Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shetland, July 2013

Aidan went to Shetland back in July. Here's his story.

Shetland Blog

In mid-July my mate Graeme was due to get married to his partner Vaila who is from Shetland. Now I’ve known Graeme since we were in primary school when he moved to Pencaitland. We grew up together playing football, chasing away girls and generally getting up to no good. No chance then was I going to miss this wedding despite the fact that it was taking place in Lerwick, Shetland, that’s right fucking Shetland.  In the middle of the North Sea and close to absolutely fucking nothing. 

It took a bit of saving and planning but I made the decision that it was too far to go for just a couple of days and seeing as there would be a fair bit expense getting there I decided to turn it in to a holiday. As the majority of the Massif had never been there I thought it was a good opportunity to get one over them and take the motorbike. I’d heard the roads up there were pretty good so it seemed a no brainer. That meant only one thing; I would have to get the ferry.

I also invited Steph to join me as she has known Graeme for years and she’s pretty good company despite being an absolute nutcase, that’s probably why we get on so well as we do because we have a similar sense of crude humour.  Anyway plan was for Steph to meet me in Pencaitland around half 11 to pack her stuff in to the bike, get some lunch and then to set off from Pencaitland at 12.30 that day as the boat left Aberdeen around 5 o’clock. This all sounds pretty straightforward? Well not for fannybaws Steph. She decided she would take her pals sister to Tranent for lunch or something….I can’t even remember, to be honest I didn’t even care, she was late..  Anyway she turned up in Pencaitland at 12.30 much to my bemusement and we piled her stuff in to the bike. She seems to think I panic a little but it’s just cause I hate being late for things and having a plan in place is a MUST. Due to Stephs late arrival I had to skip lunch and we set off on the road to Aberdeen. It was pretty windy from Pencaitland to Dundee so we stopped up there for a quick break and dropped my guts, was a nice relief.  When we got on the bike it calmed down and we set off in the glorious sunshine to Aberdeen.  We hung about in the ferry terminal and then set sail from Aberdeen.  Check out the weather in the background as we left:

Departing Aberdeen

The boat journey last around 12 and a half hours including a stop off in Orkney. Based on this and lack of funds we decided to book what were called PODS (a more luxurious sleeping set up I.e. leather recliner, iPod dock etc.). When we got on the ferry I checked with staff that I was in the right place and they confirmed I was despite the PODS not really being up too much. We farted about on the boat for a while and come 1am tried to get some sleep. It was awful, cramped on the floor, freezing my baws off and some drunks kicking about making a racket. Needless to say it was a pretty brutal fucking night. 

Thankfully ferry arrived on time and we got in to Lerwick about 7am.  We left the boat and headed in to town to find the house we had rented for the week using the directions that Olaf (house owner) had given us. Needless to say they were useless and I found myself in the fishmongers looking for directions. The woman in the shop was lovely thankfully, and told me to follow her car and she would show us where to go. How’s that for hospitality?  
We arrived at the house and Olaf let us in. A more Norwegian looking Scotsman I’ve never met. We decided to get the shopping out the road and went down to Tesco. We bought loads of stuff and still don’t know how we managed to get it all back on the bike.  I also dropped a box of chocolates in to the fishmongers and the old dear was loving it. I reckon if she’d been 30 years younger she’d have tried to bang me. Fair play.

We chilled out in the house the rest of the day made some dinner then went and met Graeme and a few of his pals at the pub. It was good getting a catch up but was pretty weird that my mate was getting married the next day. We went to bed and I snored all night. It was truly bliss. Well I thought it was but Steph being the moaning arsehole that she is moaned like fuck non-stop all week about this. So rude. Every time I would snore I heard her shout or felt a flying arm coming over to try and shut me up. What a charmer aye.

Anyway Hillson arrived in the morning and we got ready for the wedding. We went and met at the meeting point and blethered to a few folk we hadn’t seen for ages. We arrived for the ceremony which was nice and Graeme signed his life away. Congratulations to them both though as they looked stunning. Well Graeme’s new wife did. He didn’t. He never has. He’s ginger. Enough said. 
After the ceremony we got some photos and headed back to the Town Hall in Lerwick for the reception.  Was a pretty stunning place to be honest. We got fired in about the bevvy and sat down for dinner and speeches. Dinner was nice and we met a few more of Graeme and Vailas mates which was also good as we don’t see each other much these days and mix in completely different circles. 
As this was a Shetland wedding there would be no disco/band.  It was a full swing traditional band and the first dance was something I had never seen before. Graeme and Vaila marched round the hall linking arms before all their family started to join in and followed by the rest of the party. I still to this day have no idea what actually happened but it was pretty good fun and definitely something different. As the night went on and the drink flowed Steven (Hillson) was on the creep. Worryingly though it was Graeme’s happily married mum that appeared to be his no.1 target. We enjoyed the rest of the evening and cut some interesting shapes during the ceilidh. Good fun!

