Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Unst; a camping trip

Clare's Dad is up for a couple of weeks and as the weather was spectacular by Shetland standards we decided to put the dog in the kennels at Gott and go up to Unst for a weekends camping. 

First stop on Unst was the remains of Muness Castle , the most northerly castle in Britain and built for a relative of Earl Patrick Stewart who had Scalloway Castle built.  It's in such a lovely spot with views over Fetlar and the surrounding headland and beaches. 

By some weird fate the current door of the castle is from the remains of The House of Lund, just near the beach we'd be camping at. There is supposed to be the cloven foot print of the devil in the doorway that remains of the house, but we couldn't find it.

Here's Beren doing a bit of house work...

And when you've done that clean out the oven!

So off we trundled towards Lund and the beach at the back of Lunda Wick where the remains of St Olaf's Church are. Surprisingly, there were a few caravans un-hitched and making camp there, but we were heading north along the beach to a grassy spot behind the dunes.


We had a few overly inquisitive ponies to deal with. One was actually a bit worrying for a while, deciding that Beren was fair game. Thankfully they settled down eventually.

Over the next headland was another beautiful cove and sandy beach. I came across this sheep and was a bit puzzled as to whether I should try to extricate it , but reckoning it should be able to get back along the cliffs- and having no idea how I could help- I left it to it's own devices.

Beren found himself in a few tricky situations with his exploring, similarly, he was left to sort himself out - with a watchful eye of course.

When we returned the nasty neddy was caught eating our breakfast rolls from inside the tent! Oddly enough he was not the least bit bothered by being caught bun in mouth! 

Boy, it was a hot day. I sat under the golf umbrella keeping out of the 15c scorcher, while Clare and her Dad felt a chill in the air. It was good to potter about, have a fire and watch Beren playing freely.

All the fun left us all wiped out and Beren happily snuggled up for a good nights sleep in the tent.

After packing up in the morning we headed further north to Hermaness National Nature Reserve; a fantastic piece of coast and home to more than 100,000 breeding sea birds such as gannets, puffins and bonxies.

It really is an awesome spectacle, both scenery and bird wise. I was very much struggling by then, but it was wonderful; I can't wait to get back there sometime.

Here's a view of Muckle Flugga Lighthouse in the distance...

I wasn't the only one tired out...

Anyway here's a selection of sights from our brief visit up there...


And then it was off home...

All that was too much fun for me and don't my bones know it, but I hope to re-visit Hermaness before the end of 'the season' and many other places on Unst eventually.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Prickly pest and beautiful guest

I've been trying to rest this weekend. Other than going to South Nesting to the rowing regatta (as a spectator) yesterday, I've been pretty lazy for a change. Watching Star Wars and reading mostly.

Walking up the path at home today I saw a cute little hedgehog on it's way down the path. We stared at each other. It started to quiver it's quills as if to do it's prickly ball thing, but I left it to go inside for my camera, hoping it would stay 'open' for my return.

On return it had gone! I soon found it though, in some leaf litter near the wheelie bin at the back of the house. I took my picture and now it's gone again! I wonder if it's living close.

I've seen a few around when I've been out with the dog on an evening, not that they're native here. In the past measures have been in place to cull them in other parts of Scotland, notably Uist. Apparently the predecessor of Scottish Natural Heritage paid people to bring them to the Outer Hebrides people to try to wipe out slugs and snails in the 70's, obviously not realising that they also like birds eggs! So, some years later Scottish Natural Heritage spent a small fortune trying to get rid of them to much public outcry

As far as Shetland goes Nature in Shetland says:

Hedgehogs were introduced to the Tingwall Valley in the middle of the 19th century. They thrive in Shetland in the absence of any predators on Mainland and been and have spread through much introduced to many of the inhabited islands. While much of their food comprises earthworms, beetles, spiders and slugs they also have an appetite for bird’s eggs, so they present a threat to ground-nesting birds. Hedgehogs have often been observed systematically working their way through all the nests in a tirrick (tern) colony.

