day. It was mesmerizing. But we knew we faced the long trudge back across the peninsula before the inevitable rain. We watched for a long while, then turned for home.