Next day we met up with the troops again for some more drinks. Andy Murray won Wimbledon and we were all pretty happy. Steph, Hillson and I headed back to our house and cracked open the bevvy. We watched TV, blethered away and started playing the name game which would go on throughout our stay as well as eventually make its way to one of the Massif’s later biking trips. It’s a great game based around naming celebrities. If for example I say Mickey Mouse then the next person must come up with a celebrity beginning with C.  If my reply was Minnie Mouse (Comedian) then it goes back to the person who said the previous.  It can be pretty entertaining and the idea is you drink whilst you think.  There are couple of other quick rules but your best just going on to google. We had some good battles that night and I pulled out the legendary Polly Pocket much to Stephs amusement. Anyway we got pretty jaked, went to bed, I snored, Steph moaned as per and we got up next day to see what adventures lay in store. Steph was grumpy as hell as she claimed my snoring had kept her up again all night. What a load of shit! 

I don’t know how the next day really came about. Steven had probably been creeping but we ended up meeting with two of Vailas friends Vicki and Rhona. A nicer pair of girls you could never meet and Vicky has the best accent I think I’ve ever heard. To be honest I could barely understand a word she was saying but it was funny as never the less. Thankfully Rhona was there to translate for me. They were extremely hospitable though and the five of us jumped in Vicki’s car for a tour of the island.  I cannot remember where we went initially but we stopped for tea, coffee and cakes. A must on any trip. We were also sat next to that guy off the telly called Simon King who I think spends a lot of time in Shetland. Anyway he wasn’t celebrity enough for us to talk to. I did get this pretty epic picture though towards the edge of the cliffs as it was pretty misty.  That drop though must have been 200ft.  Sadly this pictures disappeared with my trusty old Iphone. 

We then went to this place and walked up the hills.  It was pretty cool but recently I lost my camera so I cannot show you pictures of it.  Nice waterfalls etc.  One of the highlights of this trip was searching for TWATT.  This is the name of a village near where Vaila stays so we looked to track it down.  More difficult than first imagined. The name intrigues me as when I have visited Orkney previously I also found it difficult to track down the sign of TWATT as they have one as well. Due to my general lack of maturity I find it pretty amusing getting my picture next to this sign. Despite the world being against us and the sign having been changed we did discover this one. The fact that Steven looks so at home says it all:


We had actually been out most of the afternoon so we went to Scalloway for a final visit.  It has a row of houses that looks like Balamory so I took a picture. We also visited the old castle before sampling some massive food portions in the local restaurant. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s not that big a place. I recall Hillson having scallops. He said they were the best he had ever had. Then I shagged him later that night and he changed his mind.

Only kidding.   

But he did like those meaty fishy scallops #Boak 

Scalloway - Mull

Scalloway Castle

Scalloway Castle 2

Scalloway Harbour

Whilst we did thank the girls for taking us out I just want to say again that it really was appreciated. They went out their way to show some complete strangers about the place when they really didn’t have to. I would like to return the favour sometime soon. If you’s ever visit Leith I’ll show you a few of the sights girls.  (I usually use that line towards the end of the night).
Next day Hillson headed home to London. We were to meet up again the following weekend for another wedding. Easy seeing it’s never us pair doing the deed.
As Hillson set off Steph and I planned to head out for the day on the bike. I’d seen how good the roads were the day before despite the shit, misty Shetland weather. Today though it had turned and the sun was out to greet us. Steph again was grumpy due to another night of sleep deprivation. My heart bleeds for her. Honest.

I had drawn out a route that I wanted to do. We would head to Yell and Unst the two northerly islands of Shetland. In fact the two most Northerly islands in Britain (I think). None of the Massif had ever been there before. We headed out on the roads and I kid you not you can average any speed you want here. Even with the bike loaded and Steph on the back we cruised most of the way at 90mph. She wasn’t particularly bothered about the speed which meant I could relax and really enjoy getting to grips with the open winding corners and fast sections of road. The roads are immaculate due to the low volume of traffic. The downside of the Islands is the lack of roads.  If these roads were in the central belt of Scotland they would probably be amongst the best biking roads in the country but obviously the scenery (sheep and baron land) adds to the setting and feel of it all and it would be rude to try and steal this from the good people of Shetland. Anyway we arrived at the first sailing and hung around for an hour. I’m sure I needed another jobby but there was a severe lack of facilities. 
The boat arrived and we made our way on.

