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March 2014 Visit Shetland Newsletter


Profile photo: Abby - Postcards From Shetland


I'm Abby, author of Postcards from Shetland, and I'm very excited to welcome you to my monthly Shetland's Creative Scene newsletter. Meet artists, at home and abroad, inspired by Shetland's heritage and environment (and plenty of handy tips and insider information too!) Subscribe for forthcoming issues.

Snowdrops are decorating my lawn, my Shetland roses are in bud and a friend at Gott Cattery - aka Mo's cat spa, has been sowing seeds in his greenhouse. Which reminds me - if you have green fingers why not volunteer and help out on a croft? Transition Turriefield, located in beautiful Sandness, grow their own fruit and veg and each year volunteers stay with them. The deal is you get free board and lodging and in exchange you help with the animals and learn about growing produce organically. If WWooFing isn't your eco bag - pop over and say hello and see what they're up to, and don't miss the Burland Croft Trail (May-September) – a great adventure for the whole family. More must-dos on my very long must-visit list!

Hot off the press! has been launched to help people plan journeys using inter-island transport. Mobile apps will be available soon. Feedback welcome!

Ancient sites and sticky toffee pudding…

Artist Penny Bhadresa (featured in February's Creative Scene newsletter) shared a wonderful account of her trip to the Isle of Mousa to view Storm Petrels returning to their nests by the light of the moon (May–mid-July/booking essential) and I was inspired to add this RSPB Nature Reserve to my summer 2014 to-do list. This summer I will be returning to Mousa (April-mid September/no booking required) on a daytrip – wildlife watching galore, an easy circular walk and breathtaking views from the top of the ancient Iron Age Broch – is a memorable way to spend several hours and it only takes 15 minutes by ferry to reach the island and the multi-period settlement (including a Norse settlement) - Jarlshof is just down the road, along with the Croft House Museum, Quendale Mill, St Ninian's Isle and much much more. Go south!

Top tip: get the brilliant Jarlshof audio guide and then refuel with a the best sticky toffee pudding I've ever tasted at the tranquil Spiggie Hotel (there's a RSPB Nature Reserve at Spiggie Loch)

Discover: find out all you need to know about getting to Shetland and where to stay.

Be informed: find out about upcoming events and keep in touch with the Promote Shetland Twitter

More plans afoot….

Another must visit is Ollaberry, Northmavine - enjoy a picnic in a secluded cove - followed by a swim? I took the chilly plunge and I think my squeals were heard all the way to Fetlar! While you're in the area be sure to ramble to Back o Ollaberry and discover a massive fault line, part of the Great Glen Fault that stretches as far as the west coast of Scotland!

Shetland Geotours offer fascinating guided tours and don't miss the free monthly sheeksin (dialect word for chatting) at Shetland Museum. This month's session is about Geopark Shetland (March 11th at 2.30pm). Every itinerary has to include my favourite new heritage hub - Scalloway Museum. I always spend hours browsing the fascinating displays (love the Jim o' Berry story), and try to make time to ramble the breathtaking Scalloway and Burwick Circular (or at least part of it!), before ending an active day in Shetland's old capital with a scrummy dinner at Scalloway Hotel.

Why not: drop into Paparwark? Cecil Tait's workshop, situated in Scalloway, is a wonderful place to view his unique handcrafted furniture.

Go island hopping!

Island hopping is a real adventure and each year I try to visit at least two or three (there are 15 inhabited islands). I'll soon be flying over to stunning Fair Isle - actor Douglas Henshall was "smitten by the place" and while he was filming the forthcoming BBC One murder mystery Shetland (view You Tube trailer) he was lucky enough to hear Minke whales singing! Read the BBC interview and read his guide to Shetland.

A must visit is Foula, you may recall I went camping there sometime ago and celebrated my birthday by the Loch of Ouvrafandal - with squashed cake - hubby hid it in the rucksack and I sat on it! On my next trip I want to book a free guided walk with a Ranger and buy some über popular Foula Wool (heart the Tea Jenny hat by Kate Davies knitted with Foula Wool). I'll definitely be scooting over to the most northerly inhabited island in the UK - Unst, to visit otterholic and native Shetlander, Brydon Thomason of Shetland Nature – we're off otter spotting for the day and I can't wait! And then there's Papa Stour… I never did get around to sharing one of my most memorable trips of last summer did I? Pack the fruitcake, the Shetland Cheese and pickle sandwiches and I'll tell you all in April's newsletter!

Did you know: Keith Savage has brilliant photos and Shetland itinerary suggestions on his website Travelling Savage?

