Culloden Moor & More!

Arriving by divine providence and safety from the train depot in Inverness to our Open Views guest house is definitely a miracle.  It all seems a blur to me now and I still have to get back to the depot somehow on the 5th!  Nevertheless, we were not meeting our host until 4:30, so we went back to the Culloden Moor Battlefield site.  We had visited this three years ago, but when we were on a tour bus and it arrived too late for us to enjoy the new visitor centre which gave a lot more information regarding the slaughter of so many Highlanders during this botched campaign.

We met our Open Views host and were settled in shortly, then drove her back to Tesco, where we did a bit of shopping and she caught the bus home.  Back to the house, fixed supper, and settled in for the evening.

Wednesday, we took a long drive about.  Visiting Forres, home of the Falconer Museum,  a tribute to Hugh Falconer.

Falconer Museum, Forres, Moray October 1, 2015
Falconer Museum, Forres, Moray
October 1, 2015

No relation to me, but I had to have a photo in front of museum carrying my maiden name!

Then around and through the country to drive through Dallas, Moray, Scotland.

Dallas in Dallas, Moray October 1, 2014
Dallas in Dallas, Moray October 1, 2014

Beautiful country of course, through and around back to Inverness and our home.

Thursday, we had a blast with tree hiking at the RothemurchusTreezone and quad bike trekking on Rothiemurchus Estates in Aviemore.  No photos of the tree hiking because the boys made me carry the camera and, of course, i was way behind, they left me in the dust!  Yes, they managed the entire course nicely, BUT, I, too  made it through both courses and never slipped off any obstacles.  Okay, now two days later, I’m still sore!  But, it was fun – I’d do that again.  The quad trekking was well done with an engaging and friendly guide, but it was not what I expected.  I had hoped for a tour of the farm, etc, but instead we just sped along the streams and track as one would do if they were just riding four-wheelers for fun.  We had beautiful weather for this outing.

Nathan on the Quad at Rothiemurchus
Nathan on the Quad at Rothiemurchus

Afterwards, we took the time to drive as far as we could to the top of the Cairngorm Mountain range.

Toyoto Argo at the top of the Cairngorm Mountains October 1, 2014
Toyoto Argo at the top of the Cairngorm Mountains October 1, 2014

We purchased enough food at the Rothiemurchus Farm Store to cover our meals for the remainder of our stay.  The beef was from grass-finished Scottish Highland cattle raised on the estates as well as the venison.  Other items were produced by local families.  All very good.  More expensive for sure than Tesco or the Co-op, but I like to support local community efforts when I can.  I’m going to admit it – I like haggis!

Friday and Saturday, we pretty much rested in our guest home.  I was pretty sore through my chest, arms, and shoulders even into Saturday!  We took a few short exploratory walks around the area, but pretty much lazed about.  We did go to the petrol station and fuel up so i wouldn’t have to worry with it on our departure Sunday morning.  Also,  tried with no success in finding accommodation for the remainder of our trip.   Even this time of year, some areas of Scotland are packed!

Clava Cairns, Culloden 2 Oct 14
Clava Cairns, Culloden 2 Oct 14

We set off early enough Sunday morning to catch our 9:59 am train to Aberdeen.  The boys are usually frustrated with me because I tend to arrive early and then we wait – in this case, nearly an hour, however,  stuff happens to cause delays, so I’d rather have a cushion of time before scheduled departures.  There was very little traffic this Sunday morning, so we drove straight on in with no mishap this time.  We took photos of the car, locked it, and threw the keys in the boot and off we went.  No problem collecting our rail boarding passes at the kiosk and the train was spot on time for Aberdeen.

Shabbat Shalom (High Sabbath for Sukkot)

Whether you began Sukkot yesterday evening or this evening, whether you follow one of the Jewish calendars, or set your calendar by the siting of the moon, we all are seeking to honor and worship our Heavenly Father on His set-apart, holy days – His Feasts, seasons,  – His moadim.  As the fullness of time continues, perhaps the knowledge will be so that we all celebrate together.  However, when the King of Kings returns to set up His Kingdom,  we will be of one accord in singing the praises of the one true YHWH on His Appointed times.  Praise Yah, the Messiah and Redeemer, Who takes away the sin of the world.

