March 2013 Visit Shetland Newsletter

by Abby -


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…

…tasted decadent delights at Fine Peerie Cakes, Lerwick (oh no, I'm hooked!) and spent afternoons walking off the sugary highs and gathering kindling in the woods. Although spring is in the air and the days can be so golden and the nights can be oh so pink - it's still quite nippy and the fire is crackling and my cat is still hibernating! View the Walk Shetland website for rambling recommendations - no 'keep out!' signs guaranteed or why not book a walk on the wild side and unleash you inner Ray Mears with the team at Shetland Walking and Wildlife?

I've planned a trip to the mainland and booked a cosy cabin on the ferry. An overnight adventure on the high seas is a fun way to reach Shetland and the new Northlink Ferries website is packed with handy information and features the mesmerizing Fair Isle poet and musician, Lise Sinclair reading Fauld up da Feddoms. Listen and be transported to Shetland's magical shores. If a go-slow holiday isn't possible and time is of the essence - book the super quick flying option (regular daily flights from Edinburgh, Aberdeen Glasgow and Inverness).

Double did you know:The Aberdeen to Shetland flight was featured in BA High Life as one of the 30 best flights in the world and…during the summer there are direct flights from Shetland to beautiful Bergen, Norway. Why not combine a trip to Shetland with a visit to our friends across the water?

Sheila Fowlie and genuine Shetland Lace Shawls

I recently attended a business course at Train Shetland (invaluable advice from business experts and many courses are free) where I met lace knitter, Sheila Fowlie. We sat together and attempted to make sense of all things technical! I learnt that Sheila has been knitting since the age of four and makes and sells only genuine Shetland lace products. Her website Shetland Lace Shawls showcases her stunning intricate lacework,'…made in the traditional way in Shetland with Shetland wool.' I'm saving my pennies for the 1-ply Nell's Stole in black. The design features a 'Cat's Paw' filled diamond - a combination of two traditional patterns. What a beautiful heirloom.

Did you know: The most sought after knitwear to be exported from Shetland became the 'ring shawl', a fine, intricately patterned fine lace shawl up to 72 inches square, yet weighing only 2 or 3 ounces, so fine that it could be pulled through a wedding ring. The 'ring shawl' takes a lot of care and time to create between preparing and spinning the wool, about 200 hours of knitting, then washing and stretching to size on a custom-made 'hap' board.

Shetland Folk Festival: 'This festival requires a Government health warning - nobody sleeps!'

I've been enjoying the images of regional Up Helly Aas featured in local publications. Did you know there are over ten fire festivals across the islands, in addition to the largest of the islands' fire festival in Lerwick?! Talking of festivals - the prestigious 33rd Shetland Folk Festival is happening soon (2nd-5th May 2013). Advance Membership holders can book tickets from 15th March and general ticket and membership sales open to all from 5th April.

If you're tempted to make your way to the most far-flung folk festival in the UK, join revelers and musicians on 1st May somewhere in the middle of the North Sea - the unofficial opening is held on the overnight ferry! Many of the international and local musos will no doubt be hanging out in Mareel - Shetland's brand new funky Arts Centre in Lerwick (next door to award-winning Shetland Museum and Archives) and featured in April's issue Coast Magazine: '10 best Landmark Galleries'. Shimmy over here for a fantastic itinerary of events at this iconic cultural attraction.

Did you know:Shetland is festival crazy?! Click here for the busy festival calendar

Art from the heart and finding a sense of place

On Sunday I visited Bonhoga Gallery, located in pretty Weisdale. Numbers - an exhibition of work from Veer North Visual Artists Group is currently being showcased (20th January-3rd March). Howard Towll's woodcut: 12,000 Gannets on Noss caught my eye and it was interesting to read that gannets continue to increase in number, with two large Gannetries of Hermaness and Noss (both National Nature Reserves and top visitor attractions) containing approximately 25,000 breeding pairs on the last UK census. An incredible fact considering this species was first recorded breeding in Shetland in 1914.

Limited editions of Howard's work are also available in the whimsical gift shop (I heart the Lino print of Puffins). While I was browsing in Bonhoga I met a very happy Shetland newbie, she relocated to Shetland, from Vermont, a year ago. One of the UK's leading silversmiths has also been inspired by Shetland and is in the process of establishing a home and studio in Muckle Roe. Read about Rod Kelly's forthcoming Shetland exhibitionhere.

Top tip: Move Shetlandis a superb resource if you're thinking about relocating and Alastair's monthly newsletter is a fascinating insight into island life

Meet the travelling bookbinder - Rachel Hazell

Whatever the time of year there's always so much to see and do in Shetland and Misa, my colleague at PS HQ, has recently sent me information about a fabulous 3-day paper engineering and bookart workshop, incorporating windows and photography. The workshop is to be held inBressay Lighthouse (19th-21st April) and will be taught by the travelling bookbinder, Rachel Hazell - a fellow islomaniac, a frequent visitor to Shetland and once upon a time the Assistant Post Mistress in Antarctica! Rachel has taught all over the world and was trained at London College of Printing and Camberwell College of Arts. Contact Rachel here for further details.

Book a photography workshop with award-winning photographer and ecologist - Dr Richard Shucksmith

Seeking local knowledge has always been my travel mantra. Guided tours with local experts are an ideal opportunity to discover 'hidden Shetland' and Dr Richard Shucksmith's workshops are an exciting addition to the Shetland tour scene. You may recall Richard was theoverall winner of the 2011 British Photography Awards, and he's now sharing his valuable expertise as a guide, ecologist and tutor on a number of small group or bespoke one-to-one ecological photography workshops and tours.

Choose from Wild Seabirds of Shetland Photo Tour, Midsummer Night Landscape Special and Otter Field Ecology Workshop to name but a few. Richard's aim is'to create an intimate and personalized experience enabling you to gain an insight into some of Shetland's remarkable wildlife whilst providing access to many of its outstanding coastal vistas.'Visit Richard's website and explore the tremendous diversity of stunning images in his gallery, listen to sounds of wildlife (Storm Petrel recorded at Mousa Broch is my favourite) and spend time reading his fascinating blog with lots of handy photography tips shared.

Top tip:Leave the guidebook at home, get off the beaten track and discover 'hidden Shetland' with local experts. Shetland tour guides are more than happy to tailor a trip to suit your needs. Just ask!

March's prize - a Russian retro lace scarf from Wendy Shaw Textile Designer

Congratulations to February's prizewinner, Dawn Alderson - a handcrafted marine inspired canvas bag, designed and made by60North Bag Company, is on its way to you! This month's prize is a Russian retro lace scarf knitted in subtle colour palettes of powder blue, ecru and gold, made from 100% mercerised cotton and edged with a luxurious gold trim, created by textile designer Wendy Shaw.

Wendy's work draws on the textile tradition of the islands and contemporary influences 'a new tradition of the modern' and she has established a thriving business making hand-finished pieces for interiors and exclusive accessories which are limited edition textiles, created and made in Shetland.

Wendy's range (available to purchase from her online shop) conveys her love of colour and innovative use of fine cotton and wool yarns, creating timeless pieces with a twist.

And look what's just in! ... A great new advert featuring Shetland.

See you soon!

PS. Every month there's lots of Ooohing and Aaahhing over regular wildlife sightings and in February birdwatchers flocked to Shetland to see an ultra-rarePine Grosbeak - only the 12th of its kind to be seen in Britain and the 3rd record for Shetland. Watch this short video, featured on David Gifford's photoblog. Sure to make you smile and put a spring in your step!

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