July 2014 Visit Shetland Newsletter
Wow! Summer really is here. We've been enjoying some gorgeous weather recently, with spectacular skies, cloud formations and the lovely light nights. This morning as I write this, I'm already planning a trip to the beach. I'm hoping to settle back and read my copy of 60 North magazine. I'll come back to the subject of beaches in a peerie start (a little while) but for now I'll give you the low down on what's going on this month.
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Notes for your diary
If, like me, you love the great outdoors, you'll love the Shetland Nature Festival, which runs from 5th to 11th July. There's a whole range of things on offer for young and old, you'll be amazed at what you'll find!
Don't worry that you're out of season to see Vikings, the Up Helly Aa exhibition is open at the Galley Shed in Lerwick. It'll give you an opportunity to see where a lot of the hard work goes on to creating the annual extravaganza. Or you can pop along the Bonhoga Gallery, Bill Brown's Message in a Bottle exhibition is on until 20th July, Carolyn Dixon's exhibition of paintings of lighthouses and collagraphs of Orkney runs at the Gadderie at the Shetland Museum and Archives from 5th July to 17th August.
UnstFest 2014 runs from 4th to 13th July and, as you'd expect, it's Britain's most northerly festival. There are too many events to list here, so follow the link for the full programme. To give you an idea though, you can take part in a 5k run, go on guided tours, watch or take part in the Gutter Street Kartie race. Oh, and I almost forgot - there's a competition for the best Unst Selfie! Time to get snapping!
If you'd like to see Shetland yoals in action, the Unst Yoal regatta is on the 12th July, the Burravoe Regatta is the following weekend and the Skeld Regatta runs from 24th to 26th - as well as watching the races, you'll be able to enjoy a range of entertainment and live music.
The weekend of the 26th is busy, you can choose from the Sandwick Fun Day, Fetlar Fun Day and the Burravoe Fishing Competition.
Phew! So much to do... and so many places to visit.
With around 1,500 km of coastline, Shetland has more than its fair share of beaches. They range from the beautiful sandy beaches at the south mainland (West Voe, Spiggie, Levenwick and of course, St Ninian's Isle) and Burra (Meal and Bannaminn) and Sound beach is right next to town. And of course, there are beautiful sandy beaches in Yell, Unst and Fetlar. If you prefer pebble or single beaches there are plenty of those too, in fact there's a beach to suit everyone, whether you want to build sandcastles, search rockpools or skim stones. The Shetland Amenity Trust have a helpful leaflet to guide you through the different things you'll find along our seashore.
AboveWater/UnderWater Shetland is one of the tour operators operating from Lerwick's small boat harbour. As you'd expect from the name, you're going to get to see a what's below the surface of the sea, all from the comfort of the boat but as you travel along the coast. You'll of course get to see the plentiful birds, ranging from streamlined Gannets diving to cute Puffins and you're bound to see seals basking and slipping in and out of the water at some point too. AboveWater/UnderWater Shetland offer a range of tours, and are available for private charter too and can cater for special occasions.
I had my first experience of a camping böd last weekend. Owned and run by the Shetland Amenity Trust, the böds provide basic accommodation, similar to camping barns found elsewhere. We chose the Skeld böd and packed up the car with most of the things we needed - bedding, provisions and a pack of cards. We enjoyed an evening of simple pleasures, a walk to the small beach, bird watching from the nearby hide and swapping stories with people staying at the campsite next door. When we retired to the böd we lit the stove, savoured the smell of the peat fire and played charades until bedtime.
I'll certainly be checking out the other camping böds over the summer months.
Icelandic Horse Trekking
There's a new riding and trekking centre in the isles, offering lessons and treks on Icelandic horses. Houlls Horses and Hounds in Burra has 5 icelandic horses to choose from and a range of treks to go on, ranging from one to three hours. At first you might think these horses are too small, but they're strong and hardy and used to carrying weight - they also have an extra two gaits, the tolt and the pace. I guarantee that when you tolt for the first time it'll bring a smile to your face. One lesson and I'm hooked! Houlls Horses and Hounds also offer a home from home for dogs and provide doggy day care for tourists not wanting to leave their pooch in the car when they go on a day trip.
Congratulations to Lisa Parker from London who won the beautiful handcrafted bowl by Paparwark Furniture. Oh, how I wish it was me. I'll need to treat myself one of these days.
This month's competition is for a mounted full colour print of a pastel drawing by Shona Skinner, who owns the Shetland Gallery in Yell. Shona has deep family roots in the North Isles and has been coming to Shetland for fifty years, before moving permanently in 2010, in order to become a full-time artist after being an art teacher for thirty years. I'm planning a trip up to Yell to visit the gallery for myself, so look out for an interview in my next newsletter.
That's all from me this month, my picnic is ready and I'm off to the beach - wonder if I'll be brave enough to take a dip?
See you soon!