The Lawless Pharisees  by 119 Ministries

Dreading this last week – at first

Well, to put it into perspective, there are people suffering far worse than me, but it was annoying to have a car reserved and paid for, but after being shuttled from the rail station to Arnold Clark car hire in Aberdeen, my cc won’t go through! What?! I couldn’t get on the internet anywhere except about a mile (2 miles on the sidewalk packing our luggage!) to a mall for free wi-fi. I contacted the lady at the Arnold Clark main headquarters and she got through to the branch and worked it out! So instead of driving away about 1pm – we left about 3:30p! With Nathan‘s navigating, we manoeuvered the multiple roundabouts and managed to stay on the A96 to Inverurie. Found a couple of sites (standing stones) there before needing to head to our hotel in Monymusk. Nine miles and 20 minutes later, we pulled up to a lovely place, Grant Arms Hotel – the receptionist didn’t have our reservation, (she found it later), but put us into a nice room and asked if we would like reservations for supper. Absolutely! and thank you! we hadn’t had anything to eat except for a shared small bag of chips since 5pm the night before. Not like we were going to starve of course, but some of us get grumpy with no food or water for 24 hours. Come to find out, we are the only guests at the hotel tonight! Supper and service were superb and dining room was packed! Little wonder!  Pretty much raining all day.  

Grand Arms Hotel in Monymusk
Grand Arms Hotel in Monymusk

Okay, we are in trouble – my Visa has suddenly stopped working all together – we will run out of cash. Now I understand why people carry more than one credit card!  Have never had this problem before.  After discovering that the post office in Monymusk couldn’t exchange my US dollars for Stirling, Nathan and I drove back to Kenmay and exchanged enough to pay for our meal and hotel charges at Grant Arms Hotel as well as for the next night if need be.  Then it was past time to leave.

Well, we are all good again by Monday afternoon, Jim McIntyre at the Bank of Brookfield-Purdin, transferred money out of our bank account to pay my VISA card so we don’t have to sleep in the car for the remainder of the trip!  My bad, for not increasing the limit for this trip – didn’t even think about it since usually I have most of it all paid before we leave home.  We are traveling more by the seat of our pants this time.  We feel much better now – stress was horrible for these past two days.  Thought we might have to start cleaning rooms and washing dishes!  This week is going much better now!  The people at Grant Arms were very understanding and supportive.

Battle of Harlaw war memorial built in 1911 - 500 years after the battle.
Battle of Harlaw war memorial built in 1911 – 500 years after the battle.

Even though it is pouring down rain this morning (6th) , but we were determined to find the monument and battlefield of the Battle of Harlaw.  The monument was built in 1911 – 500 years after the battle and is located north a bit of Inverurie, so we did some back tracking to get there.  The plan, of course, was to do this yesterday, but with all the delays, it just didn’t happen.

Rain was blowing sideways with gusts up to 60 mph – All these side roadways are very narrow and winding.  Plan on taking an hour to drive 30 miles.  Stunning drive from Inverurie to Braemar (again passing Monymusk)
So, on our stop at one of the parking places (i was just going to let cars behind me pass) it happened to be a VisitScotland info stop and we found out that the Queen is leaving her Scottish home at Balmoral tomorrow morning and that from 3p-7p, the road will be opened up to visit the grounds for that day only, then the bridge will be closed for repairs at until April.  We may go back up the road to do that tomorrow.

We are staying in a run-down hotel tonight, the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar – one can easily see that it was quite grand in its day.  Rich woodwork, ornate pillars, roaring fire in the huge fireplace in the expansive, coffered ceiling lobby.  But the rich carpets are threadbare and paint is chipping in rooms and hallways.  The bedrooms’ floors tilt hideously and the room furnishings would make a good bonfire.  However, there is a tour group which just arrived – about 45 or 50  of them – they are all in the dining chatting and having a grand time.  We just grabbed some stuff from the Co-op right next door and ate in our room.  Tonight, there is supposed to be singing entertainment of Gaelic and Scottish songs in the lobby which we can attend.  Probably set up for the tour group, but guess it’s open to all.  Looking forward to that.

