11 Thursday, 24.6., Bergen - Lerwick (Shetlands)
This is the day of the final farewell. Terje accompanies me down to the next bike shop. At last we will buy a new rack for my bike to make things perfect. Then we say Adieu, we will get to know by Email what will happen in the future. When we will be retired once upon a time we will ride to the North Cape together, that's for sure.
The ship will leave at 3 pm so some hours must be killed in
Bergen and the drizzle. I toddle around in those backyards but then go
to the quay and watch as my ship comes in. Eventually the passengers
for today arrive. The cyclists collect at a waiting booth, but there is
a toilet with a bad smell. I meet a German cyclist, who seems to be
somewhat tight-lipped. At last he comes out, that he has done Sicilia -
North Cape and now wants to go to Iceland. On the other hand he is
perfectly shaved, brandnew equipped and looks like just coming out of
an outdoor equipment exhibition. We other cyclists tend to look like
vagabonds and did not start at Sicilia. Things are
strange sometimes. Then there is a couple from Norway, they only want
to go to the Orkney Islands, which are famous for their rich
archeological heritages. Another
German cyclist has a trailer behind his bike for all the stuff of his
hotel. He has retired from the army 5 years ago and now he is one year
than I. Things are strange sometimes.
Our cycle group is dispatched very late this time (usually
they are the first), so we are somewhat cold. But on board of
the Norrĝna one can warm up. After the
ship's cast off and in open waters already they perform some
strange manoeuvres. At first a pilot boat comes alongside. Then the
machines are stopped and thereafter even go backwards. May be there was
a novice at the rudder and had hit a blind alley? May be I tell you
Above the sea ahead there are no clouds at all. So we leave
Norway in the
mist and at sunset time the cameras around produce their clicking
concert. I have prepared my place for the night already. There are so
called "Couchettes", simple three-stored couches without any
bedclothes. I even find a room for my own because the ship is not fully
booked. About 1 pm the ship arrives at
Lerwick. We have won 1 hour meanwhile for here is the Westeuropean
Summertime. As we leave off a motor biker asks a deck worker for the
youth hostel at Lerwick.
He doesn't know anything, but I can help with my first Sustrans map.
he has booked in advance, so there is some chance that they still let
in. I should have booked for myself, but there are always things you
to do and don't do...
This time as usual I roll off as one of the first and soon I
find the youth
hostel in the dawn. It is really open. I pay 11 £ and get a bed in
a sleeping room. "Crazy Time" the warden says. But one should give a
high credit to him for he awaits the passengers from Norway at this
time once the
week. When the motor biker and trailer cyclist arrive I am nearly
12 Wednesday, 25.6., Shetland Mainland Circle,
Before breakfast I must go out and get money and something to
eat. Now there
are the first imprssions of this remote islands. Lerwick is a nice town
grey Victorian houses and a nice little harbour. I find a minibank, get
money and then are legalized to buy some rolls, tea and cheese in a
shop. Then I enjoy the breakfast at the youth hostel. Soon the motor
biker and the
trailer man join me. Another guest affirming as Dipl. Ing. for Mining
from Austria is highly interested in the Scottish youth hostel and
with it's own ghost. I can help him: Carbisdale Castle near Bonar
All over his life he has wanted to go there - he says. We make a sign
my Sustrans map.
The motor biker will spend the day in efforts to find out the
best exchange rate for his Norwegian crowns. It is to be said, that he
has worked in Norway and now lives from this money. The trailer man has
to build up his tent which is still wet from Norway. On the other hand
his luggage would be too heavy to cycle in hilly areas - he says. So I
am the only one starting for a look around.
We have a fine weather and I try something that I call the
"Mainland Circle" (Lerwick, A970 to the north, B9075 to Laxo, B9071 to
Twatt, A971 back to Lerwick).
At the beginning it is undetermined, how large the diameter of this
may be, so there is much to calculate on the ride. It is determined to
the ship at 6 pm otherwise we would have to wait two more days.
The landscape of the Shetlands is stunning, not only due to
the hills. Just in the outskirts of Lerwick behind the guard rail I
find a field of orchids (Early
Purple Orchid) like nowhere else. In the ditches there are
flowers which was unknown for me for a lonng time (End-to-End 1999):
Monkeyflower (Mimulus luteus). Sometimes I watch a
bird with a long
beak and odd shrill cries. No, it is not the oyster catcher, it is the
So I ride along green meadows seperated by grey stonewalls. A
wide view to the horizon where the land, the sea and the sky melt
together. At Laxo a ferry boat from one of the outer islands comes in.
But - calm down - this one is not for me. The B-roads are single track
roads and there is nearly no traffic. The villages are only a few,
sometime picturesque, houses. Old houses are nice, new ones mostly not
- that may be the same all over the world.
