June 2014 Visit Shetland Newsletter
I can't believe it's nearly midsummer. It's a wonderful time of year in Shetland, when you really don't want to go to bed and miss any of the daylight, or the special "simmer dim" - the twilight we experience here during the long summer nights.
As usual, there's lots to see and do in the summer months - the Shetland Bergen yacht race takes place and there's a hive of activity in Lerwick harbour. The harbour is a busy place and has a lot to offer tourists - some of the things on offer include an evening trip on the replica longship Dim Riv, you can choose from a range of cruises offered by Underwater Shetland (I've scheduled a trip with them, so look out for photos and an interview in next month's newsletter), or if you prefer to stay on dry land you can sit at the esplanade and watch the world go by. There's few things that beat an ice cream at the small boat harbour on a sunny day.
June is also the month that sees lots (and I mean lots) of interesting cars and bikes in Shetland. The Classic Motor Show and Tours runs from Thursday 5th to Tuesday 10th June, with the main show taking place at the Clickimin Centre in Lerwick on 7th and 8th June, where and over 150 classic cars and 130+ motorbikes can be viewed. There's also the annual Simmer Dim Rally - a bikers rally that attracts 200 visitors each year, and decorated trucks parade around town on Saturday 21st June in the Midsummer Carnival.
If music is your thing, then there are traditional music nights in the Douglas Arms (Marlex) on Tuesday evenings, the Lounge bar on Wednesdays (and occasional Thursdays) and at the Asta Golf Club House on 5th and 19th June. And if you want to catch up with the local art scene you can head to the latest exhibition at the Gadderie at the Shetland Museum "What Seas, What Shores" by artists Laura Drever, Diana Leslie, Paul Bloomer and Ruth Brownlee - it's open until 29th June.
Fun on the Croft
Summer is a great time for heading outdoors and there's plenty of places to explore when you're here. One place I love visiting is the Burland Croft in Trondra, where you can see how a traditional croft works. It's a firm favourite with children, who get to feed and pet the animals. Look out for the Trow's hoose (troll's house) next to the bridge near the water mill. In the south mainland there's the Crofthouse Museum, where you can step back in time and see how things were in the 1870s and you can also pay a visit to the Quendale Mill which dates back to the 16th century.
As you drive around Shetland you might come across some unusual places to pick up some groceries. Honesty boxes supply passers by with items such as eggs, fruit and vegetables - and on a Friday, you can even pick up a copy of the Shetland Times. Just pop what you owe in the money tin and make sure the lid on the main box is secure before you drive off.
My Personal Top 5 Ways to Spend da Simmer Dim
Shetland is a magical place to be for midsummer. Here's my personal Top 5 ways to spend midsummer's night.
1. Climb Ronas Hill, the view from the top is astounding when you get there - well worth the effort.
2. Play golf at midnight! Shetland has 3 Golf Clubs; The Shetland Golf Club, The Asta Golf Club and the Whalsay Golf Club. You can also enjoy a game at the Knab in Lerwick, or head North to Unst, where there's an unofficial course in the sand dunes and links at Burrafirth.
3. Go camping. You can choose to camp at one of the campsites or you could camp wild - just remember to follow the Outdoor Access Code and ask the landowner's permission.
4. Rent a camping böd. These were originally built to house fishermen and their gear, but now provide self catering accommodation.
5. Rent a lighthouse - okay, I haven't actually managed to do this yet - but after my trip to Sumburgh Head, I'm going to make a booking shortly!
Of course, there's a million other ways to spend midsummer in Shetland. What would be in your Top 5? Please let me know.
The visitor centre at Sumburgh Head is now open to the public after a £5.4 million pound improvement project. Boasting a lighthouse, visitor centre and nature reserve, it certainly has a lot to offer. The main areas of the site are the Marine Life Centre, Radar Hut, Foghorn Tower, the Smiddy (or Smithy), an Education Room, Engine Room, Accommodation Block and the self catering accomodation. There's a very nice gift shop there, where you can stock up on items you won't see anywhere else.
The original buildings have been lovingly restored and the attention to detail is astounding. Visitors to the site can guide themselves but extremely helpful Visitor Service Assistants are on hand, should you need a more detailed explanation to any of the displays. And of course, you should take time to do a bit of bird spotting - my personal favourite is the Tammie Norie (puffin), they're so comical, it's no wonder they're often called the clowns of the sky! And if you can't visit Sumburgh Head this year make sure you check out the Puffincam.
The Craft Trail
If, like me, you have an appreciation for handcrafted items you might want to check out some of the places on the Craft Tail. The handy leaflet lists 21 craft makers that you can stop along on a visit to Shetland, and it has a map to guide you along the trail. Some craft makers have their own shops or workshops, others might have a space in their home given over to their craft work. I went on the trail and hopped off in Scalloway to look along the Paparwark workshop owned by Cecil Tait, who handmakes wooden furniture, fusing traditional methods and new ideas to provide stunning pieces. Cecil makes a range of products from small trivits and bowls that are available to buy at outlets in Shetland and from his website to tables and guitar stands. He also custom makes pieces such as traditional Shetland chairs or large board room tables, and works with individual customers to ensure they have a have a piece they will treasure forever.
Congratulations to Sandra Brooks from Lancashire, who won a fantastic Shetland image printed on canvas taken by local photographer Kim Marie Rendall. The prize in this month's competition is a beautiful decorative wooden bowl made by Paparwark, from zebrano timber. The rectangular blank is hand turned on a lathe to create the curved edges of the bowl and the strips in the timber are a natural feature of the wood. It is finished with Danish oil to give it a soft durable surface.
See you soon!