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April 2013 Visit Shetland Newsletter



I'm Abby, author of Postcards from Shetland, and I'm here again with the latest Shetland happenings, information and holiday suggestions.

Since we last spoke … Foula Wool has been established!

I have received good news from friends living on the 'edge of the world' - Foula Wool has been established and the range of naturally coloured yarn, exclusively spun from 100% Foula sheep wool, is simply stunning. I'm planning to pop over to Foula in June and I hope to stay in the idyllic Burns Cottage, in addition to a few days camping by the picturesque Loch of Ouvrafandal (what views!). Several honey-sunny days were spent exploring the island and the incredible range of wildlife mesmerized, including the comical puffins that kept me company while I waited for hubby to descend into the jaws of an emerald cavern - Da Sneck ida Smallie. He did return! The endless hours of golden daylight (known as Simmer Dim) added to a truly magical break.

Did you know: Foula means 'Bird Island' in Old Norse and Foula is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds, a National Scenic Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its plants, birds and geology.

Buying local, meeting the maker and discovering the 'hidden' Shetland…

I can't resist visiting Shetland's regular Farmers' Markets (see Shetland Times, published every Friday, for dates/locations) and I recently spent a happy couple of hours chatting to local Makers. I discovered Barbara Dewar's cosy hand knitted Fair Isle gloves (prices start from £11.00), stylish interior products and gifts designed by Whalsay resident,Julie Williamson, yummy savouries and sweet delights made by Jenny and Barry at Callieus Handmade Produce and unique crochet and knitted accessories created by Diane at Funky Flooers. Jay, from Shetland Cheese, was also there. The other week I visited Jay's café, nestled in the heart of Skeld (top tip: order a cheesy platter, take a tour of the premises and try your hand at cheesemaking. Great fun!) On the way to Shetland Cheese I always stop off and purchase eggs from the roadside - dropping money into the honesty box makes me very happy and eggy soldiers never tasted so good! Each visit to Skeld is always followed by a visit to Da Gairdins i Sand (be sure to say hello to Ruby - the hard working custodian) and a ramble on the golden beach is a must-do (look out for Porpoises)

Discover the Mystery of Shetland and attend a Viking culture summer course

I was reading about Shetland's regional Up Helly Aas and the forthcoming visit of Shetland Vikings to New York, where members of the 2013 Jarl Squad will take part in the Tartan Day Parade! If you're interested in learning more about Viking Culture, why not attend a summer course (24th-28th June) held by the Centre for Nordic Studies? Venture to Shetland's most northerly island, Unst, study Viking voyages, navigation and ship building techniques, visit the remains of a Longhouse, learn about the myths and folklore of the Norse people, make your own runic inscription and participate in a Hnefatfl or Kubb tournament, to name just a selection of the many and varied activities guaranteed to bring the Viking heritage of Shetland alive. If you can't visit in June - there's a range of trips and tours available throughout the year covering many aspects of Shetland's natural and cultural heritage.

Top tip: Discover the Mystery of Shetland - a kist full of secrets and surprises can be found here!

Did you see: the BBC One television drama Shetland - an adaptation of Red Bones, written by award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves? A fiery re-enactment of Lerwick's Up Helly Aa was showcased, Douglas Henshall starred, as the brooding Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and it was the biggest drama production filmed in the isles! Read more about Ann's thoughts on Shetland and explore Jimmy Perez's Shetland in our new online leaflet. Click here to download.

