December 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. If you are considering a visit to Shetland, please do not hesitate to contact us for holiday planning advice, using either the contact form on the website or by phoning +44 (0) 1595 98 98 98.

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 watched a superb light performance

I suddenly woke up, looked at my watch - it was 3.30am. I made my way to the kitchen, with Mo the cat, to make a cup of tea. Mo decided it was time to go out and chase rabbits; I opened my kitchen door and WOW! there she was - stunning Aurora dressed in luminous turquoise green - performing a spectacular mirrie dance under a canopy of twinkling stars. I perched on my fence mesmerized, as always, by another spellbinding display of northern lights, accompanied by the astonishing beauty of the Milky Way…

It's a time for…

Winter in Shetland is the perfect time for building a sanctuary of cosiness - for getting snuggly by the fire (with a bag of creamy handmade fudge and Puffin Poo!) and reading Ann Cleeves' chilling Shetland crime novels. It's the time of year when I get busy crafting at my kitchen table, take walks across Shetland's wild wild moors and enjoy treasure hunting and cloud gazing along empty golden beaches. It's a time for baking bread - I love James Morton's Brilliant Bread - Christmas morning coffee croissants are on the festive breakfast menu. It's a time for putting festive dates in my Fair Isle notebook:don't forget December 4th - live jazz, mulled wine and festive nibbles in Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale. It's the time of year for wearing Kate Davies' new Tea Jenny hat, created in seven Shades of Foula Wool, for treating myself to an Aamos Design Fly Away Clasp Bag and a fish and chip supper at award-winning Frankie's, Brae.

It's my favourite time of year, simply because it's the festive season - when childish days are revisited, when games of Scrabble become highly competitive (hubby!), when shrieks of joy can be heard as I sledge down the steep hill, near home, usually ending up in a messy, but very happy heap! It's also a time when I enjoy searching for the ideal gift for loved ones. Why not join me for an hour or two of Shetland retail therapy? No queues - no fuss - just beautiful keepsakes. Bring the shiny paper, the bows and baubles and I'll help you chose something special from magical Shetland…

Did you know: in times past Yule didn't last for just a couple of days; it was part of 'da Yules'. Yule day was originally on 23rd December and the festivities began a week before that, but went on for a month.

Don't go nuts - get Christmas Shetland wrapped!

I'm very excited! I've just returned from the fabulous annual Christmas Craft Fair and I was blown away by the fantastic array of contemporary and traditional items for sale, which made me want to spend! spend! spend! I couldn't resist one of Ella Gordon's funky crofthoose cushions, or a cheeky Ill Trickit Trow called Tirval o da Taing and I had to have another snuggly sheepskin rug from Shetland Sheepskin Products and furry inners for my wellies, too! Pork chops, from Sandwick Pork - hubby's favourite, are on the menu this evening and moreish Shetland Cheese for afters. Find out more about The Shetland Food Fair over on Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.

Did you know: A potato soup made with reestit mutton (mutton steeped in brine, then dried) was, and still is today - a part of festive celebrations.

At the Fair I caught up with Wendy from Burra Bears (find out more about Wendy and her bears in November's Creative Scene newsletter) and met her equally talented daughter, Robyn - designer of gucci-pooch outfits - chic Rhi Designs can be found here. I had a quick chat with Suzanne of North Rock Gallery - have you seen her new puffin designs? I especially heart the Puffintastic prints! I'm saving my pennies for Andrea Williamson's knitted Russian doll cushions andJulie Williamson's Sangs o Shetland lampshade. I also discovered JuSt Shetland and their range of super luxe textiles. I'm looking forward to visiting the JS studio and having a go at spinning. It was great to see Donna Smith again - her 100% wool felt designs are exquisitely crafted and her new jumper brooches are lush, as are Glansin Glass' vibrant range of pendants and fused glassware in a myriad of patterns and colours. I said hello to photographer Austin Taylor (wow-factor northern light images on display) and viewed stylish peat ingrained candleholders from Paparwarks, and discovered that Steven Spence, one of Shetland's most popular fiddlers, has a new CD out -Spencie's Tunes Volume Four (why not commission a tune for a special occasion?) Be sure to pop over to Mike Finnie of Red Houss - his limited edition lustworthy Fair Isle patterned jewellery range is high on my wish list (vouchers available). For bookworms - step back in time and purchase a Guddicks (traditional riddles) book and entertain the whole family! Don't forget to peruse the online Heritage Shop, too, and Sheila Fowlie's shop for heirloom lace shawls…Buy something inspiring for your loved ones, direct from artisans - handmade in Shetland where every piece tells its own unique story. Happy shopping and don't forget your 60North canvas bag!

