May 2015 Visit Shetland Newsletter
Hi there, Spring has definitely sprung and the nights are getting longer. The Voar Redd Up, the annual spring clean of the roadsides and beaches of Shetland has taken place, meaning Shetland is spic and span for visitors. There's so many outdoor activities to choose from in Shetland, whether you're a keen walker, cyclist, kayaker or sailor there's plenty on offer. For art lovers, there's still time to catch "Archaeology of Journeying" by Jack Chesterman at Da Gadderie at the Shetland Museum and Archives. Out at Bonhoga, in Weisdale you can see the Open Winners" Exhibition "Malakoff" and stop in the cafe and enjoy the view. If you're here to visit family, or to trace your ancestors the Shetland Family History Society is a must, as is the Shetland Museum and Archives, where you'll find staff happy to help.
Lots of visitor attractions are now open for the summer season. The Shetland Heritage Association website has a handy map showing where the heritage centres are. A personal favourite of mine is the Quendale Mill (pictured); combine a visit with a walk along the Quendale beach - you'll most likely have the beach to yourselves (it's also recommended by Jim Leask, which we'll come to later). Or, if you're heading north to see the Eshaness cliffs, you should make time to pop along the Tangwick Haa museum.
The Shetland Gallery in Yell, is another personal favourite of mine - you'll find all types of Shetland arts there; original paintings by Ruth Brownlee, paintings and jewellery by Mike Finne, basket weaves by Jeanette Novak and many more besides. Next door, to the Shetland Gallery is Global Yell, a place where you're find beautiful textiles. These places (and many more) are included in the Craft Trail - what better way to explore the isles than going from one craft maker to the next?
In Unst, you can pop along Boat Haven to see displays of boats and how they were worked - or you can visit the Unst Heritage Centre for knitting and spinning demonstrations, held each Friday afternoon.
This is only a small selection of what's on offer throughout the isles. I'll bring you more "must visit" locations next month.
Shetland Reel Music Festival
Shetland has a reputation for great music and whatever time of year you happen to visit us, there's bound to be a festival of some sort for you to go to. And now, there's a new kid on the block - The Shetland Reel Music Festival, which takes place in Unst from 14-16th August. It'll feature a blend of American and local talent (check out the line-up here). But just a quick "head's up" that Dolly Parton's guitarist Jim Salestrom, is making an appearance and among the local talent is Lisa Ward, who was on The Voice on BBC1 recently.
It sounds like it's a festival not to be missed - you can choose weekend tickets (£45 for adults, £35 for 13-17 year olds and under 12s go free) or day tickets (£16/£13/free) from Shetland Box Office. All tickets include travel on the special festival ferries. If you decide to make a weekend of it, make sure to book accommodation early, as I'm sure demand will be quite high. You can stay at the Saxa Vord Resort and there'll be free pitches for festival goers wishing to take tents or caravans.
Gardens of Shetland
Gardening in Shetland takes skill and perseverence, but there are some inspirational gardens for you to visit in the isles. The flower park in Lerwick offers a sheltered spot to have a picnic - you can also have a game of outdoor bowls when you're there; Michael's Wood in Aith is ever growing and a great place to take the kids - there's little hidden spots for them to play with cars or have a teddy bears picnic. Heading further west, is the Gairdens of Sand, which is great for a daytrip if you're setting off from town - there are great picnic spots and plenty of room for kids to run around and enjoy themselves. There's upper and lower gardens, the lower one has ponds teaming with frogs spawn at the moment and a sign warns that there's crocodiles (I haven't actually seen any!) and the upper garden has trees to explore and a delightful shed made from an upturned boat.
As part of the Gardens of Scotland scheme eight private gardens in Shetland are open to the public. These offer you the opportunity to see some truly unique and inspiring gardens; you'll get to chat with the gardeners and maybe pick up a few tips along the way.
- Frakkafield, Gott
- Lea Gardens, Tresta (featured recently on Alan Titmarsh's Best Back Gardens TV programme.
- 15 Linkshouse, Yell
- Holmlea, Mid Yell
- Nonavaar (again, featured on Alan Titmarsh's Best Back Gardens TV programme and look out for an article on the garden and its owner Jim Thomason in the Summer edition of 60 North)
- Cruisdale, Sandness
- Lindaal, Tingwall
- Keldaberg, Cunningsburgh
Why not combine a road trip to some of these gardens with visits to craft makers on the craft trail?
Shetland Pony Treks
If you've got children who are crazy about ponies one place you should check out is the Shetland Pony Riding School in Burra. It's set in stunning scenery and treks take you past restored croft houses, lochs, moors and there's even the chance to ride along white sandy beaches. Sounds too good to be true. To book a trek, you should call Barbara on 01595 859626. Have a look at their website to see how adorable their ponies are. I'll warn you now, Duster is the cutest peerie pony in the world!
Top 5 Spots along Shetland's Coast (according to Jim Leask)
If anyone knows the bonny spots around the Shetland coast it's Jim Leask, who along with his friend Euan did what they dubbed a "Big Trek" and walked the whole coastline of Shetland for charity (over 800 miles in total). So here goes, here's a run down of Jim's favourite spots:
1 - Sneck o' da Smaalie in Foula. The most breathtaking and probably most challenging to get to. The Sneck has a magical feel to it and as you stand at the top edge of the massive crack in the cliff and start to climb down you can't help but be slightly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this ancient geographical feature. Jim recommends going with a local guide due to the diffiulty of the route.
2 - Da Lang Ayre, Northmavine. For Jim, this is the king of Shetland's beaches but the descent down to it is not for the faint hearted. You can choose to go up over Ronas Hill, but Jim recommends doing the coastal route, which means you can include Uyea in your adventure.
3 - From Quendale Beach, up Fitful Head, on past Noss and onto Spiggie is beautiful. Jim warns to take a walking stick for self defence if the Bonxies are nesting. If you decide to make a day of it continue on to Rerwick (another beautiful beach), on to St Ninian's and finish up in Maywick for your 6th beach in 1 day.
*You'll need a car to drop you off and pick you up for this walk.
4 - Breckon in Yell has a lovely beach. Set off from the Gloup memorial and you'll come to the ghostly settlement of West-A-Firth, then continue to Vigon and further on to the iron age cliff fort of Burgi Geos.
5 - Westerwick. Jim highly recommends taking the coastal walk from Skeld to Westerwick. The terrain is good, the scenery is stunning and it's not as time consuming as the other walks previously mentioned. If time permits, Jim also recommends stopping off at the Culswick Broch.
# Jim would like to apologise to the huge number of beauty spots that didn't make the Top 5! (He also told me I was a bit cruel limiting him to such a small number!)
Congratulations to Sheree Givens from the United States, who won last month's competition - the DVD from Hazel Tindall is on its way to you.
This month's competition is for a pair of Shetlandeli gift packs containing Shetlandeli's award-winning chutneys. The lucky winner will receive two stylish Shetalandeli gift packs, each containing 2 jars of delicious chutney. Shetlandeli's 'Sweet and Shilpet' selections contain one sweet and one contrasting sharp (or 'shilpet') chutney - fantastic condiments which pair wonderfully with cheese and a wide range of cold meats. This pair of Shetlandeli gift packs contains: Muckle Flugga Piccalilli, Valhalla Ale Chutney, Spiggie Courgette Relish and Taing Onion Marmalade.
See you soon!
You may remember last month I said I was going to finally brave it and do some open water swimming - I'm pleased to say I managed a small dip, but my recording equipment broke and I was unable to bring you a piece on it this month. But just to let you know I'm pretty hooked on swimming outdoors now, so I'll be sure to do a feature soon.