The Telegraph

An invigorating and mythical search for Britain’s windiest place

Legends about the wind flit and blow around these exposed British Isles: that an arid easterly helped fuel the Great Fire of London, that the weathercocks atop our churches point to the cockerel that crowed when Peter denied knowing Jesus, and that the Scouse accent got its distinctive hoarseness from the gusts blowing down the Mersey Tunnel. Possible, probable, ridiculous. Wind always did take the mickey, turning our mackintoshes into kites, our summer holidays into searches for shelter, and our candlelit dinners into cruel comedies. Shetland, with an average wind speed of 14.6 knots, is the blowiest place in the UK – largely due to its maritime location. The archipelago harbours myths about wind – when gods argue there are wind-storms – and much that happens in the ancient sagas is governed by it; Njǫrd, the Norse god of the wind, is also the deity that bestows wealth – harking back to times when the greatest treasures lay across unknown seas. Today, more prosaically, Shetland and Orkney (the second windiest place) are European hotspots – wind-chill aside – for generating wind power. On a visit to Unst, I was blown away by the sight of great skuas – known in Shetland as bonxies – dive-bombing in a Force 10 that zipped over Hermaness, the northernmost headland. Combine such awesome motive power with rain and it’s like buckshot on your cheeks. Needless to say, all my planned boat excursions were cancelled and flights into Sumburgh were delayed. Wind grounds planes, cancels ferries, tears down overhead cables on railways. It closes bridges and knocks cyclists over. Wind is the weather that travels most – and is the one that messes up most travel.

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