Must read: Keith's inside scoop (including top tips) of his time spent enjoying the legendary annual Shetland Folk Festival (1st-4th May 2014).

March's prize - a selection of Shetland illustrated greeting cards, designed by Monica Pothecary

Congratulations Mrs Averil Newsam from Middlesbrough – The Shetland Eagle is winging its way to you! This month's prize is a selection of Shetland illustrated greeting cards designed by illustrator and textile designer Monica Pothecary. Monica combines hand drawn images with digital techniques and the contemporary cards are professionally printed on beautiful Accent Callisto soft white 300gsm board. You may have gathered I'm cat crazy and I was therefore very happy to hear that Monica has recently launched a feline themed greeting card range - Quirky Cats - available to purchase from her Etsy shop: Monica's Design Hub (love the very familiar where's my dinner?). Purrfect! I first came across Monica's stunning cards in Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale. I enjoy keeping in touch with people via cards, it's old school, I know, but nothing beats receiving a handwritten message from a loved one.

Did you know: Monica's cards can also be found at Shetland Textile Museum, Böd of Gremista, Lerwick? Don't miss visiting this outstanding Museum and shop.

Why don't you: Read more about Monica in September's Creative Scene Newsletter and find out about the history of the stunning writing accessory – the "Elenore von Flutow" pen - hand crafted from reclaimed oak by Terry Atkinson, Tingwall Woodcraft. The pen is available to purchase (£19.95) from the online Shetland Heritage shop.

What's the buzz…?

10 reasons to visit Shetland featured in 60 North Autumn/Winter 2013 issue – free online magazine: I could write a million more reasons, but 10 had to do, for now!

Shetland Folk Festival (1st-4th May 2014): the party starts on the Northlink ferry (30th April)!

Shetland Jazz Festival: jazz meets 1920s literature - find your inner Zelda or Scott from 29th May-1st June 2014.

Shetland ForWirds celebrate the Year of Dialect: Events galore, including a Shetland ForWirds concert: May 13th at the Garrison Theatre, Lerwick.

Shetland Museum and Archives' Textiles Collection has been awarded Recognised status by Museums Galleries Scotland. Be sure to attend a free guided tour when you visit this five star heritage hub Top tip: Make sure Shetland Museum and Archives is your first port of call.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre - due to open spring 2014 (and getting crafty in Bressay Lighthouse!). Sumburgh Head is one of my favourite nature reserves and the most easily accessible place to watch puffins at play. The complex is only a few minutes drive from Sumburgh airport. Why not stay in the newly renovated self-catering accommodation - the Light Keeper's cottage? Or stay at another lighthouse on the island of Bressay (ten minute ferry journey form Lerwick and gateway to National Nature Reserve Noss) and get crafting - "Paper Folding for Book Artists" with artist and self-confessed islomaniac Rachel Hazell Venue: Bressay Lighthouse Dates: 25th-28th April 2014 Price: £350.00.

Shetland Classic Motor Show and Tours: Clickimin Leisure Centre, Lerwick, 7th and 8th June 2014.

Get geared up and Cycle Shetland: 1000 miles of roads waiting to be explored and low volume traffic. What's not to like?! The website is packed with information, including day rides and a great video of the Simmer Dim Cycling Sportive 2013. See you here for the 2014 Cycling Sportive?

So Much to Sea: the local seafood industry is sharing insider information past and present, including an excellent informative video, via a fantastic new website: So Much to Sea. Throughout March community events are planned across the islands: seafood tastings, music and some fishy stories! Discover:

Polly put the kettle on! Airbnb newbie: Polly develops new uses for redundant historic buildings and she has wowed me with her super stylish Shetland retreat (love the jumper board above the bed). North Town croft house, located in Reawick is a great place to escape to and only 200m from a beautiful beach. Find out more about Shetland's soul-soothing beaches.

Barbara Dickson and Rab Noakes visit Shetland: 8th June 2014
Venue: Mareel

"Fragments & "Models" of Mind" at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum: on until 16th March 2014 - two new exhibitions, exploring the Shetland landscape, from artists Gemma Balfour and Vivian Ross-Smith (read an interview with Vivian in November's Creative Scene newsletter).

See you soon!

PS Celebrate the arrival of spring with a Shetland beer from Lerwick Brewing Co (weekly brewery tours start May 2014) and then pop over to Taste of Shetland and enjoy a mouthwatering good read (Peter Sinclair's Shetland bannock recipe produce the fluffiest bannocks!) and finally, trot over and meet Socks the Shetland pony – Shetland's most famous tourism ambassador, and find out why he's wearing his heart on his sleeve…

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