Fetlar - Houbie

As part of my week long holiday on Shetland, I had booked a tour of Fetlar, with See Shetland Tours.  After speaking to Sarah McBurnie, See-Shetlands co-ordinator, Sarah managed to arrange for Laurence Tulloch, a local guide and Storyteller to accompany me.  

Getting to Fetlar

 Laurence picked me up from my Bed and Breakfast in Lerwick and we set off on the journey through the central mainland of Shetland and on upto Toft for the crossing to Ulsta on Yell.  From Yell, it was an easy half an hours drive to Gutcher, which is where we boarded the Blumull Sound ferry over to Fetlar

We alighted at Hamars Ness on Fetlar, after the short 25-minute crossing.   At the first crossroads on the single-track road , we turned right down to Brough Lodge, which was located just off the shore, to the right of the grandly named ‘The sand of the sand’.

Brough Lodge

Brough Lodge (see above) was built around 1820 for Arthur Nicholson.  It is a gothic house with land that was once used for shooting, golf and tennis.   As well as the lodge there is a chapel and a folly, built around 1840.  The folly was built on the site of an Iron Age broch and incorporated into its design a wooden stair-tower.  Originally, the folly was used for astronomy and housed a large telescope, which can still be seen at the nearby Interpretive Centre.

Fetlar - Brough Lodge in the distance

Fetlar – Brough Lodge in the distance

 At first sight, the dilapidated building felt bleak and unwelcoming.  However, on closer inspection, I appreciated the grandeur and opulence once invested into this building.  Although the inside of the building is inaccessible, a stroll around the outside of the building conjures up a myriad of images.  Children playing hide and seek, the arrival of important visitors or a party for a royal wedding or coronation.  I yearned to find out more about this magnificent building.

Fetlar Interpretive Centre

Laurence escorted me to Fetlar Interpretive Centre.  After a chat with the friendly assistant, he showed me some old videos of the lodge and the Nicholson family at leisure.  The videos were taken in the early 1900’s and really bring the Lodge to life.  They are an ideal accompaniment to the main course of walking around the building and its grounds.

Isle of Fetlar - Interpretive Centre

Isle of Fetlar – Interpretive Centre

After browsing through the rest of the museum, it was time to leave.  We headed down past Leagarth House, which was the former house of Sir William Watson Cheyne.  He was an assistant to Joseph Lister and a well-respected surgeon in his own right.  Sir Watson, as he was known on Fetlar, later succeeded Lister in the pioneering study of antiseptic surgery.  He moved back to Fetlar in 1920.

Birds on Fetlar

Further down the road we passed the Loch of Funzie.  This has 90% of the UK population of one of the rarest birds in Britain, the red-necked phalarope. During the summer, this distinctive, brightly coloured bird can be seen from the RSPB hide.  Other birds of interest on Fetlar include whimbrels, golden plover, great skua’s, storm petrels, shags and puffins.  Also seals and otters are often seen in quiet areas such as Urie in the North west of the island

At the end of the road was The Haa of Funzie.  This used to be a fishing station in the late eighteenth century, but now lies in ruins.  We stayed here for about half an hour and marvelled at the magnificent views that were to be seen in every direction.

With these amazing images still fresh in my mind, it was with a heavy heart that I made my way back into the passenger seat for the drive back to the ferry.  It had truly been a superb day.  One of those rare times when the weather was glorious, the scenery spectacular and the company informative.

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