We began today’s hike with a stroll along a stony beach where we came across a dead seal. It had been preserved by the sun, it’s skin pulled tight and leathery, similar to the ancient Egyptians, with an awkward set of teeth protruded out like Austin Powers. Like almost every hike we’ve done in Shetland we were the only people around. I can imagine some people finding that a little daunting if anything goes wrong but we just love it. We ended up asking one another what we would do if the other person cut their leg on barbed wire…on a main artery. It was at this point that I thought maybe having other people on the hike wasn’t such a bad thing after all, because Craig said he would firstly wrap fabric tightly above the cut, while I said it was better to put fabric and pressure on the actual cut. Anyway, we had a long debate about who was right and how fucked we’d be if anything like that happened and how we wouldn’t even be able to call for help as there’s rarely any signal here.
Our mindless conversation came to a halt when we discovered a Shetland pony had gotten it’s leg stuck in a fallen fence. It was made up of metal wire squares and the poor thing was stuck in one of the squares. I tried to distract the horse from the front while Craig carefully pulled the fence down to release his hoof. He seemed rather unappreciative and just walked away from us when he was free, I expected at least a look of acknowledgement, a wink, bow of the head of a single tear to drip down his face, but we got nothing. I wonder how long he’d been stuck there for. Craig went about fixing the fence so it didn’t happen again. He asked me to hold a wooden post in place while he walloped a slab of wood down to hammer it into the ground and I quit after the first strike down, realising how dangerous it was if he accidentally missed the pole and hit my wrist. Then we got talking about how we’d deal with that medical situation, if he accidentally broke my arm… I wonder if all couples have these bizarre conversations on hikes?
The scenery was really spectacular, little fingers of land jutted out into the sea, one after the other, with steep cliffs and grassy tops, it looked more like the Faroe Islands than Scotland. We ended up staring down at a beach way below us which was home to a small group of seals. They were lounging on the gravelly shoreline, quite close to the sea but the ground must’ve been ever so slightly raised because every time a wave came in the water would wash up the coast and almost wrap itself around the seals but without actually touching them. The next beach along was quite a sight, it was a long bay with gigantic cliffs rising up from it.
Craig was walking ahead of me and I found it even more impressive seeing how tiny he looked compared to the steep cliffs. The water was an incredible blue colour, like the ink from a fountain pen had leaked into the sea and a splash of milk had been added – a magical blue colour. It was one of my favourite sights in Shetland actually.
On our walk back Craig spotted a bizarre scene out at sea, it was a strange cluster of clouds. We soon realised it was in fact clouds wrapped around Foula Island which is quite far away. It looked so mystical. We spoke to a local about Foula island and he said it’s where all of the scrap cars go, he also said it’s a bit like the League of Gentleman over there and apparently the locals stay up really late at night and wake up really late too.
We couldn’t find a flat spot to camp in the area so we drove to a small village by the sea. There was a little car park and toilet block on the waterfront so we pitched up there for the night. The scenery was quite impressive as a layer of tubular shaped cloud rested atop the inland hills. For the first time in about three weeks the sun was out which meant we had a chance at seeing a sunset. The big cloud started to turn a beautiful pastel pink colour and then we ran off, across the headland to a spot of land facing west. The clouds didn’t turn a crazy colour but it was so lovely to watch the fiery sun dip below the horizon again.
The following day we attempted a walk along the beach and up some cliffs. It was a very stressful walk. The beach was being guarded by the very protective arctic terns who swooped and squawked at us, then the cliffs had the fulmars in charge who were diving towards us in a rather intimidating manner. I was waving some dried seaweed above my head to try and keep the damn things from pecking me. So we cut the walk short and headed up a random road to another beach. I started making lunch but within a few minutes Craig had spotted an otter.
We wasted no time and ran out with our camera gear. We had to stay hidden from the otter so we headed around the grassy banks of the beach until we were closer to his area. We were a few meters above the sea on a sort of cliff so while he was diving down we used that time to scurry along the rocks and get lower. We couldn’t of picked a better spot as the otter swam right to shore with a huge catch in its mouth. I think it was a butterfish which look more like a long eel than a fish and this one was at least a foot long. The otter had it grasped in its mouth and the fish was so long that it was wrapped around the otters head like a fancy scarf. He looked right up at us but I don’t think he realised we were humans as the wind was in our favour. So he was able to relax and eat his meal – while it was still very much alive and wriggling in his mouth. It was really interesting watching the otter grasp onto the fish with his adorable little paws which are webbed for speedy swimming.
Gradually blood and guts started dripping down his paws and within a few minutes the fish was demolished, bones n all. We’d been keeping dead still this whole time but he was still curious about these two new things on the cliff so after eating he tried to suss us out again. He pulled some funny faces after his meal, licking his lips and yawning which revealed the skin of the fish still wrapped around his teeth.
The sweet little otter had a little swim and rested on a pile of seaweed where he tried to get comfortable for a nap. Sadly a car pulled up and as soon as he heard the people speaking he was off so we called it a day and left him be. It was by far our best otter encounter so far though!
There was one more hike I wanted to do in this northern region and that was along the cliffs from Silwick. We had to pass through some farming land before we reached the coast which was a little daunting after seeing a sign warning us of a Bull in the field. Once we avoided that obstacle we arrived at an incredible sight. Red cliffs dropped down to a hidden little beach and pyramid shaped rocks shot out the sea. It was quite a jaw dropping sight actually.
The coastline continued to wow us with more red cliffs and rock formations. There were arches carved through the rocky walls from erosion and kayakers had fun paddling through them. I don’t know what I expected Shetland to look like but the hikes we’ve done recently have really impressed us, and that’s saying something as we’re hard to please after seeing so many beautiful sights around the world.