Inverness to Fair Isle 2009

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After the partying died down in Inverness, Doug Bruce, a Canadian friend, joined us for a couple of days.

Our plan was to head up the Scottish coast to the Shetland Islands, then across to Norway.

We bought a huge load of groceries, to avoid the notoriously high prices in Norway, and motored up to Cromarty in drizzle.  It was a pleasant village for an overnight stop.

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We took a day touring by car, and visited the Culloden battlefield, where Bonnie Prince Charlie's bid for the British throne ended in 1745, and his army was slaughtered.  The memorial is a sad scene, but with an excellent historical tour.

There is a stone marking the approximate area where each clan fell.

After the battle, the Hanoverian King George implemented brutal measures to stamp out the Scottish Highland culture, and installed garrisons all over the North and West to suppress any further rebellion. 

Fort George, near Culloden, was designed to control access to the Inverness area, which was choice spot for reinforcements from France to arrive.

Helmsdale is a pleasant village, although the water in the dock is much shallower than advertised.  We were sitting on the bottom in the morning, and had to wait a couple of hours to leave.  The boys wanted a photo to show that they  know how to wash the dishes
From Helmsdale we had a good overnight sail to Fair Isle, which lies halfway between the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

There are no trees on Fair Isle, and the grass is quite closely cropped by sheep, so it looks a bit like a giant golf course.

The harbour, built for the ferry that services the island, provides excellent shelter, from the ever present Atlantic swell.


We had a good evening with Brian and Maggie who arrived alongside.

Darkness does not come until about August. The cockpit photo was taken about 10 PM, and the view of the boats at midnight.

Puffins abound on Fair Isle.

They nest in burrows that look like rabbit holes, and disappeared down them whenever we approached within about 6 feet.

Sheep Rock, behind the puffins, disappearing into the clouds, is part of Fair Isle.  In the past, crofters hauled sheep up the cliffs to pasture for the summer.

There used to be about 250 Islanders, but today, the 70 or so islanders live from crofting, managing a bird sanctuary and a few tourists.

Some of the famous Fair Isle sweaters are still made there, but the formerly active  hand-knitting craft/industry is not competitive today.

       After Fair Isle, we had a good sail in sunshine to the Shetland Islands

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