Wednesday, March 18, 2020

June 28. 2019 – Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland – Gray and cold – 50s

Note.  The Shetland Islands are part of Scotland and are made up of about 100 islands (about 20 are inhabited).  The islands are also sun challenged averaging only about 1100 hours of sunlight annually.  Lerwick is the capital of the Shetlands and is located on Mainland, the main island of the archipelago.  The population of Lerwick is about 7500 people.  There is one high school in the Shetlands and it is on Mainland.

A typically gray and cloudy day in the Shetland Islands.  We watched the sail in through our porthole.

The HAL Rotterdam is also here today, so the population of Lerwick has temporarily increased.

We were thrilled to both pick up tours today – I am going on “Jarlshof Ruins” and Ellen is on “Northernmost Scotland”.  I was assigned the latter but switched with Ellen because I had already done this tour the last time we were here.  I had an early breakfast because we are helping dispatch the morning tours, including our own.

Today, we also have to go through Immigration since we are entering the UK for the first time on this cruise and the UK will also be our final stop.  The plan was for non-touring passengers to come to the Cabaret Lounge at 10:15 AM to show UK Border Control their passports and then be able to go off the ship.  Of course, all the passengers started lining up right away causing congestion in the few passageways on the ship.  The passengers on tours were supposed to come and pick up their stickers, go to Immigration, and then wait in the Casino until their tour was called.  Ellen and I went first before any passengers so we could help in crowd control.  There is no stamping of passports due to a reciprocal agreement between the US and UK – a quick look at the passport and that was it.  We got an Immigration Cleared Card when finished.  I went to the Casino to meet my group, the first to disembark.  It was a little hectic but we made it to our bus and, although we had to leave two folks behind that didn’t show – we left almost on time.

Our guide is Lara and she is very good – funny, knowledgeable, and has an lovely Scottish accent that, for some reason, I can filter out so I can understand her.  The bus had a few empty seats – we had 38 folks on board – and I was able to get a nice seat all by myself in the back.  It was a cloudy day but the bus windows were clean and pictures from the bus did not have reflections.  Seatbelts are required in the UK and most passengers complied.

We drove through Lerwick and into “New Lerwick” (newer houses) using several roundabouts until we entered the country side.  The Shetlands are composed of rolling hills, ponies, sheep, and peat fields.  We had great views of some of the other islands, inhabited and uninhabited, in spite of the cloudy conditions.  The roads are very narrow and our big bus took up an entire road.  The residents have worked out the traffic issues.

Our first stop was the Hoswick Visitors Center

this was a short stop that included facilities and a gift shop – it also afforded an opportunity to get some good shots of the sea and countryside, including some panoramic shots that caught the big picture.

As we made our way to the next stop, Lara stopped the bus and pointed out a bunch of seals lounging on the beach on one of the mini-lochs.  I shot the pictures through the clean windows.

The focus of this tour is the Jarlshof Ruins

the remains of several living quarters spanning the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and the Viking Age.  They are closely spaced indicating that the earlier structures were left alone and new ones were built next to them.  All of them were constructed of stones, which are plentiful on the island, and are able to withstand the winds and rain (Lara told us that the Shetlands have recorded the highest wind speed in the world – at least 198 mph when the sensor blew away – storms here generate wind speeds of 120 mph).  The ruins are next to the Jarlshof Hotel, which provided facilities for passengers.  

As we walked through the ruins, we saw an example of a “Wheel House”, 

a “Broch”, 

A Broch is a mini-fort that provides protection for its inhabitants while also set up to store animals and food.  There are about 200 discovered Brochs in the Shetland Islands and more to be found.  

We also saw a "Viking Longhouse".

We spent about 40 minutes in the ruins (pictures below)

The above picture is an early dam.

as Lara described them in great detail.  People were really bundled up as the wind coming off the sea was nasty.

As we walked back to the Hotel, we came across a small herd of Shetland Ponies and no visit to these islands would be complete without some pictures of these amazing animals.

Our journey back to Lerwick would take almost an hour.  As we drove through the countryside, I was able to get some more pictures of the unique Shetland landscape.

The road back also crossed over the runway at Lerwick Airport.  We made sure there were no planes and then drove across.  The only other time I remember doing something like this was at Gibraltar.

Before we got to the ship, Lara pointed out the building that serves as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez’s Police Station on the hit series, “Shetland”.  

She told us that Series 4 and 5 have been filmed (we are on Series 3 in the US on Netflix) so we will be looking for that.  She also said that she is an extra in Series 4 and Brian the driver is in Series 5.  She also pointed out DI Perez’s house but I couldn’t get a shot of it.  She also pointed out that there are no murders on the islands.

I got back to the ship at 1:00 PM and Ellen got back around 2:30 PM.  I went to the Panorama Buffet to get a little something to eat – salad and pizza. 

Tonight, we had dinner in the Club Restaurant, primarily because they had gazpacho soup and that is my favorite soup.  I had it earlier in the cruise at lunch in the Dining room.  I had a large Cesar Salad and two bowls of gazpacho.  Perfect.  I also tried the pan fried Tilapia, which was also good.  No dessert tonight.

We caught some of the show tonight, which featured local talent, the Cruisetones.  The turnout was very good and the group did its usual song list of 60s and 70s tunes.

After the show, we went to the Pacific Lounge and caught the first set of the 2 Cool Duo.  I feel badly for them because tonight they only had four people present.  Maybe their second set is better attended.

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