Well, personally I think they're cute. I like coming across them. One thing is for sure; they are certainly a lot less damaging to the natural environment than that common or garden pest, The Human! 

Later. I was sorting the out the hens, a lovely afternoon, and there basking in the sun, feeding on the common bistort and fluttering about in the back garden were some beautiful red admiral butterflies. There were large whites too, but for all they're a welcome sight, the red admirals raise the spirits that bit more.

Things might be quiet here for a peerie start. I have a date with a surgeon later this week for 'the snip'. So, I'll be out of action in more ways than one... 

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hard boiled eggs!

Man, they're a pain to peel. I cook them slow, chill them, but still peeling them is a chore that seems to end up removing half the outer white. More so, as the golden treasure inside our home grown eggs is so very yummy. I'd never had golden orange egg mayo until we had our own hens.

Anyway, in desperation for my egg mayo sarnies I googled for it! Below is a no peel way of doing it, just involving a teaspoon of baking soda in the water, taking each shell end off and blowing them out. Cool!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Fethaland; a lovely day for a paddle

All was calm and sunny today as a friend and I headed out from North Roe for a 7 or 8km paddle north to the old Haa Station of Fethaland.

Heading north; Yell in the far distance. Later on we could see Saxa Vord which is right at the northern tip of Unst, what a clear day! And what a day to just have the mobile for photos rather than my camera!!

With in no time we saw an otter in the water (second of the day). It quickly disappeared, but we were to see it out on the rocks eating on the way back.

The were plenty of small channels between stacks and skerries to potter through. The odd seal surfaced and the shags dived from their ledges into the water as we approached.

There were a few shags nesting above the entrance to a rather nice cave, complete with delicate salty stalactites.

The coast up here is a mouse nibbled cheese of geos, bays, caves and stacks, fantastic. The headland here, Kame of Isbister, has remains of an old (iron age I think)  fortification on it's grass banks. Apparently the Time Team lot did a programme here.

Another tunnel through into a beautiful geo. A shag dived in in front of me, giving me a shock when it clipped the boat as it swam under me.

Where are we? 

Finally the beach at Fethaland was approaching. I was tired and felt like a boil in the bag meal in my dry suit on such a sunny day.

I stripped off the dry suit and aired a bit. We counted 23 seals in the bay watching us as we lounged on the warm rocks. It was tempting to head further north to the point of Fethaland, but I was pretty shattered and we knew that the sea would be a whole different challenge once we rounded the point. So chill and rest for the paddle back...

Old Haa houses and noosts on the beach

Someone had built these lovely stone towers in the bay. Something I think is common in Norway, though I've seen a few on my travels round Shetland.

The paddle back should have been easy with  the wind and tide at our back. It was much  quicker, but after yesterdays paddle this was just one paddle to far for me. The sight of some puffins and the otter again on the way back made up for it a bit, but it was a struggle really and now I'm home on the anti-inflammatories and pain killers. One day I really will learn, it's just so bleeding hard when there's days like this and such amazing places to paddle.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Skellister Voes, South Nesting

Waking early to a bright morning and lighter winds than of late I sneaked out the house for a little paddle from The West Voe of Skellister with plans to go round Ling Ness and back.

First stop was the Holm of Skellister.

A seal was dozing as I went by.

I headed out across the bay towards Ling Ness, but the wind was getting up and the further I got out the choppier it got. I soon realised that going where I'd planned would mean paddling on along a wind ward shore so decided to investigate some of  small holms in the voes.


There was plenty of bird life about with great black backed gulls, guillemots, black guillemots, artic terns, dunters and even a swan. I did hope I might come across an otter as I scanned the reveals along the coast lines, but I wasn't so lucky.


My trip shortened I got home earlier than planned. Not a bad thing; I wasn't feeling as full as energy as I'd first thought and the paddle back into the freshening wind left me glad to be heading home for a cuppa and a bite to eat.

With the rest of the day a head it's relaxing with family and friends. May be another short explore tomorrow with a friend though if the weather holds...