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November 2013 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 on a woolly rescue mission!

"Can you post a parcel?" Asked our friends from Foula Wool. The Foula post office was closed and so the parcel was flown over, accompanied by visitors and residents. I donned my woolly rescue mission outfit (a stylish Fair Isle poncho from Spider's Web), drove to Tingwall airport and picked up a sack of wool! As I ambled along quiet roads to my local post office, I chuckled to myself - my, how life has changed! Had someone gazed into a crystal ball a decade ago and said, 'one day you will be carrying a large sack of wool - flown in from 'Bird Island', waving at people as they pass you on single track roads.' I would have replied, "you're crazy!"

However, here I am - brought by a leap of faith and a yearning for a different way of life…. As the nights draw in, the peat fire is crackling and the year is coming to an end - perhaps you're thinking about relocating and embarking on a new adventure? If so, get in touch with Move Shetland, as I did, almost 5 years ago, and the team will give you sound advice and point you in the right direction (60N, of course!)

News from Foula Wool : their very popular yarn will be back in stock soon. In the meantime, watch Magnus hand shearing his flock here

Did you know: Tom van Deijnen aka Tom of Holland (visiting designer during Shetland Wool Week and mending guru) is creating a knitting pattern for a men's cardigan using Foula wool? View the stunning Foula swatches here

Listen to: Sound artist, Felicity Ford's new tune called 'Shetland Wool' inspired by Shetland Wool Week.

Talking of Shetland Wool Week - it was, once again, a HUGE hit. Woop! Woop! Snuggle down under a real Shetland undyed wool blanket from Jamieson & Smith and read all about the prestigious va va voom yarn addict event here (dates for Wool Week 2014: 6th-12th October). After you've read the article, viewed magical Shetland via our live webcams, perhaps you'd like to join me for a spot of bread making? Come on, roll up your sleeves, and let's get baking…

Did you know: The preceding night of Halloween used to be a time for peeping into the future for information regarding one's prospects for love, prosperity, life and death. A girl, eager to find out the identity of her future hubby, would go to the back of the barn and climb to the top of the kiln to 'cast da clew', or drop a ball of wool down the opening while holding the end in her hand. As she rewound the ball she would call out: "Wha hadds my clew end?" Apparently she was suppose to hear the voice of her future hubby answering her out of the darkness…

November's prize - Brilliant Bread by James Morton

November's prize is a moreish one: Brilliant Bread by the 2012 Great British Bake-Off finalist, James Morton. There are no complicated hybrid recipes in this book; no duffins, cronutes or crookies. Phew! This is a recipe book for lovers of straightforward bread recipes with straightforward instructions, handy tips and hints, helpful instructional images, delicious fill the air with bready feel-good factor recipes, including knead-free breads for those busy urbaneers, a funky Modernist ginger bread house and yummy Shetland bannocks - a staple of the famous Shetland Sunday Teas and annual agricultural shows. Thank you James' grandma and Big Davie C for teaching James to bake, and thank you James for sharing your no nonsense, inspirational 'world-class buns are a goal that should be in every home oven's sights' approach to the delicious art of all things bready and hosting a great foodie blog, too! While I'm off to make my favourite BB recipe - buttery 'I'll just have one more with strawberry jam please' croissants

Why not: put the kettle on and listen to a Radio 4 Food programme about the famous Shetland Sunday Teas - a must-indulge. Shetland Times - published every Friday - lists venues.

Must view: Star baker - James, and his fellow Great British Bake Off contestants - class of 2012, reunite and talk about life during and after the programme. Class of 2012 can be viewed on BBC iPlayer here (available until 8th November)

Prizewinners galore!

You may recall Promote Shetland held a 'My Favourite Shetland Walk 2013' competition - images have been submitted and posted on our Facebook page for the last few months and we have now chosen a winner. Congratulations Marina Viti from Italy - you have won a week's rental of a luxury Shetland Motorhome! Marina's mesmerizing picture of St Ninian's Isle captured our attention and took our breath away. The light is just stunning and the Zen like quality of the image perfectly encapsulates the reason to ramble in Shetland - tranquility and a pristine environment.

