Shetland. Sumburgh.

Having looked at the north of Shetland, we leave Deltings Marina at Brae and head south towards Sumburgh. We’ve booked to stay at the Sumburgh Hotel- not in a room, but in our van, hooked up to one of several points in their roomy car park.

On the way we get to drive across Sumburgh Airport runway, which would be unnerving were it not for warning lights on the road. We stop to look at a historic, bronze age encampment just beyond the runway, although due to closure we can only look from the fence.

Opposite the airport, and out of sight but not earshot, is a curving, white-sand beach with barely another soul on it. Today is warm and sunny and we opt for a couple of hours enjoying the weather and the view, which takes in Sumburgh Head, topped with a lighthouse. From time to time a plane or a helicopter glides across, otherwise it’s peaceful and pleasant.

We make our way to the Sumburgh Hotel, where we are to stay and given that there’s nobody around we park up and plug in. We’ve reserved a table for dinner. There’s a sudden invasion of flies and they’re everywhere, prompting us to close the van up and fight back with swats. Later they are also plaguing the hotel restaurant, for which the waiter apologises.

In the morning we take the van up towards the car park near the top of Sumburgh Head and find it packed with vehicles so we park further down and walk up the sloping path. There are fewer visitors than the jam-packed car park suggests so perhaps many are not willing to climb up to the lighthouse. But it is worth the effort. Peering over the low wall there is a sheer rock-face and far below, a large outcrop protruding from the waves, almost covered in chattering, squabbling razorbills.

We continue on up and through a gate, up to where there is a wall and a viewing platform. There are a few others standing on the platform or by the wall and they are all looking at the same thing. Husband gets to the wall first then turns and beckons me, grinning. I can just about see over the wall and I get to see what is attracting all the attention. In the sheer, rocky wall there are small crevices and ledges, and from the crevices Puffins are emerging to stand in the sunshine. We are close, although behind the wall. The Puffins stand around nonchalently, preening or simply gazing out to sea. It’s as if they’re paid to do shifts for the spectators. While they’re unperturbed by we humans, they quickly withdraw into their holes when gulls swoop a little low over them.

At last we tear ourselves away and go on to take a look at the views and the lighthouse. On the way back down, as we reach the Puffin spot we stop to chat to the RSPB man, who’s tasked with recruiting subscribers today. I agree to listen if he’ll take some publicity leaflets for The Conways at Earthsend: Deans, Jane: 9781784659615: Books, which he does! Over the wall a cheeky Puffin is nearer still, posing like a pro.

Next to the hotel is Jarlshof, an ancient site that has housed stone age, bronze age and Vikings in its time. It’s extensive and well preserved and we spend some time there before we leave.

Our stop for the night is at Cunningsburgh, halfway back to Lerwick, another small marina site but with outstanding kitchen and showers.It’s away from the village, which seems to be flung all over the place, but we’ve noticed a sign for ‘designer knitwear’ en route, so we’re planning to stop and take a look.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

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