River Dee boiling after all the rain and flooding - near the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar
River Dee boiling after all the rain and flooding – near the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar
Well, i didn’t sleep much at all last night, so getting pretty tired.  and i need to go back upstairs to plug in the computer – Wi-Fi only in the lobby here.
It absolutely poured all day yesterday and last night and we woke to a steady downpour.  There is flooding across a good bit of the country – especially where we are.  So what did we do?  We went back to the turnoff for Balmoral Castle and crossed over the highway to tour the Crathie Kirk built in 1895, then we drove to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery for a tour.   At long last it was 3 pm and we were able to get onto the grounds of Balmoral.  Nathan purchased a Harris Tweed billfold.  The old leather one he was using was in danger of allowing money to escape by accident!  Everything in the gift shop was 25% off, that was the purpose of opening the grounds today – reduce inventory – because the Balmoral bridge to get to the castle will be closed from now until April sometime.

The Queen left in the morning and the gift shop was open with deep discounts – the attendant said that technically there was no one to stop us walking round the castle, so we did, as did a few other folks. Today, the bridge to the grounds and castle is closed for repairs until April. Just a fluke that we happened to be here at this time. We think we saw the Queen leave – very low key – but one group of school children waved flags as the vehicles drove by – we didn’t actually see her, however.

  We walked around the grounds and castle, then headed this way.  The rain had stopped even before we left the castle, so the only stress of driving was the amount of water standing on the road!  Not to mention, the narrow, winding, and in some cases wavy pavement.  I met two huge trucks (like semis) on these roads and, honestly, it’s just too narrow, but we made it by despite they being at least a foot into my lane.  They couldn’t be over their side anymore or they’d be in the ditch or scraping the rock walls.
Our accommodation tonite in Forfar – the Zoar Guest House leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s clean, so we are alright with it.  Tough to find two nights accommodation here at least on short notice- there really is not enough good accommodation.
Sun is supposed to shine tomorrow and the 10th.  Hope so!

Scrabster-Thurso-Inverness

We arrived just before dark into Scrabster.  It felt like we had dragged our luggage a half a mile from the ship to the terminal – it honestly would be pretty close to that!  We called a cab and he took us to the Station Hotel located quite near the train station in Thurso.  Our young driver was very anxious to get out of such a small town and off to uni at Inverness to study to become a minister.

Other than the Castle of Mey and Dunnet Head, we found little else to do in this area.  Since no cars were available to hire, we struck out for the info store and museum.  The girl there was very helpful and gave us a bus timetable and told us how to navigate our way to the above mentioned venues.  Since we had gotten up late and a slow start – time was precious.  But with taking the bus, this meant a LOT of walking and quickly, too.

Our first stop out of Thurso was the Castle of Mey – our driver drove right on past the drop off, but as soon as he did, i asked him if that was where we needed off.  He apologised profusely for forgetting – no worries, he let us off and we walked back only maybe 100 ft to the entrance to the castle.

Former home of the Queen Mother (the mother of the current queen).  Prince of Wales still comes to stay for a break end of August for a week or so.  This is a working farm with prize winning Aberdeen-Angus cattle raised.
Former home of the Queen Mother (the mother of the current queen). Prince of Wales still comes to stay for a break end of August for a week or so. This is a working farm with prize winning Aberdeen-Angus cattle raised.

However, we still had a half mile to go to the castle.  We only had time for the castle tour, then we had to jog back to the end of the driveway and hopefully flag down the bus.  Hooray, he stopped to pick us up, then another half hour to the Brough bus stop.  This was as close as the bus gets to Dunnet Head.  Just before arrival at Brough, we had to shut down the bus and wait for a herd of cows to move down and across the road.

Glad that I sat in the front seat of the bus to capture this shot.  There was only one other person on the bus, so we were up front chatting with the driver.
Glad that I sat in the front seat of the bus to capture this shot. There was only one other person on the bus, so we were up front chatting with the driver.

Now we hoof it uphill for the next three miles on asphalt road.  We only had two hours before the next bus back to town, so we did hurry; even took a ‘shortcut’ through the heather and grass.  Good experience in learning why that sort of land is unproductive – wow!  it is incredibly boggy with deep washouts under the native grasses.  At least where the heather is, it will support your weight.  Even a short distance (albeit a steep hill) through the bog and I was severely short of wind.

