I sat up in my little hollow in the middle of the moors looking out to sea over the tops and could have been content to stay quite a while longer, but I had been looking on the internet via the incredibly good signal up here, and the museum at Lerwick was open on a Sunday. Admission was free and they had a restaurant as well. Thinking that Sunday would be a nice quiet day for driving Thebus round what is the capital city of Sheltand I checked the ferry timetables and there was a sailing at 12.15 which would be perfect so I tootled back down to the harbour. The seals were still basking on their seaweed covered spit and the ashes of the Viking boat were all that remained of the Up Helly Aa
The ferries are incredibly quick and very efficiently organised and certainly affordable for anyone wanting to tour as many of the Shetland islands as possible, though it might be a drain on the purse should you live on one island and wish to work on another. There was talk of putting a bridge over to Bressay, but apparently the best place to site it would make difficulties for the big international sea going vessels so it is all on hold. Selfishly I can't help thinking that Bressay might be better without it, but I was just a visitor so have no idea of the complexities of the the thing.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and probably should have made the effort to visit the lighthouse and the old fishing factory. Perhaps on the way back? We were first onto the ferry for the return journey. You only pay once on the outward bound from the mainland, and in just a few minutes we were back across. I had done the google earth thing which showed some vacant land not far from the museum which would have been fine to park Thebus; either I missed it, or it has been developed but as it was a Sunday all the office carparks nearby were empty so I cheekily parked up in one of those and made my way past the splendid new Arts Centre to the Museum, which has a most lovely setting looking out over the harbour.
As it was a longer walk than I had imagined I decided to visit the restaurant for at least a sit down and a cup of tea before tackling the museum. It was all very well arranged and new, with a good lift to the second floor restaurant – the full length glass windows giving wonderful views and the wide balcony would probably have more tables for eating and sitting outside in the better weather
There were specials on the blackboard, but I know Scotland is famed for its fish and chips and in the entire time I have been up here I have not had any. Haddock and Chips was on the menu for just over ten pounds so together with a bottle of Shetland brewed lager – 60 Degrees North - and a large jug of water that was my order. It was a very family friendly place with quite a few well behaved children, and mums and dads, as well as the artistic set from the next door Arts Centre reading books or earnestly discussing forthcoming productions.
When my plate arrived the piece of light golden, crispy batter encrusted haddock was nearly hanging over the edges of the plate. There was a lovely little side salad of crinkled red lettuce, finely sliced red onions, very sweet little tomatoes and some cucumber squares, with a perfect vinaigrette dressing, a large portion of home-made tartar sauce, and chips.
The chips were really good. Not like English chip-shop chips, nice and tasty but a bit soggy. And not like American and Continental chips, thin and crispy but with not enough chippiness. And not like the pretentious, chunky cut, triple fried chips, listed on expensive restaurant menus which appear on your plate arranged like a small pile of kindling, and never deliver on the promise. These were chips like I have never experienced chips before, and it wasn’t that I was extra hungry as I had eaten two of those nice soft baps with some fried bacon for breakfast.
And the fish........ just wonderful..... so fresh. Meltingly tender and with just the perfect hint of fishiness.
And the batter...... Now that was something else. I didn't know batter could taste so good. Or be so crisp and light. This was fish and chips fit for the Gods of Shetland, or of anywhere else come to that.
If it was nineteenth century Jewish refugees to London from the lowlands who first introduced fish and chips to the British menu, having combined their tradition of fried fish with the fried potatoes of their last home, then the Scottish have elevated it to perfection. If you travel to Shetland you MUST visit the museum. The museum itself is excellent, but the fish and chips are outstanding
The ladies on the reception were charming and helpful, one being resident of Bressay gave me a few insights into the Up Helly Aa tradition. Apparently Bressay is one of the smallest and most informal of the Up Helly Aa's, but it is certainly worth the effort of visiting if you decide to try for a viewing of the Northern Lights.
There were lots of leaflets for the various isles, so I went off clutching a handful. I had really wanted to buy a nice knitted hat, but of course all the shops were closed being Sunday. In fact as I got out of Thebus on Bressay and took my first breath of outside Shetland air the thought that flashed across my mind was – What I need is a nice warm hat!
Lerwick Harbour from Lerwick Museum Forecourt
View of Lerwick Harbour from Museum Restuarant