February 2014 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.
Since we last spoke…
A belated Happy New Year! It's been a while since we last spoke and as I write there's a fiery festival about to happen - the world famous and very unique Lerwick Up Helly Aa - 'Up Helly Aa an da cocks'll craa, Up Helly Aa an da caald winds blaa (the meaning can be found on the superb dialect website: Shetland ForWirds). You might have seen all the UHA shenanigans (well, perhaps not all!) via the live webcast from 60 North TV? Or you might be over here right now experiencing this crazy annual "there will be no postponement for weather" festival - Vikings and fancy dress mayhem, a replica Viking Longship set alight with flaming torches and 24-hour parties held in Lerwick Halls. Don't despair if you missed Lerwick's festival - there are eight rural Up Helly Aa celebrations, all promising fiery merriment, happening until late March. (Must see: view poignant images, taken by Robert Ramsay, portraying the 1914 UHA - exhibited at Shetland Museum) If you're interested in learning more about these unique festivals - sharpen your axe, look fierce and march over here for rural UHA dates and insider information.
Did you know : British Museum curators and staff have just returned from a press trip to Shetland on a Viking research recce, prior to the opening of their major exhibition: Vikings: Life and Legend? Click here for the Guardian article.
PS have you seen Ellie Harrison's video clips of Shetland in winter featured in the BBC Two series The Great British Winter? Click here to view. There are wow-factor photos of Shetland in winter on Promote Shetland's Facebook Page (thank you to everyone who contributes images to the PS page). There'Edits no need to join Facebook to view our wondrous islands in all its four-season glory - the FB page is open for all to enjoy.
Now, I have to confess I haven't been too adventurous of late, staying in my back yard; struggling down the track as gale force winds try and force me back, huffing and puffing as I climb the hill behind my cottage - always thrilled by the stunning views, especially the popular trout filled lochs (The Trout Fishing in Shetland guide can be found here). After all this exertion I like to spend quiet evenings by the peat fire - is there anything better than listening to a storm raging outside while eating sheep dip malt whisky and walnut Shetland fudge in a cozy cottage? I think not. I've also been gifted a fascinating book called The Shetland Eagle by Anne Taylor, just another excuse to hunker down, wrapped in a snuggly Shetland blanket from Shetland Woolbrokers and lose myself in a good read….
February's prize - The Shetland Eagle by Anne Taylor
Congratulations Mrs Linda Marner from Powys - Shetland Textiles: 800BC to the Present is weaving its way to you. This month's prize is The Shetland Eagle by Anne Taylor. Anne lives in Northumberland and the plot for this book came to her in a dream, 'complete with characters, location, twists and turns and the all important ending.' The intriguing story is partly based in Shetland - a place Anne fell in love with, 'the big skies and stunning beaches' and where she did a great deal of research 'the Shetlanders I spoke with were happy to talk about island life and share stories'. The story starts just before the Second World War and focuses on a young girl, Tally, and her father - who escaped the bloody Russian Revolution in 1919 with his baby daughter, but without his wife who died in childbirth whispering a final message that he 'spends years trying to unravel'. As the Second World War speeds across Europe - Tally's father is sent by the British Military on a secret mission back to his hometown in Russia. It's a perilous journey to reach his war torn homeland, bravely assisted by resistance groups and attractive Russian agent, Zoya. It's also a journey that leads to the truth of his dying wife's mysterious message.
Talking of eagles….
When I went to interview the lovely artist James Thomason for my Creative Scene Newsletter he reminded me of the Shetland Eagle story and added that he had met a descendant of the couple, featured in the following yarn, at the opening of his exhibition. The lady had travelled all the way from Australia to find out more about her Shetland roots. Put the kettle on, open a packet of Hobnobs and let me tell you about 'The Eagle and the baby':
Many years ago, a baby girl in Unst called Mary Anderson was lifted by a sea eagle from the field where here mother was working. She was carried by the eagle to Fetlar, pursued in a boat by a group of Unst men. With the help of some Fetlar men, who knew the location of the eagle's nest, they lowered a local boy named Robert Nicolson down the cliff to rescue the baby. When he returned, one of the Unst men said "Du'll mebbe get her fur dee wife yet" (You'll maybe marry her one day). This turned out to be true! Years later, he married Mary and they settled in North-a-Voe in Yell. Several families in Fetlar can claim to be the descendants of Mary Anderson and Robert Nicolson.
Why not: learn more about your Shetland roots? Visit the superb Shetland Family History Society website and subscribe to their quarterly journal Coontin Kin.
Top tip: sign up for the Fetlar newsletter here and don't miss the Interpretive Centre (open May - Sept) where you can hear the above story and many more recordings read by renowned storyteller - the late Jamesie Laurenson.
