|Subject: Re: Shetland and Orkney|
Hello Lucy -
Letīs see if I can make a short version of my trip to the Isles, canīt seem to stop talking when I get on this theme! I warn you, this may be a loooooong email.
If in the towns the best way to know them is to walk, a car is essential to see the rest of the mainlands. I decided from the first that I would stay in the main islands, both in Orkney and Shetland. There are very many smaller islands that are reached by boat. I was not staying long enough to see everything, so that was a choice I made.
With very small rented cars, and for ten days, I went all over those two islands. There is very much to see, all of it beautiful and enchanting. Even the air seems to be different, clearer, purer and filled with 5000 years of history. Roads are narrow and very good, in the countryside people are rarely seen and if you need directions sheep are your best bet! And seabirds, birds everywhere along the coastline. Orkney is green and soft, Shetland is harder, rockier and more impressive.
I started from Inverness, Scotland. Train to Thurso, then bus to Scrabster, ferry to Stromness, Orkney. I love Scotland, so riding around surrounded by that gorgeous landscape was a real joy. The P& O ferry goes into Stromness harbour and the last part of the trip when one is already in Scapa Flowīs waters is very beautiful The harbour itself was full of all sizes of ships, boats and dinghies - as colourful as one can imagine.
The Ferry Inn is a short walk up from the harbour. It is a very old building, small spaces, an inn out of a pirateīs tale. The room itself was charming with private modern bathroom. Walking around town one is surrounded by stones, huge flagstones for pavements, stone houses, stone railings. The town is small so one walks it in a day. Houses are very close together but separated enough so one can continously see the sea through the slits between them. And then the top is reached, with a magnificent view.
Kirkwall is the big city of Orkney. Charming is to put it lightly. I stayed at The Ayre Hotel, simply great, all of it. My room had a huge window facing the sea. Kirkwall is a joy to walk around, narrow streets and alleys, shops and all. And then there is St. Magnus Cathedral. Of all the dozens of cathedrals I have been to in my life, this one took my breath away. Its interior is unique. Nearby are the Bishopīs Palace and the Earlīs Palace, no roof and in ruins but with all the necessary parts to imagine what life was like there. The view from the top of the tower is very good.
>From Burwick to Birsay, that is from southern to northern tips: all of the coastline, Skara Brae (5000 years old and fabulous), Maes Howe, Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness (like small Stonehenges, gratefully without all the people!), St. Margaretīs Hope, Scapa Flow, Churchillīs Barriers, The Italian Chapel at Lambholm.
Then by air to Shetland. Arrived at Sumburgh Airport and from there to Lerwick, the capital city. Stayed at a B& B, Glen Orchy House. Simply delightful in every sense. The owner knows all about Shetland and is quite ready to help.
Lerwick has a perfect scale, its streets and houses of stone, good shops along main street, a very good bookshop, a charming old lady in the yarn shop, Internet services at the tourism office. Fort Charlotte in on the top of the hill, the uphill lanes have nice homes, lots of flowers and trees, great views of the sea. The Shetland Museum is worth seeing. Fish and seafood are fresh and very good.
Driving up and down this island one realizes how perfect it is. Good narrow roads, kind and helpful people, Shetland ponies, sheep and fabulous seabirds all along the coastline, beautiful landscapes, magnificent views of the sea, everything so pristine and ancient. The whole island is worth seeing, from Sumburgh Head in the south to North Roe at the northern tip.
Jarshof is an incredible archeological site, lived in for more than 4000 years. The Sumburgh Hotel nearby is very good and its bar offers tasty lunches. Sumburgh Head has a great lighthouse, the most dramatic views of the sea and colonies of seabirds. Scalloway is a lovely fishing town and its castle is worth seeing. One has to get the key at the cashmere shop nearby - a huge key to the main door. And then I had the castle all to myself including the incredible sensation of being watched over by a ghost!
Weisdale has an interesting textile mill and museum. The western part of the island has fabulous moors with lots of small lochs. At Brae I stayed at the most perfect place, Busta House Hotel. A lairdīs home built in 1588! It has had many additions but it still has all the charm and elegance of old, with todayīs modern conveniences. Muckle Roe Island is across a bridge. Sullom Voe has the oil terminal, simply enormous. The Cliffs of Eshaness are very impressive and the view from Eshaness lighthouse is thrilling.
All in all, do go to the Isles. They are enchanting and I doubt that once anyone goes there, they do not dream of going back someday.
Susana Sâo Paulo, Brasil