Yell Ferry

Yell Harbour

Friendly Isle

When you get on the boat you have to sit on the bike. There are no straps here and it got pretty bumpy.  Steph went for a wander and took in some fresh air. I sat on my lonesome for ten minutes till she re appeared and then we departed. Here we were. Yell.  
I didn’t really know what to expect but thankfully I spotted a toilet and went on to unleash the fury. 
With that load off my mind we jumped on the bike and hit the road.  Yell is roughly 18/20 miles long.  That’s it. What took me aback though was the sheer beauty of the place. I could have stopped anywhere by the side of that road, pitched a tent and been happy chilling out. It really is a pretty special place. What I was to discover was that this section is road is one of the best/fastest stretches I have ever ridden. It makes me feel like I’m doing an Isle of Man TT although obviously I’m nowhere near as fast or as talented as those lads.  In fact you might have seen Mike’s previous article where I binned my bike a few weeks back. Thankfully I’m ok so I can laugh about it now. 
Anyway we blasted through the island of Yell and met the ferry to Unst. Again you sit on the bike and five minutes later you’re on the next island. I was pretty fucking excited I’m not going to lie. To be that far North on the British Isles doesn’t happy all that often. In fact it was the first time in my life (28 years living in Scotland) that I had been to Shetland so that really says it all. As I’m such a nice guy and super cool I let everyone depart the ferry then overtook them stretching out the gear changes to create some additional noise. That showed them who the real boss was. We started to travel through the island which again was stunning. Not much changes from Yell although it did seem to me that there were more people staying there?  I don’t know. We drove past some pretty cool stuff including an old police phone box. Pretty much like the old red ones but blue and specifically for contacting the Police. Again loss of camera means lack of pictures. We headed through the island and sat down at the final checkout. This is the most northerly shop in Britain.  It called for one thing. Tea and cake. No wonder I feel like I’m turning in to a fat bastard.  
Filled up with cake we headed for the most northerly points of the island. It was amazing. We sat at the harbour and watched a couple of fisherman get their boat back in to the boat shed. Turned out they had been out for a few days but weather was due to turn so they headed home early. We had some lunch and took in some sunshine before heading out to the other most northerly point.

Final Checkout

Northerly Point 1

Northerly Point 2

Edge of the World

Edge of the World 2

Dodgy Character


It was nearly 3pm so we started to make our way home. I spotted a Viking settlement place and got some pictures.

Viking House

Viking Ship

Bike Boat

We departed Unst and I blasted through Yell again. I felt like Valentino Rossi gliding past every car that came in to sight, turning the power and boom. There’s not really many better feelings in my opinion than being on the bike, beautiful scenery, good weather and no police to pull you over. I wasn’t taking the piss but I was really enjoying myself. Isn’t that what biking is all about?

We got home and Steph made some dinner. She’s actually a decent cook. I thought after the weeks snoring she would have tried to do me in and poison me but we sat down ate, drank some more and probably played the name game. I went and stayed in Steven’s room that night to allow Steffers a decent night’s sleep. What an absolute gentleman aye? 
Final day of the trip had arrived and we went to the south of the island (Sumburgh). We went and parked up and went looking for the puffins. We watched them for a while before heading to the Viking centre. Steph wasn’t really that interested in this and instead wanted to go and watch the aeroplanes. See what I’m up against. She’s a trumpet. We headed off not long after and caught our ferry. Here’s the funny bit. Mind those shitey PODS I mentioned earlier?  Well I discovered we had camped up in the wrong place on the way over. What a fucking idiot I am. Oh and the £50 I paid for them down the panner. I’m a bit tight you see so I think this hurt me more than the lack of sleep. 
We had dinner then settled down for the night. The ferry though was jumping with all the riggers heading home. They were up on the bevvy all night making a racket and seem to recall a few people asking them politely to shut the fuck up which they duly did. We got our heads down and got a decent kip. I even managed to do so without snoring. 

So to sum up the trip. 
DFDS seaways are an interesting company. I wouldn’t particularly look forward to travelling with them again but if that’s the only way to get my bike to Shetland then so be it. For what it’s worth the luxury PODS are a good alternative if you cannot afford cabins. The islands themselves are pretty baron and empty although it is a pretty stunning landscape. There’s not an awful lot to see IMO in comparison to say Orkney (in terms of tourist things) but there’s no getting away that it is a great place to be and the people are extremely friendly and very welcoming. The culture was particularly different in the fact that there are so many talented musicians. You can barely walk in to a pub without finding someone who plays, its great!  
I do love the peace and quiet of the place and look forward to visiting again in the near future but I will plan my time accordingly to get the most out of my stay. In terms of motorcycling the roads are second to none.  However there is a severe lack of them. I was desperate to do more riding but I suppose I cannot change the size of the islands. Graeme’s wedding was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed the ceilidh and their first dance. It was great meeting some of Vailas childhood friends and look forward to catching up with them again sometime soon. Steph and Hillson also enjoyed their stay.  
The highlight for them was my company.

Words and photos by Aidan.


  1. You are getting to be a bit of a fat bastard.

  2. Should have come a few weeks early

  3. Aiden , great trip and write up, Where did you you pull the 'Steph we'll have to pull in here the bikes only goin on 3 three cylinders' stunt ?

  4. Nice trip report from Aidan.

    A shame he has so much trouble finding Twatt, good job he finally found it. Cheers!