There is a saying in Shetland that “West is Best” referring to the west side of the island and its sunnier weather than the east part of the mainland.
But the sun was not cooperating when we left Lerwick and headed for the west coast, which is about a 30 mile drive but took us over an hour because much of it is single lane roads with the occasional passing pullover.
Instead it was an extremely windy day, and we enjoyed the protection of the car as we drove through hills full of sheep and small villages with the occasional loch to one side or the other.
I directed us to the coastal town of Sandness where we found the trailhead to the Coastal Walk on the west coast and parked our car next to a croft, which is what we would call a sheep ranch with a historic home attached.
The trail started in a sheep pasture and we followed it along southwards taking the occasional photo of Papa Stour, the island where we would be staying that night.
D. was worried about the weather and whether the ferry would run because it was so windy. I had called that morning to check and they assured me it was going. We looked out to sea and could see whitecaps. It was unnerving to think about being on a boat in that but that was the plan.
We spent about 90 minutes exploring the cliffs and looking out to sea and then retraced our steps across the Croft and headed back east and north to catch the ferry at West Burrafirth.
The ferry pier was in a little cove with a small building that houses a small waiting room and toilet. To the side was an old telephone booth that nearly looked antique.
A few cars and a couple pulled up and we all waited as the ferry pulled up. There was room for only three cars and a small trailer which made me glad I made a reservation several months in advance. The small crew lashed down the cars to the deck with ropes, took our 13 pound fare, and took off toward the open sea with us hanging on to a few handholds in open air.
I briefly went into the passenger berth where other passengers were huddled but I couldn’t stand the up and down motion of the swells. When I got outside D. motioned me over to the side where he was facing around the boat looking at Papa Stour. While I watched a huge spray of ocean came up and over him and the cats and he turned and grinned at me.
I was hanging on in the back with another couple from Scalloway and joked with them, “some people do this for fun as a vacation!”
They were excited to go to Papa Stour as well and asked us with concern, “Did you bring food?” I nodded yes. We stocked up at the grocery store before leaving Lerwick. There are only 20 inhabitants on Papa Stour and no stores.
D. stood by the side the entire way, getting soaked by the waves and loving every minute of it. I was nervous but towards the end when I could see land felt pretty confident we would make it.
Fortunately, one of the passengers, an older man with a trailer full of straw turned out to be a neighbor of ours and showed us the way to the traditional Croft we were staying at. He even offered us a toilet paper roll. Which I could decline because we came prepared.
The Croft had a view of the ocean and was surrounded by sheep when we arrived. We parked in the pasture and brought in our stuff. I was thrilled. It was cozy, comfortable and rustic. It smelled exactly like the house we ranch sat in about 14 years ago when we were taking care of a sheep farm in Montana. All of the amenities we needed were in it and we soon got settled in and each took a nap.
When we woke D. convinced me to walk down to the Kirk Sands with him. Kirk means church and Sands means beach. There is a church above the beach.
As we were walking on the coast D. spotted 3 seals who were watching us and followed us the entire way. They are very curious creatures.
It was blowing hard and we found some driftwood on the beach that we brought back to the Croft to make a fire.
So while D. made a fire I whipped up a dinner of English baby potatoes, broccoli, rocket (arugula) salad, and Scottish salmon fried in butter and garlic. It was delightful.