Once upon a time, long long ago, there were lots of ferries across the North Sea from the UK to Scandinavia.
It used to be possible to get a ferry from Newcastle to Bergen or Stavanger in Norway. It used to be possible to get a ferry from the Shetland Islands to Bergen (or in the other direction to either the Faroe Islands or Iceland). It was even possible get a ferry from Leith, outside Edinburgh to Oslo, and (albeit briefly) between Aberdeen and Bergen, although both of these were longer ago than I can remember!
|MV Norrona, very close to Shetland|
|Heading to Bergen, 2004 version|
|Won't take me long to get to Bergen. You?|
I was therefore delighted to see an announcement recently that there just might be a return for the Newcastle to Bergen/Stavanger service. Norwegian Seaways are talking, it appears very seriously, about putting this route back into service in early 2014.
I would be even more delighted to see the Shetland Islands properly back on the shipping routes. Historically Shetland has been at the centre of trade across the North Sea, and further west too. The issue of better communications with places like Norway and the Faroe Islands do periodically make it up the political agenda, but rarely with any visible outcome.
At the moment there are no regular ferries from Shetland to anywhere other than Orkney and Aberdeen, and only a very seasonal weekly flight from Sumburgh to Bergen to complement the regular flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The only way that Shetland can be called well-connected is entirely virtual – the SHEFA-2 undersea communications link from the Faroe Island to mainland Scotland, briefly comes up for air on Shetland.
I would be first in line to book a berth on a ferry from Lerwick to almost anywhere but in the absence of that I'm already looking forward to being on the Norwegian Seaways service from Newcastle.
When do bookings open?