After that, we met a shepherd training both sheep and dog, moving them in a serpentine pattern down the hill. Finally, at the top, the views were fabulous.  Making the trek to Dunnet Head is well worth the effort, but i do not recommend walking unless you can do so at a more leisurely rate.  Better yet, get a car!

View from Dunnet Head - most northerly point of Great Britain (excepting islands).  Here looking at Orkney Island over the Pentland Firth.
View from Dunnet Head – most northerly point of Great Britain (excepting islands). Here looking at Orkney Island over the Pentland Firth.
View from Dunnet Head towards the southeast.
View from Dunnet Head towards the southeast.
Nathan Powell
Nathan Powell

The return was easier since we were going downhill but we were still glad to reach the bus stop to sit and rest.  After a bit, the bus went flying by!  Thankfully, my frantic waving and running after it, the driver finally stopped and we jogged a bit down the road to board.  Whew!  Another two hours before the next bus!  We chatted all the way back to Thurso with this driver.  He’d been driving this route for ten years and NEVER had anyone been waiting at that stop for pickup!  He thought, at first, that we were just being friendly with waving!  Our driver had moved to this area to drive a bus and build a farm ten years ago.  He was only going to drive for four months; he was a former lecturer of mechanical engineering at a University, then he tried teaching high school and it was too stressful.  Currently, he is planting 24,000 trees on his 100 acres and all the cattle and sheep are sold.  Once his trees are fenced, he plans to raise deer.

Being escorted by Cheviot and Cheviot cross ewes down the track from Dunnet Head.
Being escorted by Cheviot and Cheviot cross ewes down the track from Dunnet Head.
Resident shepherd, packing a ewe with a uterine prolapse.
Resident shepherd, packing a ewe with a uterine prolapse.

After drop off in Thurso, we stopped for local ice cream, then walked back to our hotel.  Dallas and I went to find the train station in preparation for tomorrow’s departure, then we walked to the Co-op and bought enough food for supper.

Next morning, we enjoy another lovely breakfast at the hotel – well Dallas didn’t, he had a headache and not feeling well.  He drank a lot of water, then went to rest a bit whilst Nathan and i finished brecky.  He was already feeling better when we returned – probably dehydrated.   Went to catch our train at the appointed time, albeit without boarding passes because the station doesn’t open for two hours after our departure and there are no self-ticketing kiosks.  About 20 of us waiting and the train never shows.  A girl called the Scotrail customer service and come to find out, the train driver just didn’t show up for work!  Scotrail sent a bus to pick us all up. RIding a bus on a train route is quite scenic and tests the skills of the driver to be sure.  We arrived about 30 minutes late to the train depot in Inverness.  Picked up our car, a Toyoto Aygo from Focus Rental and I promptly tried to kill ourselves by going up a highway exit ramp.  Okay, got out of that, move on, don’t screw up again!  Staying at Open Views guest house.

Sailing Island to Island

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!

Orkney Islands

This morning, our car hire fellow came and collected us to take us to Kirkwall, do the paperwork and off we go.  This is a klunky, expensive way for me to have planned this, however, I think in the long run, it will actually be less expensive since the hotels in Kirkwall are twice the cost as where we are staying.  Coming in at night and after car rental hours throws a wrench in the works.  So, why are we ferrying instead of flying?  For comparison:  Ferry from Lerwick to Kirwall:  £20.20 ($32.95) vs Air: £96,62 ($157.59).  Of course, the flight is much shorter in duration, but multiply that by three and the savings add up quickly!  Also, that is the cheap airfare and they don’t offer very many seats at that rate – you’d have to be very flexible in travel dates to get those, or just get lucky that they were available on the day you wanted to travel.

Despite a cloudy start to the morning, by 9am, the clouds had rolled away and the most stunning, sunshine broke out – honestly, it was as everything was glistening brilliant green and blue.  Orkney is clearly a more agriculturally based economy than Shetland.  The grasses here seem beautifully designed to finish cattle and indeed, we have seen far more cattle here than on Shetland.  And huge cattle they are!  Although these animals are, and I’m guessing here, are in the 1400-2000 lb range and the soil is moist and soggy, they are not wading in mud!  The grasses form a fabulous sod, but yet are succulent and rich.  I’m going to try and find out what they are using, but i fear they won’t be as useful in our area since we get so much hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.  But it is worth exploring.

