Saturday, 17 January 2009


I've just finished reading (well, ogling) a Colin Baxter picture book about Shetland, 'Land of the Ocean'. The seascapes are magnificent - you can almost taste the sea spray, feel the wind on your face. I'd love to now visit, for the first time, Foula and Fair Isle. Of the Shetland places I've been, Colin's pictures of Eshaness in particular grab me - it is one of the great beauty spots of Scotland, if little known.

The Drongs, seastacks south of Eshaness:

One winter I went to Eshaness and was struck by the great wild beauty of the coastline. Standing at the lighthouse, you look south to Dore Holm, and north to pounding rollers crashing against the low black cliff. Inland, the sea has created a vent hole in the brown moor, although it was not stormy enough to come crashing out the top of the hole. A short distance offshore lay two small islets - the lower one swamped by every wave, the higher, splashed by every occasional wave. Curious as to how high the islands were - perhaps I could gauge wave height by finding out - I consulted the map. The lower island was 27m high, the higher island 39m. The waves were over one hundred and twenty feet high! Nervously, I checked the height of the lighthouse - 50m above sea level. I backed away from the edge.

Wee bit of weather at Eshaness lighthouse:

We had booked a flight back to Glasgow from Sumburgh a couple of days later but it was too windy for the plane to land, and so found ourselves shunted on to the next boat back to Aberdeen instead. This was a large new ferry, the Hjaltland, with impressive seagoing characteristics - it barely rolled in the heavy seas. In the bar I got chatting to a Norwegian.

"The weather must be even worse in Norway," I said, thinking of its northern latitudes.

"You must be joking." he replied, an Oslo urbanite. "This is the middle of the ocean!"

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