April's prize - A Legacy Of Shetland Lace

Congratulations to March's prizewinner Christine Goodall from North Ireland - a Russian retro scarf, designed by Wendy Shaw Textiles, is on its way to you! This month's prize is:A Legacy of Shetland Lace. Yarn addicts will LOVE this book! Enjoy a wonderful combination of 21 contemporary and traditional projects (suitable for all levels of skill and experience), designed by members of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, in addition to interesting facts and fascinating biographies. I heart the delicate Cuckron Scarf (cuckron is the sound made by the burn (stream) as it runs past the house) and the Traditional Hap is breathtaking - I first saw an example of this stunning design in the Croft House Museum. Hazel Tindall, winner of the 2004 World's Fastest Knitter title (check out her new website here) has contributed the gorgeous Hesta Scarf design, named after the croft, Hestataing, where Hazel grew up. One of the aims of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, founded in 1988, is to preserve and further Shetland's traditional textile Heritage, hence the purpose of this inspiring book. Be sure to visit the Böd of Gremista and Shetland Textile Working Museum, Lerwick - the Guild carries out regular demonstrations of the traditional spinning and knitting techniques involved in producing the world famous Shetland textiles. Not to be missed!

Did you know: Wintertime, especially, used to be enlivened by visiting neighbours 'aboot da night'. Women always took their knitting with them on such visits, and many inches were knitted as they caught up on all the local news. It was also a chance to see what others were knitting and exchange ideas.

A wildlife spectacular - Shetland Nature Festival!

Excitement is building for the sixth annual Shetland Nature Festival, happening from 29th June to 7th July - a time when the sun hardly sets, sea cliffs teem with seabirds, wildflowers bloom and there is a good chance of spotting whales and dolphins! From flowers and fossils, to seabirds and seals, the Festival will provide something to inform, entertain and excite as you explore the unique natural heritage of the Shetland Islands. Events will get off to a brilliant start at the Mousa Open Day - a new addition to the calendar - with a range of family-friendly events throughout the day and into the night, when the island's tiny resident seabirds, the Storm Petrels (known locally as Alamooties), return to their nests from the sea. Visitors can enjoy themed days including: 'Nature's Playground' - a chance to get out and try your hand at rock climbing, canoeing and coasteering; 'Habitats' - explore Shetland's largest woodland, look for Arctic plants on Shetland's highest peak or discover the rich variety of moorland plant and bird species; and 'Nature's Larder' - a chance to learn about the wealth of food that nature has provided in Shetland, past and present. The festival will close with the ever-popular Noss Open Day, with nature walks, rock pooling, children's activities and more, all in the spectacular setting of Noss National Nature Reserve. More schedule information to follow in May's newsletter

Did you see: The BBC Two programme: The Great British Winter, featuring Shetland? View a short clip of the episode and learn about a rescued baby sea otter, cared for by Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, situated in breathtaking Northmavine.

European Geoparks Week will rock your world!

As part of the Shetland Nature Festival programme - geology-themed events, led by Geopark Shetland and St. Andrews University Geobus project, will help you discover some of the most diverse and dramatic geology in the UK spanning almost 3 billion years. Within the islands you can find evidence that Shetland was once part of North America and you can trace Shetland's 700 million year journey from close to the South Pole, across the Equator to its current location at 60º North. Discover the remains of a mountain chain of Himalayan proportions, a Sahara-like desert, an explosive volcano (similar to Mount St. Helens) and the floor of an ocean as wide as the Atlantic. The good news is that you can do all this without being an expert and getting involved with the Shetland Nature Festival is a great way for budding rock hounds to start their voyage of discovery in some of the best geological localities to be found anywhere in Europe.

Top tip: Get off the beaten track with experienced guide, Allen Fraser of Shetland Geotours. He will take you on a guided walk to the mysterious, scenic and wilder parts of Shetland.

Did you know: The Geopark Shetland app for Android was recently launched onGoogle Play. The app will be launched on iPhone in June and will also be available online. Further information about this project can be found here.

See you soon!


PS. Don't forget to book tickets for the prestigious 33rd Shetland Folk Festival (2nd - 5th May). A party not to be missed! If you have any energy left after all the merriment - you may want to get on your bike and explore the islands. A fab new free Cycle Shetland Guide (22 routes, maps, bike hire information, insider tips and North Sea Cycle Route) is now available to order order here. Enjoy!

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