Saturday 24th September
It was an early start today, well it was for Ewan. I had a Up Helly Aa Jarl squad quiz on Friday night so decided it would be best to err on the side of caution and be chauffeured to the ‘Garden of Shetland‘. We arrived in Fetlar at 11am and by the time we got ourselves settled in to the Camping Bod and headed to Hamers Ness to set off, it was 12.30. Our guide for the day had also partaken in some social activities the previous night and was in a similar condition to myself. She however, had no obligation to walk anywhere today, so she wisely put her efforts into being a gracious hostess for the day. We were delighted to be greeted by sunshine on the way up to Fetlar and it stayed with us for the whole day. The only down side to this was that my sun cream and hat were in my car, which was sitting outside my house. This dawned on me about 3 hours in when I felt a bit of a glow coming on and had to fashion some sort of Lawrence of Arabia head gear out of a t-shirt. This saved the day, although I can’t see it catching on!
We set off walking from the ferry terminal at Hamers Ness and planned to get to Funzie before darkness set in. Daylight was a new concern for us. In the 2 months that we have had off between our last walk and this one, night time has descended on Shetland. In June, the latest we walked was midnight but now at the end of September about 7pm was going to be the limit. The walk around the north and east coast of the island was a joy, even when suffering from the previous evening’s social excesses. The first mile was a bit damp but after that the going was good and the terrain was enough of a challenge to make it feel like you had worked hard enough to deserve the beautiful views you were rewarded with. The walk from Busta Hill, in around the Wick of Gruting and down the east coast past Baa-neap, felt like it had past so quickly, we thought we must have gotten lost when we came upon the houses of Funzie. It’s amazing what a bit of sun, some good banter, even better scenery and a few cheeky ‘fun sized’ tins of pear cider can do! The odd fantastic place name thrown in doesn’t hurt either. There have been a few beauties we’ve encountered so far but the Sand of Paradise (in the Wick of Gruting) must be right up there. It was quite a nice spot, not sure that it exactly lives up to the name but it was a very nice place to stop for a ham roll and a crunchie. The Wham is another Fetlar gem making into the top ten place names list, imagine having that as part of your address.
We were met at Funzie by the lovely Joanne and Duncan, who whisked us up to the family home, where we were treated to fantastic hospitality from Neil & Marie. Anyone who knows me can imagine the look on my face when we were told that Mama Coutts was whipping up a Chinese feast. Ewan was pretty chuffed too! After some tasty food, a few drams, some stories and a quick pint in the hall, we very sensibly called it a night and headed for an early bed. It’s not very often either of us are in bed before midnight on a Saturday but we were planning a pretty early start, so for once let sense prevail and headed for the Bod to get our heads down. I got a pretty solid 6 hours sleep, Ewan, thanks to my chain saw impersonation got quite a bit less.
Sunday 25th September
We got an early start and were packed up and walking by the back of 7am. Things were pretty wet from Hamers Ness, all the way down the west side of Fetlar. After about a mile we stopped worrying about getting our feet wet and focused on keeping above the knee dry instead. We had a quick look around Brough Lodge and were quite shocked by the state of disrepair it is in. Funding of around £4 million is being sought to renovate the former lairds home but I do not envy either the fund raisers or the renovation team. That said, there is no doubt that if restored, it would be a great asset to Fetlar.
After passing Brough Lodge, you come to the wonderfully named ‘Sand of Sand’. Fetlar does it again. The views down towards Lamb Hoga were undoubtedly worth the wet feet. We stopped at the old houses at Helliersness for some food and enjoyed the wonderful views over to my home town of Otterswick. Although there is a commune of nuns in Fetlar, the views were over Colgrave Sound to Yell were much more heavenly. We were quite taken by how remote these houses at Helliersness were but were later informed that these were houses that were only stayed in during the peat cutting, raising and taking home.
As you come around Lamb Hoga into the Wick of Tresta, the terrain becomes a bit trickier but again, the views make up for it. The Sand of Tresta is a fantastic spot, and the walk all the way around the Wick of Aith and out to Funzie Ness is as enjoyable a walk as you’ll find. Another of Fetlar’s great place names is found here, The Snap! Brilliant. As we came past Muckle Birriers Geo and Houlls Sound, on the home straight to Funzie again, we were hit by that old familiar wave of relief that you get when you finish a big walk. We hadn’t put in a big mileage today compared with what were doing in June & July, around 18 miles by the time we finished. We were, however, out of practice and 32 miles in the space of 26 hours reminded, me in particular, that it would be a good idea to eat & drink a bit less, and exercise a bit more before we tackle Unst in 2 weekends time.
If you have never been to Fetlar before, or haven’t been in a while, we would whole heartedly recommend it. The coastal scenery is exceptional and the welcome is warm. The camping Bod is a great place to stay, although if you go, you need to switch on the emersion water heater if you want a hot shower. We never noticed the big sign telling us to do so and were rewarded with very ‘refreshing’ showers as a consequence.
It was great to get going with the trek again and we can’t wait to get our teeth stuck into Unst, Foula and Fethaland. We can’t really expect many more days like this for our remaining walks and were extremely grateful for the luck we got this weekend. A massive thanks must go to the Coutts clan for their hospitality and also to everyone at the hall for their kind donations and hopefully we’ll enjoy our visit to Unst as much as we did our visit to Fetlar.