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Gilly B's Shetland

by Promote Shetland -

Artist Gilly Bridle shares her experience of moving to Shetland and what she loves about living here.

I had never visited Shetland until my husband was offered a post here.

He was offered the options of Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Perth or the central belt. As we had spent 25 years on the inner Hebridean island of Lismore we discounted the Western Isles as being too similar, Perth and the central belt too urban and Orkney, though tempting, because we had a lovely holiday there a couple of years before, had become explored territory rather than unexplored.

So Shetland beckoned with its complete unknowns.

The children had all left Lismore, married, careers and no sign of grandchildren, it was time for a new adventure.

Part of the attraction of Shetland was how far north it is and how close it is to Norway, Faroe Islands and Iceland, both geographically and culturally.

We settled in Scalloway because of the marina, where we have our boat and because it was close to my husband's work. I love the mixture in Scalloway of a historic village, with a busy working pier, all amenities, a wild landscape, a friendly community, great cafe and nice neighbours. It really is a perfect mix.

It's been easy settling into the community. Folk are very friendly and there are lots of activities to join in with. I think you have to make the effort to try lots of things and see which stick. I have made some lovely friends who I meet up with to go for a walk, or have a coffee, or who come to dinner – pre-covid off, course.

At the moment, I haven't driven for nine weeks and apart from the occasional visit to Lerwick with my husband to shop, I have been nowhere apart from Scalloway and its hills in all that time. I am quite OK with that. In fact, in lots of ways I have enjoyed living in a different way.

Long exploratory walks are a favourite activity, sometimes ending up with a swim in the sea, or just sitting quietly sketching.

Shetland works for me because it is the perfect combination of a wild landscape and coast, in conjunction with great facilities and friendly, active and community-minded people. I can go to the cinema, go for a curry, go to a bar, but, I can also spend the whole day walking without seeing another soul if I choose.

It has an active and varied arts and craft scene and many ways to get involved in the community through volunteering roles too.

the perfect combination of a wild landscape and coast... great facilities and friendly, active and community-minded people

The only challenge I face is being a long way from family, but, that would have been the same had I stayed on Lismore and we discovered it was easier to get to Edinburgh once you disembark from the ferry in Aberdeen than it was to come from the West Coast.

I love exploring edges and Shetland has the best edges. High cliffs with crashing seas, sandy beaches, lighthouses, bird life, piers, boats, caves, historic sites. I also love the variety of weather – it is definitely drier than the West Coast – and the complete contrast between summer and winter. There is something equally as atmospheric about the dark winter months as there is about the endless daylight of summer.

I love exploring edges and Shetland has the best edges

My husband is retiring this summer and we were thinking of sailing to Norway, possibly further. But, like everyone, plans are difficult to contemplate at the moment and whenever and whatever we do, we intend to come back to Shetland. I am very happy here, so I'm not really bothered how the timescale for potential travel evolves.

I have worked as a designer since leaving college many years ago. My degree is in textile design, but, for many years, like many women, when the children were small, design work was something I fitted in between family life, croft life and other various part time employment.

I have run a cafe, worked with adults with learning disabilities, been a cleaner, a home help and a lock keeper on the Caledonian Canal. Design work has been a constant thread amongst all this.

Latterly, I have had time to focus solely on my design business and Shetland has proved a receptive place for this to flourish.

I am interested in the juxtaposition between people going about their lives and the beautiful seascape and wildlife. I love catching sight of folk at work with some traditional knitwear underneath a boiler suit or oilskins.

There are so many stories here, connecting history, traditional skills, contemporary life and home and hearth, with generations of gansies knitted with love which may even last generations of wearers.

I am very glad that opportunity and circumstance have brought me here.

You can view and shop for Gilly B's work on her website.

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