Shetland Diary – A visit to Shetland
After travelling to Shetland last year, I had become fascinated with these beguiling islands and their people and I was determined to once again visit Shetland.
This time I decided to fly up, as the 14-hour ferry journey from Aberdeen is a touch too long for my sea legs. I landed at Sumburgh on Saturday and stayed, for my first night, at Levenwick on the South mainland. I stayed at Shalders B&B, Anne and Roy were splendid hosts and could not do enough to make my stay as comfortable as possible. Late Saturday afternoon, Anne gave me a lift (as I don’t drive) to St Ninians Isle, where I took some photos of the magnificent tombolo.
On Sunday, I travelled up to Lerwick to stay at the Fort Charlotte Guest House. I quickly located the Tourist information office and scanned what information they had on tours for the following week. GeoTours had a tour on Tuesday that explored NorthMavine, so I booked this tour and then I had a good look around Lerwick followed by a hearty dinner at Osla’s Cafe.
The rain never ceased on Monday, so I took a bus ride to Walls on the west coast of Shetland. The bus journey took in some of the West mainland that I had not been to before, such as Weisdale and Bixter. When I arrived at Walls, I had a quiet wander around, took a few pictures and returned back to Lerwick.
On the Tuesday, I had arranged a tour of Northmavine with GeoTours. Allen Fraser was our guide for the tour and he was able to make the Shetland landscape come to life with his interesting stories. Allen took us to Eshaness (fabulous views)and Tangwick Haa museum (the best museum I went to). We also went to Ronas Voe (the only fjord in Shetland) and on the way back we strayed down the west side and went through Bixter and Aith and through to Weisdale. All in all an excellent day’s sightseeing.
From Wednesday to Friday, I was with Laurence Tulloch, who is a renowned storyteller from Yell. Laurence picked me up from Fort Charlotte and our first day was spent on Whalsay. Our first point of call was Symbister House (which is now part of the islands school). Next to this was a small museum run by a couple of lovely, mature ladies. After encountering the ‘mainland accent’, it was something of an aural shock to try and understand what these ladies were saying! The Whalsay accent is unique (as far as I have heard). I fervently hope that this kept alive with future generations.
Next we went to the Hanseatic Bod on the harbour-front and then we toured the rest of Whalsay. All too soon we were back on the ferry. I asked Laurence if there was enough time for us to have a quick sortee to Burra. Luckily he agreed. The first place we stopped at was Hamnavoe. This is in a beautiful setting and I didn’t really want to leave but time was moving on. Next stop was East House. This was an old croft house that has been turned into a small museum. The building was shown in the last series of ‘Restoration’.
On Thursday, we went to Fetlar. Our first stop was Brough Lodge, which is a derelict Victorian mansion, with it’s own folly. This is definitely worth a visit. I hope that a buyer can be found who can help this building to reclaim its undoubted glamour. We then went to the Interpretive Centre at Houbie. This is a great little museum, with archive footage of Brough Lodge among it’s many treasures. We carried on past the Loch of Funzie down to the Haa, the old fishing station. Here there are stunning views over to the deserted eastern end of the island. Late in the afternoon there was just enough time for a quick sojourn to St Olaf’s chapel on Unst, which is an un-roofed 12th century kirk. There are great views from here to the nearby beach.
On Friday we toured around Yell. The first port of call was the lovely village of Cullivoe. From here we went to Gloup and saw the memorial. I read the distressing account of the great storm that claimed so many lives. We left here and returned to the main road and made our way south, down to Otterswick, where the ‘White Wife’ is stationed. This is a figurehead from an old German boat that was shipwrecked in the early 1920’s. We then went to the Old Haa at Burravoe. However, as it was a Friday it was closed!
During my tours with Laurence, I found him to be extremely knowledgeable and informative. He told me many interesting stories and tales about different characters and places around the islands. Also, I stayed with Laurence and his wife in their cosy B&B at Gutcher, on Yell. All in all, my time with Laurence (and his wife, Margaret) enhanced my experience of all things Shetland.
On Saturday, I took the ferry over to Bressay and walked up to the Heritage Centre. I spent a pleasant hour wading through the stack of information and photo’s available. I then walked up to the Hill of Cruister and from here, began my descent back to the ferry terminal. At Lerwick, I made my way down to Levenwick, for my return flight on the following day.
On Sunday, I caught the bus to the airport and checked my luggage in. I then walked for about a mile to Jarlshof. I took the guided tour (with headphones) and then I headed up to Sumburgh Head in a taxi (its quite a long walk). Peering over the cliffs’ edge, I could nearly touch the puffins. Another, truly magical experience.
This was my second trip to Shetland. On my third I need to visit Mousa, Papa Stour and Foula. I will then have been to all the major islands on Shetland.
I just wish I could go back and visit Shetland again tomorrow …………….