May 2014 Visit Shetland Newsletter
Hi, I'm Helen and I'm the new author of the 'visit' newsletter. I'm taking over from Abby, who has written it for the past four years. She's covered some pretty amazing stories, so I've got (metaphorically) large shoes to fill but I'm delighted to be given the opportunity to share my experience of living in Shetland with you.
I'll be setting off round the isles with my trusty notepad, audio recorder and camera to capture the sights and sounds of Shetland, that I hope will inspire you to either come and visit us - or if you're here already, to head out and explore.
I was born and brought up here - although, like most Shetlanders I left to go to university and to travel. It wasn't part of my master plan to come back to Shetland - mostly because I didn't have a master plan! I only came back to catch up with family and friends before heading off on the next great adventure, but instead managed to land a fantastic job, fell in love with my husband to be and fell in love with the islands all over again. And that was it - I was home again!
It was great to come home, there's a real sense of community here - and it's fantastic to meet visitors to the isle, whether it's relatives making a regular trip home, a long lost cousin in search of family history (if that's you, you should pop along the Shetland Family History Society and they'll help you track down your kin) or as a business traveller or tourist. As a keen traveller myself I appreciate the time and effort it takes to come to Shetland, so want you to have the best time here possible.
I love the fresh air and outdoors - good job, because sometimes there's a lot of fresh air and it's coming at you fairly quickly. Those windy days are exhilarating and the perfect day for stomp with the dog (I have an enthusiastic cocker spaniel). On a "good" day, when it's flat calm and everything is tranquil - well those days are perfect for a stomp too. If walking is your thing then check out the Walk Shetland website, there's lots of suggested walks all around the isles. Just remember to be prepared, check the weather forecast and let folk know where you're going. One of my favourite outtings is a trip to Sumburgh Head to see the Tammie Nories (puffins) http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/s/sumburghhead/ - I've heard they're back, so I have to get down there to see them again. The new Sumburgh Head Visitors Centre will be open to the public on 2nd May and will be officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 3rd June.
It's great to take time out to see what's going on in Shetland's creative scene, and I'm excited to see what the Shetland Open has to offer at the Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale it starts on Saturday 26th April and runs until 1st June. I must pop along the Shetland Museum to catch the Writing the North exhibition which is on until 10th May and if you're travelling through Sumburgh Airport on your way to or from Shetland you can catch award winning artist, Ruth Brownlee's exhibition there.
And, of course I'll be heading to the Shetland Folk Festival - it's on from 1st to 4th May and is a highlight in my personal calendar. Tickets sell out quickly but you can sometimes pick up a last minute cancellation and you'll certainly get a membership for the club, which is at Islesburgh Community Centre, which is right next door to the award winning Islesburgh Youth Hostel.
Shetland has no shortage of festivals - fire festivals and Up Helly Aa, The Blues Festival, The Guitar Festival, Fiddle Frenzy, The Jazz Festival - the list is ever increasing and I'll be heading to most, if not all of them.
Spring is my favourite season in Shetland. It's full of hope after the long winter nights, the lighter nights start to return and when the clocks spring forward it's like an awakening. As I look out my kitchen window I can see the daffodils are blooming, lambs are bouncing through the fields, leaves are appearing on my willows and the Mousa Ferry is back at the Sandsayre pier again. Suddenly there are lots of outside tasks that need to be done, like tidying the garden and making it ready for new plants. But first to tackle the house - and the mountain of toys and objects we've managed to gather.
I decide that a good spring clean is in order and some stuff simply has to go! After a herculean effort, I cram everything we're willing to part with into the car and head to the Cunningsburgh Hall for the Sunday teas and car boot sale. Shetland teas are legendary - watch out for details in the local press, as different areas have them each week. It's a fantastic opportunity to head out into the country areas and sample some home baking delights from very accomplished bakers - and it's all for a good cause. Most teas are held to raise funds for the hall they're held in, or for a local charity or appeal. You'll find an array of goodies to fill your bellies - sandwiches, bannocks and a million different types of fancy! Who can pass up cake for a good cause? Not me! Each hall puts it's all into their teas and some come with added attractions, such as car boot sales. Bannocks and bargains, now there's another winning combination! Normally I'm a shopper, not a vendor and I tried to stay focused so I didn't come home with an even fuller boot but, even with my blinkers on and a steely resolve not to buy, I come home with a few plants for the garden!