A Shetland romance…
Why don't you treat your loved one and pop over for a romantic get-away-from-it-all break? I can highly recommend booking a lighthouse holiday (next on my must-do list - a stay at the Fair isle Lighthouse). Our long weekend spent at the atmospheric and isolated Eshaness Lighthouse was wild weather memorable and perfectly situated for the exhilarating Eshaness Circular (join renowned rock and awe guide - Allen Fraser of Shetland Geotours and get the explosive reveal on the Volcano Trail). For afters - a Sunday carvery at St Magnus Bay Hotel, Hillswick, will fire you up for an afternoon trip to the Made By Shetland jewellery studio, situated in the Workshop Gallery, Hillswick. View Esme's stunning silver jewllery cast with sand from a local beach. If you're a busy urbaneer - stay at intimate Busta House Hotel. We celebrated our third wedding anniversary at Busta and for a vintage lover this is just my kind of accommodation (very near my favourite walk of 2013 - Hams of Muckle Roe Circular - another must-do!) I love the Linga room with the four-poster bed and the gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Stems, Lerwick, was a wonderful surprise. An aperitif in the cosy bar and fine dining in the candle lit restaurant was the perfect way to end the evening. Busta House is always buzzy, always welcoming and if you book a room there's no need to deny yourself another nightcap. Sweet dreams guaranteed! If a romantic trip on the high seas appeals - catch a couple of car ferries to the most northerly-inhabited island in the UK - Unst. Belmont House is luxe luxe luxe, a beautifully restored Georgian House and Country Living perfect. Visit Hermaness National Nature Reserve, buy gifts from Cheryl at Glansin Glass studio, featured on the Craft Trail, and don't miss an evening, glass of fizz in hand, star gazing. You never know the Northern Lights might make an appearance and perform a luminous light show…
Did you know : Busta House, built by the Giffords in 1588, has a fascinating history? The doomed relationship between Barbara Pitcairn and John Gifford will bring a tear to your eye. The tragic story unravels in The True Romance of Busta by Frances Scott. Read a brief history of Busta House here.
Why don't you: Combine a winter wildlife tour with Simon King's right hand man and wildlife guru, Brydon Thomason and his team at Shetland Nature? Stay at the chic Shetland Nature Lodge and choose from a fantastic range of wildlife, birding and photography holidays (Spring Experience Wild Weekend offers an excellent 4-day itinerary 23rd -27th May). Need pampering after all those outdoor activities? Book a massage at Sleeping Beauty, Lerwick - the relaxing aromatherapy treatments are divine. Finish the day off with a yummy meal at the popular Hay's Dock café/restaurant The St Valentine's evening menu looks too delish - monkfish scampi with hand-cut chips followed by warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream anyone? Ooooh yes please!
What's the buzz….?
Book accommodation on a converted trawler yacht Orlik: pop over to the very hip Airbnb and check out this quirky pad - free cruise included and brilliant reviews from very happy travellers. What's not to like?!
Promote Shetland launches foodie blog: A Taste of Shetland promises to be a mouthwatering good read.
Nostalgic images from Dennis Coutts at Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale: 'Sixties' Revisited' 18th January - 2nd March
Shetland Museum searches for packmen: the 'Incoming' project, a collaboration between Raman Mundair and Shetland Museum aims to collect narratives by people who have come to Shetland over the years, including packmen from the Indian subcontinent who use to visit Shetland to sell goods in the second half of the 20th century. Raman would love to collect reminiscences from people who remember these visitors Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Pssst don't miss the exhibition Shetland: Paper, Paint and Clay - Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum until 9th February
Jet setting phalaropes reveal their whereabouts: read about a tagged phalarope that has clocked up an epic 16,000 air miles during its annual migration, returning to Fetlar exhausted from sightseeing and happy to back at chez Funzie Loch watching ramblers explore idyllic Funzie Ness.
Calling all paddlers: Shetland Sea Kayak Symposium: 11th-14th July 2014. Wilderness Scotland gave Shetland a big thumbs up, with Head Guide of the sea kayaking trip, Myles Farnbank, rating sea kayaking in Shetland 'as one of the best places he has ever paddled' and he's been paddling in remote locations across the globe!
Festival dates for your diary: Shetland's festival calendar is packed with many events. Find out more here. A must-visit is Mareel - a busy arts hub with fantastic events planned, including a concert with Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson on Scottish harp and Swedish nyckerlharpa (23rd March). Don't forget to make travel plans NOW! for the prestigious annual Shetland Folk Festival (May 1st-4th 2014) Why not combine the Folk Festival with a bespoke tour organized by Hugh Harrop and his team at Shetland Wildlife? For the time poor it's the perfect option. Leave all the planning to specialist consultants - all you need to do is get on over!
Time to get booking - we can't wait to welcome you to Shetland!
I hope you made a New Year resolution to come visit us very soon? Shame on you if Shetland wasn't on the 2014 must-do list! C'mon, don't delay - for travel and accommodation information. It's so easy to get to Shetland - the main airport (Sumburgh) has frequent daily flights from Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and there's a daily Northlink ferry, too, or bring your own yacht - fantastic marinas, which won't break the bank.
Top tip: if you decide to fly - book well in advance - you can save a lot of money and use it wisely - no, not in a low interest savings account - to go island hopping! There are 15 inhabited islands to explore - all dramatically different and worth every penny. Don't forget to purchase local gifts for yourself for the whole family, including a piece from the whimsical "Peerie Smoorikins" range (Shetland dialect for "little kisses") designed by Sophie Whitehead and created in the Shetland Jewellery workshop, Weisdale.
Did you know: you can fly from Shetland to beautiful Bergen, Norway (May-August)? Why not combine Shetland and Norway and have a Scandi cool holiday? If you'd like to find out about how Shetland and Norway collaborated during the Second World War - visit the fascinating Scalloway Museum, (£3.00 for a season ticket!) which displays, in addition to the history of Scalloway, Shetland Bus memorabilia and information. Find out more about Shetland's Visitor attractions here.
See you soon!
The Promote Shetland team will have a stand at The Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show, Excel, London (13th-16th February, stand AT352). Say hi to Andy, Deborah and Misa during the 3-day event and learn more about our magical islands.
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