Shetland Mainland - part 1: The best laid plans

I distinctly remember a brief stop at a well known sea kayaking retailer's shop while travelling north a few years ago, on what would be my first visit to Shetland with a kayak, though I had visited the islands many times previously.
Having established our destination, he quizzed us on our intentions and finding our responses somewhat lacking, said rather dismissively: "You need a plan. Very comitting place Shetland...." 
Actually I thought we had one. Perhaps it wasn't ambitious enough. We left feeling rather bemused, and went on to complete some wonderful trips around Papa Stour, Esha Ness, Noss, Ronas Voe and Muckle Roe amongst others.
Pouring over the maps in the months preceeding this most recent trip, I remembered his dismissive tone and thought: well, we've certainly got a plan now. Predictably the weather had other ideas and so instead of starting at Sandsayre opposite Mousa - and clearing two major headlands in the first day - we launched at Hamnavoe, with the intention of clearing the west coast in two days before the next strong winds arrived.
Tim setting out, shortly after a local man had asked where we were heading. "Here," I'd replied with a smile. That, after all, was still the plan.
After crossing The Deeps, Brian heads towards the distinctive cliffs and stacks of Silwick...
...where a myriad of skerries and stacks vie for space, creating a kayaker's paradise of tunnels, arches cliffs and clear seas.
Chris passes beneath the dramatic cliffs - reminiscent of Doyle's Lost World...
...before we stumbled across a red sand beach fronting an imposing, and crumbling rock face, that shelved gently into crystal clear waters below.
Passing Wester Wick - the huge stacks rear skyward, causing frequent delays... we make the most of an unusually calm Atlantic - Foula beyond.
Late - too late really - afternoon light on the cliffs around the rarely talked of Wats Ness. Certainly this area is overshadowed by Wester Wick and Sil Wick, yet it remains superb - exposed and remote.
Time to push on - yours truly pulling towards Papa Stour, our destination for camp one where we arrived late in the evening. The slow setting of the summer sun so far north however is deceptive and we spent an hour or so watching a family of otters a little distance from the tents before I walked a short distance further... look out upon Foula as the sky turned through pastel shades of pink - the promise of a fine day to follow. Settling into the dry warmth of my down bag, I felt sure the low swell would allow easy exploration of the caves Papa Stour is renowned for, but would conditions hold for the long crossing of St Magnus Bay...


Philip Norris said…
Fantastic, totally jealous! Looking forward to the next installment Will.
Will Herman said…
Thank you Iain and Phil - hope you enjoy the next posts - and that you find your way to these incredible places too.