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April 2014 Visit Shetland Newsletter


Profile photo: Abby - Postcards From Shetland


I'm Abby, author of Postcards from Shetland, and I'm here again with the latest Shetland happenings, information and holiday suggestions. If you are considering a visit to Shetland, please be sure to have a look at for more information about what to see and do.

Please also feel free to get in touch with questions and comments via Twitter or Facebook - we would love to hear from you. If you're thinking, 'I could live in Shetland' - put that thought into action and get in touch with Move Shetland and subscribe to their newsletter, and don't forget to read our online magazine 60 North and explore our 'be inspired' page - videos, webcams, images and much much more!

Since we last spoke…I've decided it's time to say goodbye…

When we, like all before us, have gone home,
Some traveller in the centuries to come….
May read what we have done our best to write
About this land of glimmering Northern light

"Prelude" by TA Robertson (Vagaland)

After four years of writing the monthly Visit Shetland newsletter I've decided it's time to have a break and pass my Bic biro and trusty Leica over to PS team member - Helen Smith. I've had the most wonderful time exploring Shetland, meeting many interesting people and sharing my adventures and my love of the islands – it's been an incredible journey. I will of course miss catching up with you every month and I want to say a BIG thank you to all my newsletter subscribers and to all those who took the time to get in touch and say "hello". I really have appreciated your encouragement, support and feedback. I do hope that if you haven't yet managed to visit Shetland that you will very soon and don't forget to plan your journey around the islands with the über handy website (smartphone apps also available). If you're looking for inspiring things to see and do - all my newsletters are available to view online via the Shetland News page on the Visit Shetland website.

C'mon now, wipe away your tears, put the kettle on and butter some hot cross buns (James Morton's recipe featured in Brilliant Bread is sticky sweet delish) and let me share the latest news, including this month's prize - a book filled with curious riddles, fascinating stories and beautiful illustrations. Sure to make you smile…

April's prize: Guddicks -Traditional Riddles from Shetland by Amy Lightfoot and Laurie Goodlad.

Congratulations Elizabeth Pullman, Lancashire - a selection of Shetland illustrated greeting cards, designed by Monica Pothecary, is on its way to you! This month's prize is my favourite book of the year so far: Guddicks -Traditional Riddles from Shetland by Amy Lightfoot and Laurie Goodlad. “Layin up guddicks” (riddling) was once a form of lightsome (enjoyable) entertainment and friends and family would gather in “aboot da nicht” (at nightfall) to try and solve these perplexing riddles. Laurie – collections assistant at Shetland Museum, with a personal interest in folk life - has managed, after much research, to collect more than 300 guddicks in this book! I not only had great fun trying to solve some of the puzzles, but also thoroughly enjoyed reading the personal narratives (interviews carried out by Amy over a 22 year period), by Shetlanders themselves, many born in the late 1890s, which describe a largely self-sufficient life - a nostalgic glimpse of a bygone era. "A closer look at the riddles and the cultural context in which they originated, gives the reader a unique opportunity to explore in detail a wealth of traditions, including agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing, to spinning, weaving, knitting basketry and many other crafts". The icing on the cake - Amy's woodcut illustrations, which accompany and reinforce the narrative and are in keeping with the times portrayed. I do hope she holds another exhibition of her work at Shetland Museum very soon.

Can you solve this riddle? Find the answer at the end of the newsletter.

I faced ta my hame
Kwen I'm gaain oot
But I face awa
Fae my hame
Kwen I'm comin back

Did you know: that 2014 is the Year of Shetland Dialect? Shetland ForWirds have planned events galore, including a Shetland ForWirds concert: May 13that the Garrison Theatre, Lerwick and a Rhoda Butler night: July 15th, Vidlin Hall.

What's the buzz…?

Shetland Nature Festival 5th-11th July: Geopark Shetland, the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage have created a superb programme of events and joining them on the naturefest rollercoaster is Our Dynamic Earth team from Edinburgh – who will be exploring Earth's 4.6 billion year history in a series of events inspired by James Hutton and Arthur Holmes "Scotland's Time Lords." The Clipperton Project is sailing our way with a series of unique expeditions aboard a Floating Laboratory at various locations around Shetland (definitely on my to-do list). Open days, guided walks at Noss and Sumburgh Head, Parkour sessions at the Sletts, snorkeling tours at Leebitton, craft workshops using recycled materials and so much more…. Get booking (from 1st May) for a fantastic Nature Fest!

