Shetland Mainland - part 2b: Cliffs, caves and crossings

The Holl o Boardie proved an easy passage - the dog leg mid way passed without difficulty - in fact the tunnel is wide and deep enough, at least in calm conditions, to paddle through at a good speed...
...and so we emerged in the geo rather more quickly than anticipated, to be faced a little abruptly with the wide expanse of St Magnus Bay.
Crossings are an inevitable facet of trips like these, and while I have no great love of crossing wide, featureless tracts of ocean, there is something very special about sitting offshore, out on the Atlantic...
...Chris and Brian, head out beneath blue skies, on gentle seas, heading for Esha Ness, some 16km distant. As crossings go, it was both remarkable and yet uneventful. The breeze remained light albeit on the bow and from time to time gannets would pass overhead, harried by the bonxies or great skuas. Puffins appeared in increasing numbers as we pulled steadily north until slowly, the red cliffs of Esha Ness gained in stature...
...a bold boundary beneath which we passed in awe. Once again, the low swell made for an easy passage around this most notorious of headlands, allowing exploration of some of the caves - the Holes of Scaada a particular highlight - though with nearly 30km still to cover, we pushed on, reluctantly passing by many of the huge caverns that cut beneath the cliffs.
Chris passes the northern edge of Esha Ness, Ronas Hill, Shetland's highest point, beyond.
Brian, with Muckle Ossa on the horizon - and though we were moving at a reasonable pace, the height of the sun tells its own story...
...the softening light lending warmth to the giant cliffs and arches as Tim passes The Faither, the stacks beneath Ketligill Head clearly visible across Ronas Voe.
Known as the Stonga Banks, the north-west facing cliffs above Lang Ayre beach are an incredible sight. Again the low sun cast its dramatic light across this imposing scene, throwing every fluting into sharp relief...
...as we crossed directly to Turls Head...
...and the Gruna Stack.
Beneath Hevdadale Head we paused, resting a short while and snacking on the water, Out Shuna Stack - marking the west coast of Uyea where we would portage the tombolo - visible in the distance.
By the time we landed on the clean sands between Uyea and the mainland, the shadows were lengthening and temperatures plummeting. The portage was a hurried affair, the four boats carried in turn across the 50 or so metres of soft sand, hands quickly turning numb, the cold air saturating tired limbs.
Beyond Uyea - another 9km to go - but conditions remained good and as the sun sank we warmed once more, finding our rhythm as the sky blazed, the Ramna Stacks silhouetted like dark sentries guarding the northernmost point of Mainland Shetland.
A little after 11pm we landed beneath the long since abandoned fishing station - it was gone midnight by the time I had the stove going - but we had cleared the west coast, and for now at least we could relax. I knew that in all likelihood we would be stuck here for a day or so - high winds were forecast imminently - but what a place to pause a while, to take stock and consider our next move.

Comments