Why don't you: treat yourself to a Snow Angel candle and Sugar and Spice (will make you smell Christmas nice!) bubble bath from Shetland Soap Company?

Top tip: Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale, has a magical Christmas Craft Cabinet in the lower gallery, a superb gift shop and a yummy winter menu in the café. Festive fun is happening from November to December 22nd. Late night shopping: 27th November and 4th December (until 8.30pm). Bring the bairns (age 5-11) on November 27th from 6-8 for a Christmas printing workshop. Booking: 01595 745750

Papa Stour and Yule memories

I haven yet shared my honey-sunny day trip to Papa Stour. We had a 'do you remember' day. I promise I will tell all next year… However, in the meantime I will share an extract from Stella Shepherd's book 'Like a Mantle the Sea'. Stella arrived on the island of Papa Stour with her husband back in the 1960s and they stayed eight years. She writes a fascinating story of island life, challenges met and friendships made.

Plump up your lace and lavender cushion by Wendy Shaw and let me share a Papa Stour Christmas story…

…When the shop changed hands and moved its premises, a new style of Christmas shopping was introduced. Myra, who took over the shop, ordered goods from Lerwick tradesmen, as Alex had done, but she found her premises were not big enough to set out the goods for all to see. So, after consultation, the schoolroom was pressed into use in yet another capacity, that of a shop.

As with all functions in the school, the lighting of the lamp was the signal that the shop was open, and within a few minutes the first customers arrived. This shop was not just a 'one-night stand', but remained open for a week, during the evenings only, all the goods being repacked and the tables cleared in preparation for the next day's school.

To children who could count their visits to the town on the fingers of one hand, and who had never seen a large city store decorated for Christmas, this festive display was a revelation. Watching the children's enjoyment was more of a pleasure to me than the actual shopping. To see them walking round the tables, looking at everything with incredulity and wonderment would have opened the eyes of many a blasé city dweller….

Stella goes on to write about her Christmas shopping trips to Lerwick by boat and then hired car - a trip that often necessitated an overnight stay due to short daylight hours. Often people from the island could not get back across the Sound as they were 'storm-stayed' on the mainland. The record for being 'stranded', at the time, was held by a lady called Lizzie who 'storm-stayed' in Sandness for 10 days!

Top tip: If you would like to know more about Shetland's time past (and wish to purchase Stella's book) - pop over to The Shetland Times Bookshop and Shetland Heritage Shop for a selection of superb reads.

What's the buzz….?

Watch Shetland Wool Week 2013 video diary: Join us for a yarntastic time in 2014 and get booking!

FREE online magazine: 60 North - Autumn/Winter issue is out now! Food, arts and crafts, spectacular Shetland images by Maurice Henderson and Jon Dunn (love puffins at sunset) and much, much more!

Kayaking Shetland to Norway - listen to podcast: from Skerries to Bergen in a two-man kayak in 62 hours! What an epic adventure.

BA High Life features Shetland: great photos and article from Emine Saner - 'in search of wild seascapes, quirky traditions - and otters.'

Shetland Museum Yule Exhibition: Anne Bain and Mike Finnie (16th November-19th December). Artists inspired by the light, landscape and older settlements in Shetland.

Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale : from 16th November - 22nd December - view Paul Bloomer's exhibition: How Then Shall We Now Live?

Living Lerwick hosts Winter Festival: from 23rd November - live music, family parade, Santas's grotto…

Book Week Scotland: is running a series of free events in Shetland from 25th November - 1st December.

