The Shetland Islands are so far north of Scotland they are almost off the UK map, and when we got there we could not think of a single connection to London. They are wild, windswept and almost indescribably lovely. The local people in this picture-perfect place are also different from what you might expect.
One B&B we overnighted at was owned by the fellow who fixes the lighthouses, and the local barman was also the part-time policeman – although he admitted he hadn’t arrested anybody for the past few years. We decided to take the MV Quest aka the ‘milk train’ from Scotland that stopped at every possible island along the way.
The company describes her as a ‘small but comfortable expedition ship’ that’s not unfamiliar with the frozen northern wastes. We enjoyed the intimacy of sharing with just 53 passengers staying in 26 cabins. Our cabin had a sea view, we had a separate sitting room with TV / DVD, and the grub and company was home cooking good.
We boarded our little ship at Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, which is home to deep icy lakes and lofty mountain peaks. We overnighted on the ocean before arriving at Tanera Mór just as the dawn was lightening the night sky. We found it a mighty pretty village on an island in the middle of a lake, although its only claim to fame since the young people left is that it prints its own postage stamps.
On to Stromness in the Orkney Islands
Our delightful MV Quest was taking no prisoners. We had to board on time, or it would leave without us. We dined that evening on Scottish lamb and baked potatoes with broccoli as we watched the sun sink beyond the ocean. Tomorrow, Stromness on the Orkney Islands would welcome us, although we hoped it was not as cold as in the picture we took on our last trip. For tonight, a glass of dessert wine was all that we desired, before drifting off to peaceful sleep to the lullaby of gently throbbing engines.
We had forgotten that Stromness in the Orkney Islands had a Neolithic village named Skara Brae that’s 5,000 years old. It also boasts the Ring of Brodgar Circle standing stones, and St Magnus Cathedral founded by Viking King Earl Rognvald in 1137 proving they weren’t all barbarians. We learn to shed our preconceptions every day.
Shetland Islands and Historic Lerwick
We disembarked the following morning at Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands, where we planned to spend a week hiking along the shoreline, stopping by at pubs, staying at bed and breakfasts in the Shetland Islands and hobnobbing with the locals like this Shetland Pony that it just too cute to crop. Our island hopping MV Quest was a resounding success as most holidays on the ocean are.