Letter from Edinburgh

Hughie was reassuring. “It’s a 30 per cent chance of no getting you out but it looks ok!” Tingwall on Tuesday morning for the Direct Flight into Papa Stour. I pointed hopefully to a patch of clear blue sky overhead and got a look from our captain which suggested that basing a forecast on that was verging on the overly optimistic. A number of visitors were on board, both local and people on holiday in Shetland. Hughie remained optim­istic and those of us returning the same day said we would be ready at the back of four when the plane would reappear over Sandness.

I enjoyed a grand day, visiting people, picking up work to do and issues to pursue while taking in the splendid stained glass in the Kirk, the impressive ferry terminal and linkspan which I last saw on opening day in wind and rain and then to the Stoffa. I had missed out on its opening including the social gathering in the new and adjacent agricultural shed. The Stoffa fol­lowed some years of archaeological excavation and discovery into the Norwegian Kings’ use of Papa and the buildings they constructed during a period lasting 200 years or so. The amenity trust has erected interpretative panels to tell the story. More is available in the Kirk which now has much Papa history and news in the vestry.

But Jane Puckey is the person to ask. She was the person who made it happen. So when people visit Papa, they should ask Jane to explain and interpret the Stoffa.

After a fine day of weather and with the sun beating down I ambled back up the recently repaired and chipped highway to the airstrip. Four other passengers awaited Hughie’s return. Twice we all swore to hearing an engine – but no plane. Maybe it was a back firing tractor in Sandness on that peaceful late afternoon with no wind. So at 4.20pm Lorraine phoned Tingwall. Blanket mist. We were to try again in half an hour. In the meantime Jane had re-appeared having not seen the plane. Alternatives were discussed and agreed.

The fateful call was made and Tingwall was still under mist and the Islander was grounded. These things happen. So we all walked down to the old pier and the Holt Brook boat ran us across to Sandness. A huge thank you to our boatman who navigated the caves at the west end of Papa as a “short cut” for the visiting tourists on the way to the Sandness pier. We had arranged for Robinson and Mor­rison coaches to run the party back to Tingwall. As we came over the brae and down to Tingwall the mist was still hanging around.

But if it had cleared we’d have missed the Papa caves, the bird life, Forvik and a look around Sandness. A great day out made better by the mode of transport!

Tavish Scott MSP


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