The rest places aside the road are so beautiful, one could
spend the day sitting there. Especially I enjoy the view at the Gonfirth
Church at about the most northern point of today.
The way back is into the wind and
some pretty hills have to be passed. So I must resign to absolve the
stretch via Scalloway with a couple of attractions.
I feel the day's
work when I come back to the quay at Lerwick. May be it had been easier
I would have left the panniers behind.
When the ship leaves "we three meet again" (a phrase of a
ballad, let's talk about it later). The Norwegian couple gets all of
our remaining crown coins and is very pleased about that. We dare to
order one or two beers after the shocking prices in Norway. We chat all
the time so at once about 11 pm we arrive at Kirkwall, Orkneys. We say
farewell, the motor biker stays on board for Aberdeen, the trailer man
looks for the campground. Now I must find
an accommodation as well, and it is late today. A backpacker guesthouse
full. The next elegant hotel is booked. But the chief is so friendly
up a couple of places, but nobody wants a "single" at midnight. They
there is a festival at Kirkwall just now (St. Magnus 2003,
15-25 June). That's my favourite situation all over the
years: come to a town and find full guesthouses etc. everywhere due to
a special festivity...
This time there is a proper solution, that I can win a
day but the Orkneys lose me. There is a ship from Stromness to
Scrabster on the Scottish mainland about 4 o' clock in the morning. If
I ride the 28 km from Kirkwall during
the night I will feed some time and can start in Scotland tomorrow - no
meanwhile - morning. So you find me on the road in the middle of the
without any light gear. I trust in the big reflectors at the back of
panniers, but there only are about a handfull of cars during the whole
And it never gets completely dark, so you always can see the road
At 1.15 am I arrive at Stromness, cool and damp by the nightly air.
Arrival at Stromness
Cliffs of Hoy
The old Man of Hoy
It is an excellent idea to keep the office and waiting hall of
the North Link Ferry company open all over the night. I can purchase my
ticket and then
retire into a remote corner of the waiting hall. There I consume the
of my food and drinking stuff. Then I lie on a bench, the rucksack
my head. I think it all over but then I must have fallen asleep. As the
is waiting the friendly clerk of the office comes along and wakes me up.
I cannot find out, why this ship runs off at this time. There
is only a
clerk with a brief case who immediately sinks down for sleep on a
there is a freezing couple clamped together in the breeze to watch the
I get a photo as well and you will not see my tiredness on it. Moreover
see some wild cliffs steaming with lower clouds and then -- look there:
Old Man of Hoy, what a sensation! And that is all what I saw on the
Orkneys. I sit in a chair and once again in this night find a cap of
13 Thursday, 26.6., Thurso/Scrabster - Altnaharra, 98 km
Up up and away into a fresh Scottish morning! And - guess - I
have been here already 4 years ago. I had a nasty headwind at that day.
Today we have the same wind - but I go into the opposite direction. The
road is flat at first, we pass the memorable nuclear reactor madness of
Dounreay, some innocent cows in front of
it. The first shop at the road is closed yet. And now the hills come
ahead. The sun shines high above meanwhile and suddenly I am struck: I
have nothing to eat nor to drink in my pockets! And I don't find any
shop at Reay nor Melvich nor Strathy?
I had liked to perform a trip to Strathy Point and
the lighthouse there, but now I don't dare awaiting a hunger collapse,
dehydration or something like that. And now 10 miles more to Bettyhill
across the hills. 10 Miles can
be a long long stretch. And finally I hit on the signpost of
Bettyhill, so beautiful that it is worth for a photo, and the magic
word is Shop! The shop itself is worth for a photo
as well. And then I sit with 2 L Fanta, rolls, bacon, sausage and
cheese under a sunshade. The locals rumor: "What a nice day".
Some Cattle at the Atomic Station Dounreay
At Last Shopping
Two cyclists come up and sit on the table aside.
"End-to-Enders?" I start a conversation between experts. "Yes on the
last day up to John O’ Groats". Then I ask for an accommodation in the
highlands behind Tongue. If I had missed to ask, me
- and you perhaps - would have missed a great opportunity. There is a
B&B at Altnaharra, they say, a nice one
with views to
the Loch Naver. Sounds good, though it is said,
that the highland stretch
from Tongue to Lairg is one of the most lonesome
all over Scotland.
My distance for today would fit exactly with this place.
Mouth of the River Naver (Bettyhill)
Kyle of Tongue
You can imagine that I am in a high mood, starting again,
strong and full of expectation. And we have a Mediterranian sun,
unbelievable colours. And this is Scotland, many visitors may have a
reminiscence of grey in grey (may be because they visited this or that
distillerie at the Whiskey Trail too
often...). I absolve the last stretch with tailwind to Tongue. Only a
distance to Loch Eriboll from here - where I once
had my Shangrila... May be I have a new Shangrila today - I do not know
At Tongue we leave the coast and turn south. This is the official and more scenic route. You can choose a shorter road from Bettyhill. Now we go into the wind, something new. The traffic on this single track road is very low, all drivers are considerate and stop or overtake at the passing places. All wave a Hello and so do I. We ride along the Loch Loyal.
