November 2012 Visit Shetland Newsletter
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.
Since we last spoke…
I've been attempting to improve my fitness and several times a week I walk the hills behind my cottage, huffing and puffing as I go, invariably tripping over the many rabbit holes! When I reach the ridgeline I rest a while and drink in the cinematic views - the golden trout lochs glimmering in the distance, the pink light as it shifts across the hills, and one afternoon I spied a mountain hare bounding through the fields towards a tumbledown croft.
It's difficult to stop exploring, to return home; the freedom to roam and miles upon miles of pristine landscape is far too tempting for the curious rambler.
As the nights draw in I have been venturing out to stargaze. I'm in the dark out here - the only lights to be seen are the distant constellations of homes floating on unseen hilltops. The sky, as black as treacle, offers a magical evening adventure; mug of hot chocolate in hand I search for shooting stars. The crackling fire soon beckons me back in, as does my latest hobby - learning to play the Ukelele!
I don't think I'll be performing in public anytime soon (even snoozy Mo the cat looks distressed when I begin to 'play' and has taken to staying out most evenings!) but I do know there are some excellent Shetland festivals and events just around the corner - superb entertainment for the whole family and ear defenders are definitely not required!
Mareel's Official Opening Season welcomes artists from across the globe, and an otter….
I recently went on a behind the scenes guided tour of Shetland's snazzy new arts venue - Mareel. IMPRESSIVE! This has to be on everyone's must-visit list. It's situated next door to Shetland Museum and Archives, has a funky chill out café bar with wow-factor views, plush cinemas, state of the art recording studio and a diverse range of high quality acts kicking off the Official Opening Season, including lyric soprano Oksana Mavrodii and popular Scottish indie-band, Aberfeldy. Madchester's very own Happy Mondays will entertain in December and Cerys Matthews returns to our shores with a festive feast of music, poetry and the unexpected! By the by - keep an eye out one of Mareel's regular visitors - an otter. Only in Shetland!
Seeking vibrant individuality? Book a crafty weekend!
The festive season is fast approaching and one of my favourite events of the year is happening soon - the Christmas Craft Fair (9th-11th November). With over 60 artisans showcasing their work, this really is the perfect place to celebrate the beauty of both contemporary and traditional Shetland arts and crafts. Wherever I travel I'm always on a quest for something that little bit different and when I follow the Shetland Craft Trail I often plan to visit several creatives and end up visiting only one (I don't talk too much, honest!) That's why the gathering of artisans at this annual 3-day event, held in Lerwick, is ideal for ol' chatterbox and offers a wealth of stylish seasonal ideas.
There's a great atmosphere and the items for sale are hand made, not home made - an important factor when spending my pennies: quality. The Shetland Arts and Crafts Association set very high standards and if you're like me - fed up of bland mass produced items and love the thrill of discovering vibrant individuality and a treasured limited edition keepsake - this is a must-attend! Top tip: Why not combine a retail therapy trip with a sizzling night or two of entertainment at Mareel? Book tickets for Danish folk band, Himmerland (8th November) and legendary Tommy Smith: KARMA - a groovy acid jazz group (11thNovember). These musos are sure to warm up those chilly winter nights, accompanied by fine ale from Valhalla Brewery, of course!
A wildlife destination, and a tour company, with a difference
Would you like to see a superb Shetland otter photo, featured in The Telegraph, and Hugh Harrop's stunning images of a recent visitor to Hillswick - a humpback whale? If so, click here and here! It's just another reason to visit Shetland - our world-renowned wildlife, and do you know what make Shetland so unique? It's the ability to view wildlife without having to trek too far. When I relocated to Shetland I couldn't believe my luck - seals lounging about near the supermarket, dolphins playing in the voe near my home, lunch with Puffins at Sumburgh Head…
This ease of access means everyone has the opportunity to experience Shetland's astounding natural heritage with minimal effort and maximum enjoyment. I also highly recommend accompanying one of Shetland's renowned naturalists, each guide has unrivalled local knowledge, including author and guide Graham Uney of Shetland Walking and Wildlife. This is a new tour company with a difference, find out why here.
November's prize: A spine-tingling read - Shetland Quartet
Congratulations to October's prizewinner Miss Gillian Smith from Manchester - Real Shetland Yarns - a delightful collection of woolly tales is on its way to you! Huge congratulations must also go to award-winning author Ann Cleeves - on 18th October 2012, at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, Ann was inaugurated into the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame.
This month's prize is the full set of the Shetland Quartet - a sequence of four powerful murder mysteries penned by Ann. Put on the kettle, open a packet of chocolate digestives and lose yourself in world of spine-tingling twists and turns. I'm a huge fan of Ann's atmospheric books and I can't wait to read her next book in the Shetland series - Dead Water, due to go on sale January 2013. Also, Shetland - a BBC One two-part crime drama, adapted from Red Bones and featuring the intriguing Detective Jimmy Perez, played by the dashing Douglas Henshall, will soon be on our screens.
Stepping back in time with local historian and tour guide, Douglas Sinclair
I had a vague knowledge of Lerwick's history, however, when I signed up for two-hour tour with registered tourist guide, and local historian,Douglas Sinclair, I had no idea how fascinating and informative my afternoon would turn out to be. His infectious enthusiasm for his hometown, coupled with his wealth of knowledge, makes for an excellent guide. It was a privilege to accompany him around 'Old Lerwick' and I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a tour so much. As we ambled along the streets, Douglas shared childhood memories, personal experiences and stories of colourful local characters and notable Lerwegians. Tales of the smugglers' tunnels, the history of the Old Tolbooth, ancient houses and Lodberries left me spellbound. It's little wonder Douglas is in in great demand throughout the year; his two-hour Lodberries Trail brought 'Old Lerwick' vividly back to life and was great fun.
At the end of the walk we viewed the beautiful Sir Ninian Comper stained glass windows in St Magnus (look out for Sir Ninian's famous 'signature' - a small strawberry) followed by a delicious selection of home bakes and refreshments at the Church Hall. There are various guided walks available (bookings can be made at the Tourist Centre, Lerwick) including the Up Helly Aa tour and visit to Galley Shed. Which reminds me - don't forget to book your tickets for Up Helly Aa - the biggest and wildest Fire Festival in Europe (Tuesday 29th January 2013). Not to be missed!
See you soon!
Misa and her family discover treasure island(s)
Shetland is a great place for families with children. Open spaces, fresh air, crystal-clear sea, stunning beaches, amazing wildlife, interesting archaeology, fascinating history and a full range of superb indoor activities provide the perfect setting for an unforgettable holiday.
My son Jan is four and like other kids he just loves the outdoors. We do a lot of things together and what's great is that all that brilliant stuff is free here in Shetland. All you need is warm clothes, imagination and a few ideas. That's why I would like to share our Shetland experiences with you, and every month bring you a few tips for your very own Shetland adventure.
Weekdays are busy with my husband and me working full time but at weekends we usually set off to explore a part of Shetland's coastline. Last month we took a little break in Unst and stayed in a beautifully restored crofthouse. We enjoyed quiet roads, stunning white sand beaches, explored Viking remains, experienced wind, rain and sun and had many cups of tea and cake in front of the peat fire. The best was the unplanned walk to the Hermaness National Nature Reserve, where after a fair bit of walking (with a four year old) we were rewarded with some insanely stunning views of Gannet colonies and Muckle Flugga. No wonder Unst inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island. It certainly is our little treasure!
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