April 2015 Visit Shetland Newsletter
Yay! It's April and nearly time for the Easter holidays. Shetland is awakening from the long winter nights and spring is most definitely in the air. If you're looking to get out and about in the fresh air, one way to explore the isles is by bicycle. I fancy cycling to Unst this summer - if this is something you'd like to do, but don't want to transport a bike to Shetland, you can hire cycles from Unst Cycle Hire - they can arrange for a bike to be transported to Lerwick for you, or you could take a one way hire from Unst to Lerwick - or you can simply cycle round Unst. The company is happy to accommodate your needs - and if you need a peerie assistance, they also have electric bikes, so you don't have to do all the hard work. Have fun!
There's plenty to keep little ones entertained over the Easter break. You can look for treasure on St Ninian's Isle. There's a geocache hidden on the isle and there's also a Facebook appeal at the moment from a man who lost his wedding ring. It would be wonderful if by some miracle it was found and returned to its rightful owner.
Why not explore Scalloway Castle, romp over the hills, explore rock pools or hold your own Easter egg hunt at Clickimin Broch? Sumburgh Head is another good option and they have activity packs you can download to keep everyone amused... more on Sumburgh Head later.
If the weather's poor, or you're simply tired from all the fresh air there's always a good selection of films to keep young and old entertained at Mareel. The Shetland Museum and Archives has a good selection of workshops for bairns and there's a good selection activities at the leisure centres and swimming pools around Shetland.
Shetland Folk Festival
At the end of the month the Shetland Folk Festival gets underway. If you haven't got your membership yet, you can buy them again from 4th April. As always, it's an amazing line up; there's concerts from Bigton to Cullivoe and the Festival Club at Islesburgh Community Centre is open until the early hours of the morning. There are family concerts, sessions and even some circus workshops, so never a dull moment.
I'm looking forward to seeing visiting acts and local bands. I'm particularly eager to see The Gathering, that brings together the best local talent. In 2013, they shared the stage with the Orkney Gathering - have a look at this fantastic video, I'm sure it'll get your toes tapping!
Northlink offers a 30% discount off the basic fare for SFFS members travelling up to the Festival in 2015. However, please note that this discount does not apply to cabin accommodation. Please contact the Shetland Folk Festival to obtain a code that you'll need to quote at the time of booking.
Now that the lighter nights are here it's great to be able leave work and fit in a walk along the coastline - it's the perfect way to unwind. I usually just set off and see where my feet take me, although my favourite walk is from Sandsayre, along the cliffs and out to Burland, where you'll find an abandoned settlement and the remains of a ruined broch. The broch is directly opposite Mousa and it's the perfect place to stop for a picnic and imagine the history of the area. If you're new to walking in Shetland, or want some inspiration for new walks then a good place for information is Walk Shetland. There are walks to suit every level of fitness and some might take you an hour or two, others the whole day.
In Lerwick, you can start at Victoria Pier and walk through the south end of Commercial Street, past the Queens Hotel and you'll come across a small beach and the Lodberries. Keep following the road and you'll come to a path that takes you up to the Knab, where you can sit and take in the view before you wander down through the park to the Sletts. It surprises many visitors to see seals on the rocks on the way to Fjara Cafe - a great place to stop for a rest, before continuing on to the Ness of Sound, round the headland and to then the Sands of Sound.
Next month, I'll be interviewing Jim Leask, who walked the whole coastline of Shetland to raise money for charity. I'm sure he'll have lots of interesting, off the beaten track places to share with you.
Rough Guide to Archaeology in Shetland
Shetland has a wealth of archaeologial sites to explore - Jarlshoff, Old Scatness and Mousa are the jewels in the crown but there are places of interest all over Shetland. Jarlshof is open to the public all year round, be sure to pick up an audio guide to get as much as you can out of your visit. I met up with Shetland Archaeologist, Val Turner to have a quick chat about sites in the isles.
If you want to explore on your own then start by looking at our archaeology page; the Facebook page Archaeology Shetland is a good group to join, especially if you want to join discussions, share photos or ask for tips. You might want to join in a guided tour that takes in archaeology and geology - if you do Shetland Geotours might be what you're looking for.
The Sumburgh Head Visitors Centre sits at the southernmost tip of the Shetland mainland, and after a £5.4 million renovation, it re-opened to the public last year. It's proven so popular they've decided to extend their season and open this month, a month earlier than last year. It's the perfect place to watch puffins and learn about the life of a lighthouse keeper. My favourite part is the Marine Life Centre but the views from the decks will take your breath away. #shoppingtip - the gift shop stocks some exquisite hand crafted products, exclusive to Sumburgh Head, so be sure to take a look around. A season ticket costs just £6 for an adult, £4 concession and £2 for a child; which is great value and means you can return as many times as you want.
You can also stay at the lighthouse. There's sumptious self-catering accommodation available, but as it's a popular destination you need to plan ahead to book a place. It's oh-so-worth-it though!
Congratulations to Hassina Begum from the West Midlandson who won our March Competition - the Shetland Fudge hamper is on its way to you now. This month's prize is a DVD by the world's fastest knitter, Hazel Tindall.
60 North Magazine
Have you had a chance to see the 60 North Magazine yet? I highly recommend subscribing, so that you can read all about different aspects of life in Shetland. A broad range of writers contribute to the magazine and there's in depth articles, with beautiful images. It costs £3.90 for a single issue or you can subscribe before Sunday 3rd May and receive the Spring edition as your first issue; if you subscribe after that you will receive the Summer 2015 edition as your first issue.
And don't forget about Shetland Noir, the author sign up will close on the 30th April but people can still register for a weekend ticket to attend the event for a while yet.
See you soon!
Do you remember a while back I spoke about open water swimming - well, I've finally organised to take the plunge!! Next weekend (weather permitting) I'll be donning a wetsuit, dipping my toes in the water and hearing about the best spots for swimming from experienced open water swimmers. I'll have a go-pro with me, so I'll share what I see in the sea with you - wish me luck!