The Northlink Ferry ride from Lerwick to Kirkwall was much shorter (5 hrs) than the overnighter (12 1/2 hours) from Aberdeen to Lerwick, however since the boat ploughs through a considerable portion of the confluence of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, it is quite rough. Even though no alcohol is consumed by our party, we staggered like drunken sailors down the aisles to the restaurant, holding on to handrails and posts – as did most everyone else. Well, those who weren’t already well into their drinks or sick. The boys were quite queasy and unable to eat supper – thankfully, they did not throw up! But like many of the passengers, sat quietly in their seats and hoped it didn’t get worse. Which it didn’t. The rough ride only lasted about two hours, then it was smooth sailing again. Then they were hungry – but the diner was closed by now. We had snacks. With such late arrival and our accommodation some distance from the docks, I was concerned about how we were going to get there, so I had e-mailed a local taxi company, Craigies and they assured me that taxis are there, which was confirmed by the helpful lady at the Northlink Ferry desk when we picked up our boarding passes in Lerwick. But above that, Craigies had a sign with my name on it – the driver was waiting for us at the docks! What a delightful young man was our driver and though he’d never been to Woodwick Mill in Evie before, he found it straightaway. Though our host did not meet us, he had already given us clear instructions and had the light on for easy access at what we discovered inside is a superior, well-fitted 2 bedroom apartment and next morning we stepped outside to jaw dropping views! Orkney Island here we come!
A slow but sure travel to Lerwick, Shetland Islands results in our being exhausted upon arrival. The adventure begins with our departure from Edinburgh Waverly Station with a 2 1/2 hour train ride along the lovely east coast of Scotland from Edinburgh to Aberdeen on East West Rail followed by a 3 hour layover before our ship launched. Except for the Aberdeen Maritime Museum a short walk from the docks, there is NOTHING to do in Aberdeen on such short layover.
Back to the docks to board our Northlink Ferry and if I ever travel by overnight ferry again, purchasing a sleeping pod or bunk will surely be a good investment. Trying to save money, I opted for the reclining chair (think of the older width airline seats). Thankfully, the 12 1/2 hour voyage on the North Sea didn’t include being confined to the seat nor was it crowded, but it was terribly cold. Experienced ferry travelers were bundled in their sleeping bags! Those of us who weren’t prepared covered ourselves with whatever clothes we could muster. I had included a wool scarf in my satchel which served as a blanket and Nathan loaned me his shirt. Once he got cold, he nicked Dallas’ long sleeve shirt so that he was left with his short sleeved shirt, but he’s always been able to tolerate the cold quite well. He ended up on a lounge bench with a seat cushion over his head to drown out the snoring. I stayed in my seat and was entertained by stereo snoring by a bloke in front and the one to the side. Other people laid on the floor covered up with seat cushions for warmth. Not a good experience, however, it was FAR less expensive than flying. We arrived at 7:30am in Lerwick.
We picked up our rental car from Bolts Car Hire and headed to a grocery store for supplies before making the 20 minute drive to our guest house, Melstadr in Levenwick. Just a step around the wraparound porch yields this stunning view!
After the boys took long naps, we headed over to St. Ninian’s Isle and thus begins our Shetland Island Experience!
Once we dragged our lazy hineys out of bed about 11 am, Dallas and Nathan prepared a delicious breakfast of eggs from free range Scottish hens, sliced baguette, oat biscuit, toasted haggis, and tea.
We started the day with a jaunt to Waverly Railway station to enquire about a rail and sail ticket from Edinburgh to Lerwick, Shetland. Although, she was unable to book that route (apparently it’s new, the agent didn’t know about it), her advice helped us come back to our rooms and map out more of our trip. Since learning from Allen’s cousin that some of my husband’s family (6th great grandfather) lived in or around Thurso, we are trying to incorporate that into our plans. SInce a lot of the travel will require the use of the Northlink Ferries – it will depend a lot on the weather.
Quickly, I booked cheaper online tickets to Edinburgh Dungeon to catch the last tour of the day and we quickly descended the steep steps through Warriston’s Close– a short cut from the Royal Mile to the show. Unfortunately, the dungeon tour was disappointing and a waste of funds.
When we stepped out of the dungeon the sun was shining and the sky a patchy blue! Hooray. Perfect weather. We had more daylight, so we found the National Museum of Scotland and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Not surprisingly, both were closed, although the Kirkyard was open to strolling about. We’ll go back tomorrow.
On the way back, we enjoyed street performances and took more photos. Nathan returned to the room to start supper from our leftovers whilst Dallas and I went to the grocer for more food. With deepening shadows and a bit of nip in the air, the streets grew quieter as locals and tourists alike began to either go home or gather in the many cafes and pubs lining the Royal Mile and side streets of Old Town.