Shetland on BBC One: Did you watch the atmospheric Raven Black (part one and part two are available on iPlayer until April 22nd)? The murder mystery series continues on March 25th with Dead Water. In the meantime, read what the cast thought about Shetland here and what author Ann Cleeves thought about the adaptations of her books here. Date for your diary: 21st April – Shetland - series one and two will be released on DVD.

A Shetland wildlife blog: raingeeseandselkies - “ local patch” reporter, Sally Huband has been signed by the BBC to work on the blog for the BBC Wildlife magazine. Get in touch, via the blog, if you would like to give suggestions as to what might be included or report wildlife activity.

"Ora Blu" at Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale (8th March – 20th April 2014): View Swiss born artist, Louise Schmid's work – developed during her residency in The Booth, Scalloway.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre - due to open spring 2014: Sumburgh Head is one of my favourite nature reserves and the most easily accessible place to watch puffins at play. The complex is only a few minutes drive from Sumburgh airport. Why not stay in the newly renovated self-catering accommodation - the Light Keeper's cottage? Or stay at another lighthouse on the island of Bressay (ten minute ferry journey from Lerwick and gateway to National Nature Reserve Noss)

Shetland Folk Festival (1st-4th May 2014) – the party starts on the Northlink ferry (30th April)! Shetland Jazz Festival: jazz meets 1920s literature - find your inner Zelda or Scott from 29th May-1st June 2014. Shetland Classic Motor Show and Tours: Clickimin Leisure Centre, Lerwick, 7th and 8th June 2014. Shetland Fiddle Frenzy (3rd-10th August) - workshops and events celebrating the Shetland fiddle tradition and a wow-factor closing concert featuring Catriona MacDonald - considered to be one of the world's leading traditional fiddle players. Find more gig dates for your diary in March's Creative Scene newsletter 2014 and pop over to Mareel and discover what's happening in Shetland's buzzy arts hub.

Writing the North: Shetland Museum and Archives (29th March – 10th May 2014). A year-long project, which has explored the historical literature of Orkney and Shetland, and explored continuity with contemporary works. Attend a FREE series of talks and discussions: 10th May 2014.

Book a Textile Journey: A 4-day exploration of the islands and the chance to meet the people who are involved in the flourishing Shetland textile industry. (Textile Journeys 2014: August 14th-17th, October 16th-19th). Don't miss following the Craft Trail, too!

The Shetland boat: History; Folklore & Construction: boat builder, Marc Chivers has relocated to Shetland and is a Post Graduate research student at the Centre for Nordic Studies. Fascinating blog and don't miss Marc's Boats, too.

Real Shetland Yarns: Fair Isle Yokes by Hazel Tindall

Congratulations Hazel on becoming this year's guest Patron of the prestigious annual Shetland Wool Week 2014 (4th - 12th October). A renowned Shetland knitter who knitted her first cardigan over 50 years ago and grew up surrounded by knitters – "one of my earliest memories is being sent outside to check if I could see my grandmother making her way down the hillside – by that time she would have been about 80, carrying a kishie of peat on her back and knitting as she walked…" Hazel has kindly agreed to let me share Fair Isle Yokes – a winning story published in Real Shetland Yarns a collection of woolly tales and memories from the people of Shetland about their own connections with wool, sheep and textiles in general. The stories were submitted as part of a competition to celebrate Shetland Wool Week 2011:

Fair Isle yokes were knitted in their thousands from mid 1960s to early 1970s. Knitting yokes provided me with pocket money throughout my secondary school days, and while I was at college in Aberdeen. I forget who paid the postage back and fore but the value of the work must have been worth the expense.

For a few years from about 1965, when I was in lodgings while attending school, it was my job to take the yokes to John Tulloch (Shetland Products) Ltd premises in Gilbertson Road. These were carefully checked to ensure highest quality, payment made in cash, and the next lot of bodies were handed over. I then met Dad, if he was working in Lerwick, and he took the payment and bodies home for the next lot of cuffs to be grafted on, yokes knitted, and necks grafted on too. I knitted a yoke most weekends, and sometimes through the week.