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Before the afternoon is far gone, we drove to Liddle, South Ronaldsay to tour the Tomb of the Eagles.  This very informative neolithic tomb (see Dallas pulling himself out of the tomb) and Bronze age stone building were well worth the effort.  About a mile in pasture walk to and from the tomb with stunning views along the cliff overlooking the North Sea.

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We started Friday morning with comfy temperatures and brilliant sunshine, however, the wind was practically gale force at 37 mph with gusts over 60 mph!  If this was happening in north Missouri, we’d expect a storm in short order.  However, here it was sunshine, punctuated with short bursts of rain showers.  Except for our tour at Broch of Gurness, which the attendant closed right after we entered, all other outdoor venues were closed because of the dangerous wind.  We cut through to Dounby to a famous butcher shop, The Dounby Butcher, which we found has been recognised as one of the butchers in all of Great Britain, and, yes, she is a woman!  We visited with her dad at the shoppe; he was rightly  proud of her!  She did explain that the Aberdeen-Angus cattle they butcher are all grassfinished and the one she just did today weighed 320 kilos (704 lbs), in the meat.  She also revealed that most of the cattle are kept in the barn during the winter and fed silage since, although there isn’t any snow, it does rain a lot and the fields are too muddy for these heavy cattle.  Of course, then the manure must be cleaned out of the barns in the spring, then spread on the fields when ground conditions will allow.  Thanking her for her time in answering our questions, we then picked up some meat items and brought a scenic route back to our apartment and spent the day here.

Restless, I bundled up and went outside for short walks all afternoon and chanced a quick chat with the neighbor boy who had come out to collect hen eggs and feed them.  Here’s a quick shot out our door as the evening wore on – that’s our ride in the car park.

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Sun is shining and wind has laid quite a lot, so off we go to tick off all the activities we had planned for yesterday.  First up was Skara Brae, an excellent venue for getting inside one of the stone homes from the Bronze age.  It had been rebuilt, but was designed on an actual footprint of the real thing.  Toured other ruins of life in the old days – and, no, i don’t believe they were the ‘good ole’ days.’  Life was exceptionally hard.  Then the tour of the local laird’s and archaeologist’s home.  Much more plush .

After learning from the clerk at Skara Brae that at 3pm the tide would be low enough to allow access to Brough of Birnsay, we planned the rest of our day around that.  So it was off to the Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness, then the Maeshowe , and by 2:50 pm, we were hurrying back to Brough of Birsay.  Interestingly, there are so few tourists this time of year, it seems we are just following each other around!

Standing Stones of Stenness
Standing Stones of Stenness
Ring of Brodgar
Ring of Brodgar

The journey to and around Brough of Birsay was a wonderful way to finish a great day.  Walking across the ocean bottom at low tide was just the coolest thing to me, but I’m easily amused.  The ruins were of different ages and we walked around them some, but the best part was taking the seaside cliff walk around this small tidal island.

The rocks below define the ocean floor during low tide.  We crossed this area to get from the car park area to where are here.
The rocks below define the ocean floor during low tide. We crossed this area to get from the car park area to where are here.

Cooling off next day, with quite a lot of mist.  We headed east through Kirkwall to Mull Nature Reserve for a walkabout.  Muddy and wet, but nothing to be done for it.  After viewing the Gloup, we then hiked around Mull Head and carefully traversed the slippery, steep steps down to the sea, then up again to the  Brough of Deerness.  Unfortunately, this is the only way in and out, so i had to control my fear of heights once again to get back to the main island.

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It was time to find our way to Stromness for our ferry trip to Scrabster on the northern edge of mainland Scotland, with only a quick stop to top off the fuel tank in Kirkwall.  Despite the unfortunate loss of nearly an entire day of touring, we visited all the places we had planned for Orkney.  A beautiful island and friendly people – a jewel for Scotland.

We leave the car in the long term car park in Stromness – take photos of it, so the company will know that we didn’t leave any dings in it, lock it, toss the keys into the boot, shut it, stashed our luggage in the ferry office and went for a short walkabout of Stromness and enjoyed a nice late lunch/early supper at The Ferry Inn.  On the ship by 4 pm, departure scheduled for 4:30 pm and in only 1 1/2 hours we’ll be in Scrabster, then taxi to our hotel in Thurso only a mile away.

