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March 2015 Visit Shetland Newsletter



It's March and the smell of spring is in the air! The snowdrops are out and other bulbs are starting to poke through and make an appearance. The days are getting longer and there's more time to explore the isles, even as a local there's so many places to see. Top of my to-do list this year is the Fethaland circular walk - it's 10km and something I haven't done for years. It's a magical place - a friend of mine introduced me to the joys of a camping kettle, so I'm looking forward to enjoying a cup of tea in one of the ruins there. I've also also decided to see how many Marilyns I can tick off my list. A Marilyn is a hill of any height with a drop of 150 metres or more on all sides and there are 19 in Shetland. I'll also be seeking out more geocaches, a modern day treasure hunt for all the family.

What's New?

Bonhoga's new exhibition Between Rocks and Hard Places by Chris Rigby's in the Upper Gallery is an exploration of the rocky coastline of Shetland, realised in gorgeous, rich colour using oil, acrylic and watercolour; while in the Lower Gallery there's an equally captivating exhibition of photographs by Paul Boyle, representing details of boat hulls which are in the process of being refurbished or overhauled. The exhibition runs until 12 April The Gadderie's new exhibition sees the long awaited return to exhibiting of Anderson High School Art and Design teacher, Forbes C Hogg. Forbes has always worked in landscape painting, inspired by a great love for the varied and rugged beauty of Shetland landscapes and weather.The exhibition runs until 5th April 2015.

If you're looking for something to inspire boys who love pirates, the Shetland Museum and Archives have a new exhibition of sunken treasure from and eighteenth century wreck, found off the Knab in Lerwick. Two displays, located outside the archives, showcase finds from the 1745 wreck of the Drottningen af Swerige (Queen of Sweden) and will be on display throughout 2015. The exhibition promises to offer a “fascinating snapshot of life onboard an eighteenth century trading vessel” - a must see for anyone interested in maritime history.

The UnstFest committee are hard at work organising this year's programme of events, which will run from 10th to 19th July. They've recently announced Rhythmnreel and local band, The Revellers will be performing. If I were you I'd book my trip now, because UnstFest gets better and better each year, and is not to be missed!

History in the Making - First Female Guizer Jarl

History will be made on 13th March, when Lesley Simpson from Maywick will become the first ever female Guizer Jarl. She'll represent Bigton and Levenwick for the South Mainland Up Helly Aa and will lead the procession through Bigton to St Ninian's Isle for the burning of her Galley. The South Mainland Up Helly Aa, or SMUHA as it's known locally, is the most recent Up Helly Aa festival, with the first one being held in 2010. It's hosted by 5 villages in the south mainland, Bigton, Sumburgh, Cunningsburgh, Sandwick and Gulberwick; with each one taking a turn in. I was lucky enough to catch up with Lesley on the run up to the big day, you can listen to our peerie chat here. Sorry to disappoint but, there are no spoilers of what the suit will look like!

The burning of the galley takes place in the sea in each of the villages. I thought I'd share a video of the burning of the 2013 galley, at Hoswick in Sandwick. The music is by local band, Bongshang and features the Royal Scottish National Orchestra - I hope you enjoy it.

Cruise Season

This year 47 cruise liners will call into Lerwick, bringing over 43,000 passengers. If you're arriving into Lerwick on one of the cruise ships you'll be receive orientation information from the "Meet and Greet Team" at the pavillion on the pier. You may be tempted by one of the excursions offered onboard the ship, or you may wish to do things independently. Either way, you'll receive a warm welcome during your short visit. If you do decide to take the independent route, you can meander along the Lerwick lanes, visit the Town Hall, discover the Clickimin Broch or even head to the beach; there's even two sandy beaches in Lerwick, one in town next to the Queens Hotel and one out at Sound. Local historian Douglas Sinclair, offers four different walking tours, each equallly facinating.

If you want to head out of town, again, there's a number of options open to you. Tour guide and crofter, James Tait operates Island Trails who offer set or bespoke tours of 4 to 6 hours in duration, depending on your length of stay in port. Or you could do your own thing altogether and hire a taxi to take you on a tour of your making. This is ideal if you've done your research and have specific places you'd like to see and don't want the services of a guide. Some companies to try are Boddam Cabs or Allied Taxis

Shetland Wool Holiday

If you can't wait until October for Shetland Wool Week, you'll be delighted to know they're organising a six day wool holiday in Shetland from Thursday 16th July to Tuesday 21st July. If you're enthusiastic about Shetland knitting and all things woolly it's the perfect holiday for you to discover our unique textile heritage. The holiday is designed to give an insight into Shetland's textile traditions, industry and lcoal crofting community, as well as giving people the opportunity to explore the islands.

On the first day, you'll receive an exclusive tour of the Shetland Museum and Archive's textile collection by Dr Carol Christiansen and in the afternoon, you'll have a masterclass with the world's fastest knitter, Hazel Tindall. Day Two wil see you heading to Burra to see native sheep and have lunch in the restored Easthouse Croft; in the afternoon you'll visit the Sandness Mill and in the evening you'll wind down with a short night class. On Day 3, you'll be heading north for a walk at Eshaness, you'll have high tea at Busta House Hotel and be treated to a masterclass by 2015 SWW patron Donna Smith. The 4th day sees you heading even further north, to Unst to visit the Heritage Centre and view their famous lace collection and a masterclass in Shetland lace. Shetland Wool Brokers is the first port of call on Day 5, before setting off for St Ninians and a visit to Sumburgh Head. And on the final day, you'll have time to explore Lerwick and the local knitting shops - after a visit to the charming Textile Museum.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival
You might also be interested to hear that the Shetland Wool Week team will have a stand at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. The event is taking place at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 March so if you are in the area and are interested in textiles make sure you stop by and say hello.

Competition Time

Congratulations to Laura Pritchard from Oxfordshire who won the February competition. A Shetland heritage themed puzzle is on its way to you.

This month we are giving away a luxurious Shetland hamper from The Shetland Fudge Company. The lucky winner will receive a delicious selection of treats from Shetland's very own fudgemakers and chocolatiers. All their creations are handmade in their shop in Lerwick, using the finest ingredients and local produce wherever possible.

See you soon!


Remember to sign up for our 60 North Magazine - packed full of interesting features from around Shetland. It's the perfect way to learn more about Shetland, its people, heritage and culture. Or if fiction is more your thing, then check out Shetland Noir - happening 12 to 15 November, perfect for those dark winter nights!

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