After 21 days on the road, it was time to make my way back to Manchester. I made the decision to extend the ride on to Orkney via the John O’Groats Ferry meaning that I had a 20 mile cycle North to Kirkwall to catch the ferry back to Aberdeen.
The ferry ticket was booked on my penultimate day while I took a break looking over Loch Naver. I phoned Northlink Ferries as the website would not allow me to make a booking for my bike. A short phone call later and I had booked my one-way ticket, a cycle reservation, and a Sleeping Pod for the evening.
The Kirkwall to Aberdeen ferry leaves from the Hatston Ferry Terminal which is situated around a mile out of Kirkwall. There are limited facilities at the port so I would recommend spending more time enjoying Kirkwall before heading to the terminal.
Check in is easy and when the ferry arrives, cyclists wheel the bike into the car deck to be secured.
There are a number of options available on the ferry including a reserved seat, a sleeping pod, and a cabin. I chose a sleeping pod as I wanted a little bit more comfort. The cabins were sold out.
Free Shower on the Northlink Ferry
The sleeping pod rooms have a keycard security function. On entering you are met with a darkened room with rows of pod seats. The seats are set in twos and resemble a luxury cinema seat. Fortunately, a sleeping pack is supplied which contains a blanket, eye blind and ear plugs. To the rear of the room are two washrooms which contain a toilet and a shower. A free shower token is supplied with all Pod reservations, and this can be obtained from reception. I was also supplied with a clean towel.
All in all my initial impression of the Sleeping Pod was great, the additional £18 was money well spent.
After an exploration of the ferry and a couple of drinks, feeling tired I headed to the Pod to settle down for the night. The seats have a reclining function and unfortunately, this does not flatten the seat but offers a cradle to sit in. There are USB slots of which mine did not work. Despite the room being full and a complete stranger in the pod next to me, I was soon fast asleep.
Unfortunately, my sleep did not last, and at about 3 am I woke with cramps. The awkward sleeping position and the lack of room made it difficult to get comfortable. After 21 days of cycling unfortunately the Sleeping Pod was not fulfilling my need for a comfortable night’s sleep. After a few minutes, I decided to take a walk and see if I could find an alternative place to sleep.
Luckily for me, the ferry on a Wednesday evening in late June was quiet. The large lounges of reclining seats were virtually empty. I found a spot in one of the lounges and quickly got to sleep. The added bonus of the eye blind blocked out the light from the heavily lit lounge.
Fortunately, I managed to get a few hours before the ferry started to come to life at 6 am with a tannoy announcement about breakfast.
Finally, my thoughts on the Sleeping Pod are that the price paid is worth it just for the shower and sleep pack. The seat itself is not good, not only does it not flatten despite the best efforts of the designer, you may end up sleeping alongside a total stranger! Further more, if the ferry is quiet I would take the sleeping pack and find a quiet spot!
That aside, it was a great way to end my ride.
Sleeping Pod Pros
Free Shower Token
Secure room to leave bags
Sleeping Pod Con’s
Awkward sleeping position
Broken USB plugs
Find out more about Northlink Ferries
NorthLink Ferries is a Scottish ferry company that operates services between mainland Scotland and the islands of Orkney and Shetland. The company was formed in 2002, following the merger of two separate ferry operators, NorthLink Orkney, and Shetland Islands Transport.
NorthLink Ferries operates three vessels, MV Hamnavoe, MV Hrossey, and MV Hjaltland, which provide regular services between Aberdeen, Lerwick, and Kirkwall. The ferries offer a range of facilities, including cabins, lounges, restaurants, bars, and shops, to ensure that passengers are comfortable and entertained during their journey.
The company’s services are an important lifeline for the communities on Orkney and Shetland, providing essential links to the mainland for residents, businesses, and visitors. In addition to passenger services, NorthLink Ferries also provides freight services, transporting goods and supplies to and from the islands.
NorthLink Ferries is committed to sustainable and environmentally responsible operations and has implemented a range of measures to reduce its impact on the environment. These include using low-sulfur fuel, reducing waste, and investing in energy-efficient technologies.
Overall, NorthLink Ferries is a vital transport provider for the communities of Orkney and Shetland, offering reliable and comfortable ferry services that are essential for connecting these remote and beautiful islands with the rest of Scotland.