I'm not the only one having a clearance - at this time of year people in Shetland are gearing up for the annual spring clean or Voar Redd Up. The 27th Voar Redd Up will take place this weekend on 26th and 27th April. Local groups and organisations arm themselves with refuse sacks and head off to clean up the coastline and the roadsides of Shetland, so if you see a group of folk wearin high viz jackets and standing in ditches that's what they're up to. It's fantastic to see so many people get involved - roughly 1/5th of the population take part each year to rid Shetland of rubbish. I met up with Sita Goudie from the Shetland Amenity Trust to find out more about the campaign…..
In the school holidays it's important to keep the bairns entertained and Shetland has much to offer the adventurer and treasure hunter. My husband Gary, suggested that we try Geocaching - it's the modern, high tech version of a treasure hunt. The aim of the game is to use GPS to locate a small box containing “treasure” - it's normally a plastic box, sometimes in a camoflauge bag and hidden from view. It contains information on geocaching (for those who might stumble across it by accident) and a few trinkets. When you find the box you take one out and put one of your own back in. We spent a wonderful morning hiking up hills, down burns and along roadsides - but imagine the delight on my five year old's face when we found real treasure at St Ninian's Isle. If you fancy giving it a go simply download the geocaching app onto your smartphone and you're ready to go. There's 158 to choose from around the isles - we bagged five in a day and it's certainly something we'll be doing a lot of in the future.
Something's brewing in Shetland, quite literally! Shetland's second, The Lerwick Brewery offers two beers, 60°N, a light pilsner type lager and Skippers Ticket, described as a delicate twist on a traditional dark beer. Their customised premises in Staneyhill allows them to brew 2,000 litres (6,000 bottles) at a time and they've recently installed a 500/hour bottling and labelling plant. The first beer was launched in June last year and you can now find their products in local hotels, pubs and shops and on the mainland too. You might think that beer is a traditional drink, made by men for men to drink - but, while the company is owned by 3 brothers, it's 2 women doing the brewing, bottling, labelling and shipping. To find out more I headed along and met up with Manager Rhanna Turberville to see what's on offer.
The brewery will be offering tours from 1st May - if you'd like a behind the scenes tour then you can contact them on 01595 694552.
Whit's Afore Wis (What lies ahead...)
Speaking of the future, I hope to share my love of gardening, arts and crafts and the great outdoors with you over the coming months so I'll give you a head start on things I hope to be doing over the next few months. There are a number of gardens that are open to the public that you can explore - my son loves heading west to Aith to Michael's Wood, where there's a wooden ship to play on, a winding path with toys to play with along the way and a small hide to watch birds from. Further West at Sand, you can meander through the Gairdins of Sand. I'll be taking a trip across to Mousa on the Mousa Ferry - always check to see if they are sailing, as the weather can change and this can affect sailing times. I'll also be taking runs out to different areas to see what's going on and I'll be looking along some of the many visitors centres and heritage centres there are around the isles. The Shetland Heritage Association is a good source of information for contact details and opening times.
Maybe this summer we'll get our boat in the water - she's in need of a bit of work and we need to buy a fishing rod or two, but once that's sorted we can wile away an afternoon bobbing about on the sea, spending quality time as a family before enjoying our catch, cooked simply on the firepit at night. Bliss. I might even pop open one of those delicious 60N beers.
Congratulations to Alison Watson from Northumberland, a signed copy of "Guddicks – Traditional Riddles from Shetland" is on it's way to you. This month we have something completely different to anything we've offered before. A 24” x 16” canvas of any Shetland image taken by local photographer Kim Marie Rendall. Kim, from Shetland on Canvas, was born and brought up in Shetland and is passionate about capturing the landscape's varying moods and wild beauty. The lucky winner can choose from her collection of stunning Shetland photography and enjoy a part of Shetland's breathtaking and colourful landscape in their own home.
See you soon!