The further north you go, the icier the island. I did not want to believe it, but, I left home in a glorious sun. By the time I reached my friend’s crofthouse on the eastern headland, the sun had already vanished. Cold rain was threatening as we picked up A at her home at the T-junction… Heavens began to darken and by the time we travelled along da Lang Kames – this corridor of gales fashioned by the last great ice age, which ridges (the very meaning of “kames”) are eroded by the long labour of the elements – trillions of snowflakes wandered as free as poltergeists… Surreal, we thought, and then we retracted the very thought, since we all knew spring on the island feels and behaves as wild as it wants. Yesterday was a classic example. Today confirmed how volatile the sky can turn.
|Ronas Hill, on approach to Urafirth|
Eshaness, the edge of the (dormant) super volcano, was to be our destination. On our way there, blotches of snow littered the vast peatlands from Brae to Urafirth. Ronas appeared a gignatic whale before our eyes. The rounded giant took my heart back to Glen Etive for a second, as we stopped the car for a moment. The road twists and turns so frequently it does only leaves one speed choice to any driver. The many lochans, on each side of the single track road, were scanned with care, although I did not expect to discover a lone rain goose (red-throated diver) so early in the season. As lunchtime loomed on the horizon, we relished the idea of a nice hot plate at Breiwick en route to the edge of our world, only to find the café closed on arrival… The view onto the Drongs, or Dragon’s teeth, leave an iconic memory in your heart. Surprised though undefeated, we turned round and drove southbound, as unknown to me till we reached Tangwick, P had to deliver a fire extinguisher to a friend of her’s. Lunch would wait a little longer, as P proposed we take a loop to Haylor, on the shores of one of the most impressive mini-fjords, Ronas Voe.
And the magic began again.
I love that road in any season. Lushness of summer, bleakness, eeriness of winter, though majestic at all times. The old fisherman’s booth by the pinkish beach remains a magnet to any visitor,. I call it a gem well hidden inside the treasure chest. By that time, cold rain overrode wet snow showers and we pushed it to the very shore. Closer to the old bod and boat. P once parked her caravan just by the beach in some past summer. I guessed the place would always turn very popular due to its sheer beauty. The old stony pier caught my eye. So many fishermen must have landed on the shores of this deep voe to download their cargo of herring and other fruits from the North Atlantic. Tens, if not hundreds of hands must have toiled to gut and pack the very fish into barrels filled with flesh and salt… The local folk from the parish must have traded wool, knitted socks, shawls, hats and gansies (jumpers) for basic commodities (bread, butter or alcohol – if not anything slightly illegal!) Today, the stones remain silent and mussel farming has changed the face of the long & narrow inlet of water.
And where did we have lunch, you may wonder? Well, we ended up inside the warmth and comfort of The Mid Brae Inn in the settlement of Brae. Although we arrived late, we were not refused a table and delicious food. Highly recommended to anyone eager to explore the northern parts of the island, together with Frankie’s Fish & Chips, Busta House and The St Magnus Bay Hotel in Hillswick, should you be unfortunate enough to find the Breiwick Café “closed”.