Highlights from a circumnav. of Shetland mainland

The circumnavigation of Shetland mainland has been a long held ambition: on Thursday 5 July, Tim, Chris, Brian and I completed the journey started 10 days earlier, seven of which were paddling days, one being spent 'storm bound' at the Point of Fethaland and two as 'days off' - one a rest day and one exploring the caves of Muckle Roe.
I had hoped to start the Journey at Sandsayre opposite Mousa, but high winds on our arrival meant delaying our departure, after which a window for the west coast opened and so we started at Hamnavoe, just south of Scalloway.
A quick crossing of the deeps was followed by a little exploration of the remarkable south-west facing cliffs around Sil Wick...
...after which we headed north-west, to pass Vaila, and on to make the first camp on Papa Stour.
The morning was spent exploring the caves which culminated in a remarkably easy passage through the Hol of Bordie - I was delighted having been unable to pass through on previous visits due to the swell.
There followed the 15km crossing of St Magnus Bay, the volcanic cliffs of Eshaness and the spectacular red cliffs of North Roe. It was developing into a long day and by the time we portaged the tombolo between Uyea and the mainland the sun was low and temperatures plummeting.
Tim passing the Ramna Stacks before we landed for our second camp at the old fishing station, a little over 50km from Papa Stour.
The winds increased steadily during the day, which we spent ashore whale watching - orcas had been sighted in the area - though it was the fulmars who stole the show.
The evening culminated in a vicious but relatively short lived gale that claimed one or two tent poles while the following day saw the winds at a manageable level though a sizeable swell was rolling in from the north and visibility remained poor.
Conditions had improved by the time we reached Muckle Holm in the middle of Yell Sound after which a blustery crossing saw us pick up the south going stream which rapidly pushed us on to our third camp, close to the ferry terminal on Yell.
Rising early to catch the tide, we crossed back to the mainland on calm but swiftly flowing water to reach the point of Lunna Ness.
Here we met the easterly swell which would characterise much of the trip from here on...
...after which we pushed south for Bressay and our fourth camp, just short of the entrance to Lerwick.
A promised northerly wind failed to materialise the next day - instead a blustery westerly hampered progress as we sought the shelter of the cliffs south of Lerwick. At this point, feeling extremely run-down (more to do with events prior to the trip, than as a result of the paddling), I found myself battling to regain the shelter of the cliffs north of Quarff. For several worrying minutes I made no progress against the wind and was pushed parallel to the cliffs, still over 1.5km off shore. The reserve had run dry and I pulled ashore at the East Voe of Quarff exhausted. Realising we were now opposite Hamnavoe and could easily hitch back to the cars, a halt was called.
It was unclear at this point whether we would continue and we spent a day in the sun - with no wind to speak of ironically enough - at Sumburgh watching the puffins...
...and arctic skuas amongst others.
Now well rested and well fed, I was feeling much stronger and our second rest day was spent exploring the caves of Muckle Roe.
Returning to Quarff, the circumnav. was embarked upon once more, in thick mist and Moderate seas - heavy clapotis remained with us much of the way to Sumburgh Head where conditions became quite exciting.
Brian gains sheltered waters after a long stretch that had demanded constant concentration, to reach Lady's Holm, the small island mid way between Sumburgh Head and Fitfull Head, our next and perhaps most exposed section of the trip.
In fact, sheltered from the worst of the south-easterly swell, and with lighter winds, it was a relatively easy passage, though no less awe-inspiring than Sumburgh.
Beyond, the winds dropped away completely to leave glassy seas for the last push north to reach Hamnavoe.
A richly rewarding journey and one which I will never forget - I will follow this post with other more detailed reports on the individual stages of the trip once I have worked through the images.
The map above shows the route taken.


Stefan Viklund said…
Fantastic pictures!
Anonymous said…
Impressive Will, looks a fantastic trip. Love the last cave shot.

Will Herman said…
Thanks Stefan - glad you like the pics - not sure they really do just to a fantastic trip...
Will Herman said…
Hi Andy - thanks for your comment.
Hadn't seen your site for a while - glad to see you're making the most of things up north - some good shots on the blog and it looks as though you're getting stuck in with paddling...
regards to Annie
Beautiful shots. Looks like a great trip!
Will Herman said…
Hi Justine - thanks and yes, a trip to remember. Hope to catch you guys sometime soon.

Ian said…
Wow Will, that looks like some trip! Like Andy, I think the Muckle Roe cave image is stand-out; it's so difficult to expose a shot correctly in and around caves and I think you've done superbly. Looking forward to following the trip reports :o)

Kind Regards
Will Herman said…
Hi Ian - thanks for your comment - Muckle Roe really was superb - It was the 3rd time I'd paddled around (and through!) the island and we found several long and narrow tunnels I had not been through before. Most were impossible to get decent images - as you say, exposures are difficult - very frustrating!