Ah, there is the sign, and there is the house, and there is
the open door. I shout "Hello". And someone comes around the corner and
laughs, and this is Mandy, and I laugh and I am
Martin. But I am more, I am somewhat exhausted and I am extremely happy
to have an accommodation after the last two short (or long?) nights
once again, and such a nice one moreover. Now Lindsay
comes in, Mandy's husband. And then we sit at a cup of tea and talk.
And I am promised to get an evening meal tonight.
B&B at Altnaharra
View from the House
But now the shower bath, and then a short stay on the bed is not recommended, the eyes immediately turn inside. So I better go for the evening meal: soup, Codpie and icecream, I feel wonderful. I can phone at home and we even have a look in the Internet and my tour reports. Of course I promise to advise their sweet home and I think I have done this meanwhile.Of course they have a key position at this trail far away from other occasions to stay overnight. Except the hotel on the other side, which will be more expensive or the Crask Inn some miles ahead.
The Bed and Breakfast, Mandy & Lindsay Smith, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +44 (0)1549 411258
In the evening sun I make some photos of the nice views and
then we sit in the veranda and I learn a lot of the area. Mandy and
Lindsay live here to let the busy world behind. Moreover it is not so
far to the Ben Nevis for winter- and ice-climbing.
Meanwhile a German couple has come up in addition, they use to climb
one mountain after another each day. I soon retire and find
a calm sleep. It is silent hereabout, in a circle of 5 miles there live
14 Friday, 27.6., Altnaharra - Inverness, 120 km
At breakfast, the first full British
(better not say English - we are in Scotland)
breakfast we sit together as we knew each other for a long time yet. We
are glad to have Email, so I can report of the continuation of my tour.
Lindsay must go shopping today and Mandy writes the list. I say
Farewell and set off. After I have passed the summit towards Lairg
someone overtakes, jumps out of his car and makes a photo. This is
Lindsay, who now continues to ride to Inverness, a distance for the
whole day for me.
The rest of the route to Lairg is downhill all the time. Now
the route follows the picturesque river Shin. And
something like the Shin Falls is announced. From
the parking lot a small path leads down to the falls. There are a lot
of excited people with cameras and binoculars. What's that about? I
assume something, and this is right: they look for jumping salmons.
After I have completed my photos all crie: "There is one, did you see
Yes, I saw a tail fin and now am very proud of it. And at the next
I lean over and have a proving glance - be careful not to get mad of it.
Now another peculiarity follows. This is the rail bridge near
Invershin. In former times this bridge was crossed illegally to spare
some miles via Bonar Bridge to the
"Ghost-Youth-Hostel" Carbisdale Castle on
a hill on the other side of the river. Meanwhile they have flanged a
passenger bridge to the columns of the bridge, and this can be passe by
bikes as well. After a narrow path with stinging-nettles we end at the
road to the castle with the ghost. But I never saw it! We continue
along the railway line.
My hosts have recommended to ride the road named "The
Struey" (B9176). This passes a last hill and gives a last
impression of the highlands. Near the summit there is a viewpoint above
the Dornoch Firth. I speak to a cycle couple from
Holland, they will go to Lairg today. Then a bus comes up and there are
signs: End-to-End Runners. But where are the bikes?
Aha, there is another way: they run. One at a time, 30 minutes, 18
day. So they manage to absolve the End-to-End within 9 days. As usual
is a charity background: Home for Children or
something like that. Behind
the next bend the acting runner comes up, accompanied by a cyclist for
"Round the bend they are waiting for you!" I shout out. And then I
get it out of my ears: ... down in the courtyard
the’re waiting for
me... ( Tony Christie: I did what I did for Maria).
The road leads down all the way to the Cromarty Firth.
There are a
couple of oil-riggs. A long bridge leads across towards Inverness, a
shortcut but a busy traffic. But after I have passed Dingwall
there is no other road than the 4 lane A835. But soon we can leave the
traffic again and reach Inverness across the Kessock Bridge.
Inverness is busy, I find the tourist information some minutes before 6
pm and get a booking: Cuchulin Lodge Hotel, the
oldest private hotel at Inverness. This sounds rather expensive but it
is not. But I pay 8 £ provision, OK, a part of it is
repaid by the hotel later on.
In the evening I enter a Chinese Restaurant in the Academy
Street. I am not so enthusiastic about this. At the table
aside a family of China enjoys their meal by chopsticks. But now and
then something falls off as well.
Back in the hotel I have some laundry and find a forgotten pair of quality Scottish socks. They take share of the laundry and will come with me as souvernirs.