Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 – Lerwick, Scotland, UK – Foggy Start then Sunny – 61F

Distance from Dover, UK to Lerwick, UK: 615 Nautical Miles

A foggy day in Lerwick, Scotland…

20140708_ships position 630 PM (Small)

Port Information:  The Shetland Islands are technically part of Scotland.  The archipelago consists of more than 100 islands – only 12 islands are inhabited.  The largest of the Shetlands is Mainland with Lerwick serving as the capitol.  Lerwick was founded by Dutch herring fishermen in the 17th century. Mainland measures 50 by 20 miles long – the Shetlands have a population of around 26,000 with 7000 people living in Lerwick.  Known for its Shetland Ponies (only about 1000 ponies are registered), the islands are also home to Shetland sheep.  There are virtually no trees on the islands due to the incompatible soil and windy conditions. The Shetlands became part of Scotland when the Stewarts, Robert and Patrick, became governors. 

The Ocean Princess is docked at Holmsgarth Pier in Lerwick, about 15 minutes from town.  We are on an afternoon tour today, “Northernmost Scotland”, so we are going to walk into the town in the morning to look for WiFi and check out the old town. 

There is a lot of activity going on in Lerwick.  Three thousand workers have been brought in to work on a new oil processing plant.  There aren’t enough hotels in town so ships (some cruisers) have been brought in to accommodate the workers (“Floatels”).  Oil supplies a good deal of the income for the Shetlands.

The walk to town is very short – less than 10 minutes.  Most of the town is still not open but the fog has lifted and it is a little warmer.  The streets are narrow and the town is built on a hill.

The most imposing structure near the port is Fort Charlotte, which was built in 1663 to keep out the Dutch.  

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Ft. Charlotte

20140708_ET Lerwick City Centre (Small)

Ellen in Lerwick

 20140708_Lerwick City Centre (Small)

Lerwick – deserted but quaint

The town library is about three blocks up a pretty steep hill but we both survived.  The area around the Library consists of stone government buildings including the magnificent Town Hall.  There are also very nice homes and parks – looks the best part of town.

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Beautiful Flower Garden in Hill Area Home

20140708_Lerwick City Hall (Small)

Lerwick Town Hall

20140708_Park area Lerwick (Small)

Green Space and Fine Homes on Hill

The Library did have WiFi (in fact, the signal could be picked up blocks away in the city).  The WiFi connection was quirky – it allowed emails to come in but we could not send anything.  To get around this, we used the Library’s laptops to access G-mail and send off our messages.  Note:  No matter what I tried, I could not sign into Yahoo Mail (Yahoo doesn’t trust foreign IP addresses apparently).  After finishing up our correspondence, we headed back to the ship to get a quick lunch and head off on our tour.

I should mention that the thin crust pizza is terrific on this ship.  Pizza is our fall-back option for food.

While we waited for our tour to depart, we had a chance to watch the dancers rehearse.

20140708_dancers practicing (Small)

A 5, 6, 7, 8…

Our tour - “Northernmost Scotland” – left right on time at 12:30 PM.  Our tour guide is Peter from Holland and our driver is Nick (who knows about birds). 

As we left the harbor for the countryside, the fog was still evident.  When the fog blew in, it was chilly but when the sun broke through, it was warm.  In any event, the weather was not an issue.

 20140708_on our tour (Small)    20140708_on tour in the fog (Small)

On our way

Three  things to mention:  First, peat covers the entire island.  The locals harvest the peat (carbon rich), dry it, bag it, and use it for fuel for their stoves and heat.  The landscape is covered with peat pits and peat bags.  Second:  The ground is not porous so rain water collects in numerous lochs, which don’t drain.  So lochs and peat pretty much describes the countryside (along with Shetland ponies and sheep). Third:  With all of the sheep around, you really have to watch where you are walking.

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Village on a Loch

Our next stop was in Northmavine, the northernmost part of the Shetland Mainland.  Here, a short strip of land, Mavis Grind, separates the North Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.  The distance between the two bodies of water is about 30 meters.

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The North Sea at Mavis Grind

 20140708_Atlantic inlet 1 Mavis Grind (Small)

The Atlantic Ocean at Mavis Grind

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Selfie at Mavis Grind (the Atlantic Ocean)

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Atlantic Ocean in the distance and Inlet

Didn’t see too many beaches but this area had a beach (but no people or even sheep).

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20140708_peat pit (Small)

Three above: Peat pits

Some of the other Shetland Islands are visible in the photo below.

20140708_Atlantic and other Shetlands (Small) 

Our next stop was the Tangwick Haa (“House”) Museum. I was hoping for some WiFi but there wasn’t any (in fact, Peter told me that there wasn’t any WiFi on the island – only satellite based internet).  I spent only a few minutes in the small museum, which actually sold little bags of peat as souvenirs. 

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20140708_me at Tangwick Haa Museum (Small)

Me at the Museum

As we drove along, Peter pointed out that the rock in the distance in the water was part of the volcanic system of the Shetland Islands.  The rock is very hard since it is the remnant of the magma itself.

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Volcanic Rock in the Atlantic

We also saw an interesting rock formation called the “Green Pony”.

20140708_ The Green Pony 1 (Small)

The Green Pony

We stopped at the Esha Ness Stevenson Lighthouse.  Built in 1929 by David Stevenson (related to Robert Louis Stevenson).  It’s 20 meters high and square in construction.  It is the last Stevenson Lighthouse built.

20140708_Stevenson Esha Ness Lighthouse 1929 (Small) 20140708_ Stevenson Lighthouse 1929 1 (Small)

The final and most spectacular stop was the “Cliffs of Esha Ness”.  The Cliffs had no guard rails and the passengers went right up the edge.  It looked like a shear drop of at least 100 feet.  It was a little scary since some of the folks were not terribly steady on their feet.

20140708_the Cliffs of Esha Ness (Small) 20140708_090650 (Small) 20140708_090927 (Small) 20140708_090941 (Small)

The shot below is the spot where all of the previous photos were taken.  Note the overhang people are standing on.

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The view away from the cliffs is also spectacular (more lochs and interesting rock formations).

20140708_View From Esha Ness cliff (Small)

The Cliffs were our final stop and the bus headed back to Lerwick.  From my side of the bus, I was now able to get a picture of the highest spot on the Shetlands (according to Google this would be Ronas Hill) – this is a magna cone from a long extinct volcano.  The winds and weather have eroded the surface leaving only the hard magna. 

20140708_magna cone tallest mtn (Small) 

Magna Cone – Volcano

The Shetlands also farm mussels – mussel farms consist of buoys with attached ropes.  The mussels will attach to the ropes and when they are mature, the ropes are reeled in and the mussels removed.  The farms look like a flock of birds sitting in the lochs.

20140708_mussel farm (Small) 

20140708_mussel farm 1 (Small) 

Two above:  Mussel Farms

On our way back to the ship, we passed by the a golf course that was built by the oil companies for the enjoyment of the locals.  It was a nice course, a links course with no “link” to the sea.

20140708_ Shetland GC 1 (Small)

20140708_Shetland GC (Small)

Shetland Golf Course

After returning to the ship from this terrific tour, we had a nice relaxing dinner in the Panorama Buffet. 

Tonight’s headliner is Caroline Dennis, a pianist-vocalist from the UK.  She is very perky and a terrific pianist but I actually liked her vocals better.  I get a Petula Clark vibe from her for some reason.

20140708_Carolyn Dennis (small) 1

Caroline Dennis

Seas are smooth.

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