Northlink Ferries ship MV Hamnavoe
Northlink Ferries ship MV Hamnavoe

Shetland Islands 60 degrees North

The Shetland Islands  are a subarctic archipelago comprised of some 100 islands, of which only 16 are inhabited.  Sumburgh, at the very south tip has the main airport, and Lerwick, with the safe harbour and is the seat of Shetland Constituency of the Scottish Parliament, are both located on what is known as the Mainland.  The Mainland is 373 square miles, whilst the entire Shetland Islands is 567 square miles.  Animals associated with the Shetland Islands are the Shetland pony, Shetland sheep (for which I have a fondness since Jessica raised Shetland sheep for about six years before going off to uni), Shetland Sheep Dog, as well as pigs, geese, ducks, and chickens all having been naturally or purposefully selected for thousands of years to thrive in this rugged environment.  Norse and Scottish heritage blend seamlessly here and evidences of both are found in music, prose, and signage.  Fiddle playing is most associated with traditional Shetland music.  The average high in winter will be 45 and lows around 34F, whilst summers may top out about 62F and lows around 50.  Summer days are almost perpetual day, while the winter days are short indeed.  The wind blows about 12 miles per hour everyday with usually a bit of showers.  Average annual precipitation is 39 inches.

St, Ninian’s Isle is connected to the main Shetland Island by a tombolo, which is a narrow sand or gravel bar connecting two islands.  St. Ninian’s is named after a small chapel which was discovered on the island, but more famously, the location at which a 16-year-old schoolboy discovered treasure which professional archaelogists had overlooked for years!  A local farmer grazes his Shetland sheep on the island.  Sadly, the peace is disturbed by a couple of four wheelers racing up and down the tombolo.

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Driving a stick shift on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, on the ‘wrong’ side of the car on these lovely 2 lane paved roads (think oil money) wasn’t quite as daunting as expected, although driving in the city would be another thing altogether.  Although most of the roads are single paved tracks, there are several passing points alongside to allow approaching traffic to press by.  Keep to the left!

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Our first full day (Sunday) started with a quick trip to one of the finest, albeit small, beaches in the Shetland Islands and it’s right here in Levenwick!  Too cold for a dip and of course we were the only ones walking the sandy beach, but no doubt in warmer weather, this would be a popular spot to play in the quiet water.

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As we made our way up from the beach, I spotted a family gathered about some sheep in a holding yard.  I pulled over quickly and went to meet them.  They kindly answered my questions about sheep production in Shetland Islands.  We really had a good chat for about an hour!  They were expecting the truck soon to load the lambs to ship to Aberdeen for finishing.  Farming is fraught with the same obstacles as American farmers.  I tried asking a few sheep farmers what grazing land sold for but they didn’t know!  It simply is not for sale.  A small lot for building a home is about  £17,000 or $27,780.  Not really out of line for a lot with stunning views of the North Sea!

Later. in the early afternoon, we made our way to Sandsayre Pier at Sandwick to meet our Mousa Boat ride to Mousa Island at which we hiked around enjoying the scenery and wildlife, as well as the highlight, the Broch of Mousa.  This is the best preserved broch in all the world.  Brochs are unique to Scotland and it is still unclear as to the purpose.  It’s only about a mile across from the main island, but today it was cloudy, hazy, windy, and quite cool.  However, we all had layered up well, so we were not uncomfortable.  We enjoyed a chat with a few people in a group of Aussies from Sydney who were our boat mates.

Later tonight, I watched Downton Abbey, months before my American friends are able.  Unfortunately, I’ll only see 3 or 4 episodes before we head back to the States which means waiting until late January – early February before watching the last of the season!

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Next day, after a good rest, we headed south towards Sumburgh Head.  The drive down the main road was stunning as usual and, as we kept hearing, the weather is unusually nice for this time of year.  Shortly before arriving at Jarlshof, part of our drive included passing across the end of the Sumburgh Airport runway.  Definitely a first for me!

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‘Jarlshof; is a made up word for Facebook 01an area near the southern coast of the main Shetland Island which has been excavated to reveal several thousands of years of generations.  Very interesting for us history buffs.