Knitting yokes was a useful way to learn so much about Fair Isle knitting, especially how to blend colours. At first we could use any colours and patterns we wanted but eventually fashion took charge and knitters were given colours and patterns to knit – I hated that.

There were stories about businesses weighing the yarn they sent out and weighing again when it was returned, just to make sure none of the finishers has stolen yarn!

I could write so much more about yokes, it probably couldn't fit into 30,000 words, never mind the 300 the competition demands!

Real Shetland Yarns (£15.00): available to purchase from the online Shetland Heritage shop. Visit Hazel's website and read her fascinating biography (Hazel's DVD The Art of Fair Isle Knitting out soon!)

Did you know: "Hentilagets" – a Shetland dialect word – refers to the wool that moults from the sheep and can be found on the ground, which use to be gathered by hand and turned into yarns, cloths and knitwear? Want to hear how to pronounce the word? Click here

Papa Stour - a 'do you remember?' day…

The last time I visited Papa Stour (translates from Old Norn as “big island of the priests”) was with the Shetland Field Studies Group. We visited the archaeological excavation site at the Biggins (excavations revealed the remains of a 13th century house - a Stofa - a timber building made from notched logs and dates to the time Shetland was part of Norway). We walked the coastline and marveled at the dramatic scenery - incredible cliffs, sea stacks, natural arches and sea caves (Holl o Boardie is one of the largest sea caves in the world at over 300 metres long), and learnt more about Papa Stour from our very knowledgeable Field Studies leader Jill Slee Blackadder who also entertained us with a few tunes on her harmonica as we waited for the ferry back to the mainland.

The second time I visited Papa Stour was last summer, this time it was just hubby and myself on the ferry and a group from Scottish Natural Heritage who were off bird watching - the bird life on Papa Stour is abundant – look out for great skuas, black guillemots and gannets, to name but a few. The sun shone, the sea sparkled and we had no plans other than to wander aimlessly and enjoy the fine weather. We found a beach the colour of vanilla ice cream, took our walking boots off and contemplated swimming, which we finally did after much dashing in and out of the freezing water, accompanied by loud squealing and giggling!

Not a soul in sight (I hope!), just two stanechackers (wheatears) singing their hearts out on the cliffs. They kept us company throughout the afternoon, hopping here and there and providing background music. We cloud gazed, drew funny faces in the sand and then ate our cheese and pickle sandwiches and shared a thermos of tea. I could see hubby looking at the cliffs and, as always, planning a route! And so off he went to the end of the beach and began crag hopping, while I ambled along the shore beachcombing. The honeyed scent of spring squill and bird's-foot trefoil filled the air; so plentiful are the wildflowers and plant life on this idyllic island that it is said in times past that the heady scent would be carried far out to sea - helping fishermen find their way home when out of sight of land. We visited the 200-year-old Kirk (a tiny visitor centre can be found inside) on our way back to the ferry. On my last trip the famous stained glass window, designed by Victor Noble Rainbird and paid for the by the islanders to commemorate the six Papa men who lost their lives in the Great War, was away being restored. It was therefore wonderful to finally view the stunning repaired window back where it belongs.

There is so much more to tell about this incredible island, including the legend of Lord Thorvald Thoreson's daughter - imprisoned on Muckle Maiden Stack because she fell in love with a penniless fisherman and the unfortunate case of the Honourable Edwin Lindsay, the “Prisoner of Papa Stour” (under house arrest for 26 years!) rescued by a Quaker lady… However, I don't want to spoil your Papa Stour adventure by revealing all!

Happy Easter everyone and I hope that you too will experience many "do you remember?" days when you visit magical Shetland….

See you soon!

Read about Fair Isle on a budget, featured in Wanderlust (scroll down to number 12 on the list). Sandra Moody spent only £239.41 during a four-night stay! For more "Shetland on a budget" ideas, including camping böds and Shetland's Five-star Youth Hostel, Islesburgh (Lerwick), have a look at

Answer to riddle: a man rowing a boat!

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