Posted by Andy Waddington on 2021-08-08

There have been various SOC trips to Shetland and Orkney, and at least one planned which fizzled out through not quite enough people. That one was a great pity as the week we had pencilled in proved to be brilliant weather and was the week Sean Morley passed round Muckle Flugga on his solo circumnavigation of Britain and Ireland, so he would have overtaken us...

In 2009, we visited with Glenmore Lodge, doing day trips from a hostel base (with restaurant meals every night) which was certainly better than camping, given that we had strong winds and swell every day. This way of organising a trip - from a central base with trips out to visit the coastal highlights - not only ensures that sheltered water can be found in almost any weather, but also makes it easy in better weather to visit all the different highlights such as Papa Stour, Muckle Flugga and various spectacular stacks, skerries and caves.

The stacks and caves on the east of Yell - Horse of Burravoe

We were hoping to organise a trip of this nature in summer 2011, but another alpine river trip usurped that slot, and it took until 2018 to get organised for another trip (this one mainly because we were too slow off the mark to book another St. Kilda trip). September is supposed to have a better chance of good weather than August (2009 being a case when this statistic had poor predicitive value!), but earlier in summer is probably better again, and with some very long daylight hours too - the 2018 trip was near midsummer, but although there was some great paddling, there were days when we stayed off the water. An attempt for 2021 was looking good, despite the pandemic, but fell victim to a case of inadequate cat-herding skills and a bit of reluctance to take enough cars on the (admittedly expensive) crossing from Aberdeen. The Voxter Centre, which we've used twice, is a bit big and is only economic with ten people or more. We're now thinking of a somewhat smaller group in a smaller holiday let for 2022 (or so...) Let us know if you are interested. Shetland is fairly serious, so we'd prefer to paddle with people we know well - preferably all SOC members.

Esha Ness looks a fantastic coast to paddle - but preferably without the four metre swell...

The most convenient way to get there (and back) is by overnight ferry from Aberdeen, although it is possible to island hop via a short ferry to Orkney and then the big ferry across to Shetland, if you want to do the extra driving to visit other places en route. If you are happy carrying your boat onto the Shetland ferry, it's possible to paddle the exciting Pentland Firth to Orkney, but there is always the risk that you fail to get to Orkney if the weather is bad, the short ferry is full, and you would lose your booking on the Shetland ferry, so a couple of days in Orkney for insurance might be a good plan.

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