Bill Wells and The National Jazz Trio of Scotland: music, food and a bop! Saturday 14th December, Mareel at 7.00pm

Newton Faulkner: Brilliant night of music - 31st January, 7.30pm at Mareel

December's prize - a Ruth Brownlee Limited edition print

Congratulations Mrs Susan Royle from Lancashire - Brilliant Bread by the 2012 Great British Bake-Off finalist, James Morton, is on its way to you. Happy Baking! This month's prize is a framed limited edition print 'Headland' by renowned Scottish landscape artist - Ruth Brownlee - a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, a multi-award winning artist, with work in collections around the world. Ruth's art is dramatic, atmospheric and captures the changing moods of Shetland's elemental scenery beautifully and conveys her deep passion for Shetland, a place she now calls home after falling in love with the landscape while over here teaching a workshop:

'… I was struck by the sheer beauty of the islands, expansive skies and different northern light. On the second day of the workshop, we went sketching on a nearby beach, and I had that cliché 'life changing' moment thinking this is where I want to live & paint... The sea was so turquoise and skies so expansive…'.

Ruth uses a local company to produce her limited edition print runs of 80, using the best high quality inks available on acid free paper. Each print is individually signed, numbered and mounted.

Find out: more about Ruth's work in a fascinating interview with ZoneOne Arts and in Promote Shetland's free online magazine 60 North (summer 2013 issue)

Did you know: Ruth is on the Craft Trail. Her studio has wow-factor views. A must visit.

Blow away the cobwebs and plan your 2014 trip to Shetland

I know, I know, it's not even Christmas yet and I'm thinking about New Year holidays! Well, you know how quickly Christmas arrives and before you realise it -you've watched too much telly, eaten far too many mince pies and if you see another brussel sprout..! Don't worry, I'm here with a few cobweb-blowing-brussel-sprout-and-mince-pie-free ideas to help you plan a get away from it all break. Shetland is the ideal New Year escape. Why? Because I guarantee that Shetland gales will blow the festive cobwebs away and most probably knock you off your feet and stop you from opening the car door, too (both of which happened today!) There's also a fiery festival happening on January 28th that offers an exhilarating and quirky way to start 2014 - Up Helly Aa. I offered some UHA top tips in November's newsletter and the dedicated website is verypacked with information - so, I won't ramble on. All you need to do is to get booking and come on over for a 24-hour party you'll be talking about for years to come and a jaw dropping fiery procession that will leave you speechless and then there's the Galley destined for Valhalla and Vikings galore and…and…

Top tip: join an 'Up Helly Aa' Fire Festival and Shetland's Winter Wildlife' tour with Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife (25th January-29th January).

Did you know: Up Helly Aa actually dates from the 1880s? It arose because authorities objected to raucous revellers dragging burning tar barrels through Lerwick's narrow lanes!

60 North trip suggestions…

If you're planning to pop over here for a winter break - why not include a trip to the most northerly inhabited island - Unst, and stay at stunning Belmont House. Top tip: walk the breathtaking Hermaness Circular. If you're seeking a wildlife adventure join Brydon from Shetland Nature on a wildlife tour and stay at the new Scandi-chic Nature Lodge. If you're looking for a holiday with a difference - get cosy in an Eshaness wigwam for a few days and follow the Volcano Trail with Shetland Geotours. For heritage adventurists: go geocaching and learn about Viking Things and don't miss the five star heritage hub: Shetland Museum and Archives. For musos: visit Da Lounge and listen to live music and enjoy Sunday Jazz at the buzzy new arts hub - Mareel. For creative inspiration follow the Craft Trail and walk Shetland's unspoilt wilderness. Take time out from a busy itinerary and relax with a spa treatment at Northern Lights Spa, followed by high tea in Busta House (love the heart-shaped shortbread and über comfy sofas). In the evening book a yummy dinner at Hay's Dock, and for afters - go aurora hunting and stargazing. Don't forget to shop for real Shetland wool keepsakes: visit Spiders Web and Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick. Leave hibernating to the snoozy hedgehogs - 60 North is a great way to start 2014 and get you out and asprout!

Top tip: I can't resist a calendar or three. This year my favourite is the 2014 Shetland calendar (£12.50) by Mark Sinclair of Phatsheep Photography. Twelve dreamy images of Shetland can be found here

From all of us at PS HQ we wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you back here 2014!

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