Next stop was beyond the airport and to the very end of the island at Sumburgh Lighthouse and Hotel at Sumburgh Head.

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After a good climb up to Sumburgh Head and back down, we discovered Spiggie’s Bar restaurant located inside the Spiggie Hotel and Lodges at which, we not only had a scrumptious late lunch, but discovered that the young lady who rang up our bill had spent three months in RIchmond, Missouri as an exchange student way back in 1988!  What a small world we live in!  We had a fun visit and I think she enjoyed reminiscing about her time spent in the US.  The Spiggie restaurant uses fresh caught fish and hand cut fries along with local sourced veggies for the salads.  Beef and lamb are also from locally raised sources.

Spiggie Hotel (6)

A great place to walk off some of that huge meal was at the Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness.  This venue is another must do if you are ever in the Shetland Islands.  Free admission, though donations are accepted, this well maintained croft house, byre, shed, and water mill complete with stack of peat blocks stacked outside will make you truly appreciate our level of creature comforts.

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Except for stopping in at a local supermarket for evening snacks on the drive back to Melstadr in Levenwick, the croft house was our final venue for the day.

Tuesday is our last full day and a special stop for me was to find something lovely for Jessica which i would find at Shetland Jewellery in Weisdale.  However, first we drove up and over to Scalloway to tour the Scalloway castle and Scalloway Museum located next to one another with easy access and carpark.  Incredibly!  these venues didn’t open until 11am, so we walked down the main street and found the ‘places of interest,’ then with another half hour before opening, we opted to go sightseeing.  We headed up and around to the islands of East and West Burra which are accessed via Trondra and all connected by single lane bridges which we could drive over and wound our way to nearly the end of the islands.  Along the way, we pulled over for this picturesque landscape begging to be photographed.  Still photos sure don’t capture the breeze with bite, the warm sunshine, or the sound of crashing waves.

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As we came back towards Scalloway, we pulled in at a sign which advertised a working farm – Burland Croft Trail.  However, once we arrived, the lady landowner came over and said they really weren’t taking visitors anymore, the season was over.  Once i told her we were sheep and cattle farmers from Missouri and completely understood when she explained that they were busy with farm chores, she wouldn’t have it any other way than for us to take their tour on our own.  So we did, they have a lovely farm touching the Burland Sea Shore and across from the foundation of an ancient broch.  Afterwards, even her husband came over and we had a great chat about farming and all the challenges.  She apologised again for not being very good hosts as they were in the midst of sorting through and selecting replacement ewe lambs.  I assured her there was no reason for apology except from us for interrupting their work, but that we were mighty appreciative of the visit.  I think they enjoyed the exchange of ideas and the encouragement we received from one another.  Farming is often a thankless job and one with continual challenges.  We all agreed that if we wanted to be financially rich, we wouldn’t be farming.  But as she pointed out, there are many other ways to be rich – and so right she is!  We were meant to stop in here and meet Tommy and Mary Isbister.  This is a pasture walk – so wear appropriate footwear and enjoy Burland Croft Trail  – but it would be better for all to stop in during their regular tourist season!

Wednesday is our final day in Shetland.  Dallas and I walked to the local convenience store in Levenwick and I had only enough pounds to buy a couple Mars bars.  We ate a bit of one and saved some for Nathan who was cleaning up the room a bit.  Now with dishes done, towels piled up in the bathroom, luggage loaded, we headed out, only to get to the end of the drive and find road work being done.  However, the workmen finished in about 10 minutes.  We arrived plenty early in Lerwick to drop off the rental car, pick up our Northlink Ferry boarding passes, store our luggage, then off to town to find somewhere to get some cash which I would need to pay the taxi driver who would take us to our hotel in Orkney at 10:30 pm!  We did exchange some at the Lerwick Post Office on Commercial Street, then we spent an hour in the Shetland Museum.  It was time to head back to the docks and board.  Our ferry left spot on time at 5:30 pm with an early arrival time expected into Kirkwall, Orkney Islands of 10:30 rather than the 11:00 pm  stated time.  By the time our ship was moving past Sumbrough Head, it was dark enough that the lighthouse was already announcing the danger of its location.  Soon the Shetland Islands slipped out of sight and into our memories.

Faith, Family, Farm

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