We also have a winner with the most Facebook 'likes' - another beautiful image of St Ninian's. Congratulations Elizabeth Wark - a Shetland Fudge hamper full of goodies is winging its way to you. A BIG thank you to everyone who entered.

Also, congratulations to October's prizewinner Leanne Lister from Leeds - you have won a copy of Death on a Longship by Marsali Taylor. The perfect read for those long winter nights.

Did you know: That St Ninian's Isle is connected to the mainland by a sand tombolo? A Pictish treasure hoard was discovered in the ancient chapel site on the island. This circular walk, and a selection of rambles, to suit all abilities, can be found in the free online Walk Shetland guide. A hard copy is available from the Visitor Centre, Lerwick

Get out the Champagne - Geopark Shetland retains European Geoparks Network membership!

Geopark Shetland is pleased to announce that Shetland has been successfully revalidated and secured another four years as a member of their prestigious European Geoparks Network - part of the wider Global Geoparks Network, which is supported by UNESCO. To find out more about Geopark Shetland, visit the website here. There's also a Geopark Shetland app for iPhone and Android, along with displays at Shetland Museum and Archives, Unst Heritage Centre and the Old Haa in Yell, geowalls at Mavis Grind, Haroldswick and Funzie, displays at Braewick and Stennes and self guide trail packs (free from the Visitor Centre, Lerwick) exploring the floor of an ancient ocean in the North Isles and the remains of an extinct volcano in Eshaness. The Geopark team plays a major role in organizing the annual Shetland Nature Festival, too. New projects include Northern Georoutes - a collaboration with Geoparks from Norway Iceland and Canada. There are plenty more plans and projects on the horizon. I'll keep you posted.

Why don't you: Stay in a wooden wigwam in Northmavine - explore stunning Eshaness and discover the Volcano Trail with Allen Fraser of Shetland Geotours? Or, stay on a working croft in Brae - Burravoe wigwams are within walking distance of award-winning Frankie's Fish and Chips, a beach, and my top ramble of 2013 - Hams of Muckle Roe Circular. By night - go star spotting, with a glass of mulled wine in hand. Bliss.

What's the buzz….?

Get twitching: The flaparazzi have been out in force - wandering through fields, looking under hedges, leaping over fences - all carrying very impressive lenses. Keep up to date with the latest wildlife sightings via Nature-Shetland - updated daily.

Did you know: a very rare vagrant was discovered in October - the eastern oliovaceous warbler (breeds in North Africa, south-eastern Europe, parts of the Arabian peninsula and Asia)? There are less than 20 overall records for this bird in the UK! Hot off the press: birdwatchers are flying to Unst to view a Cape May Warbler from America (believed to be the first UK sighting in 36 years!) More birdy information can be found here, including a story about a group of Yorkshire birdwatchers, a small plane, hopes dashed, and an attractive Siberian Rubythroat sightseeing in Fair Isle - it took the scenic route - it should be wintering in India!

Exhibitions not to miss: Variorum at Bonhoga Gallery (on until 3rd November): this exhibition will give you a colour high! Love the lampshades, love the painted chairs, love everything created by Barbara and Wilma Cluness. Shetland Museum and Archives: don't miss Skaill Hoard - the finest Viking silver hoard discovered in the UK (on until 31st January 2014), the Gentle Giant dinosaur display is on until 8th December and the wow-factor exhibition Surface and Light (on until 10th November) showcases a collection of still life paintings from local artist Brian Henderson - 26 paintings sold in the first hour!

Get heritage happy: there are many visitor attractions open during the winter, including atmospheric Scalloway Castle built by the tyrant Patrick Stewart (Scalloway Hotel for afters? Superb food and cosy bar). Jarlshof offers a fascinating journey around a number of ancient settlements, including a Viking settlement and a 16th century laird's house. Shetland Museum and Archives is a five star attraction and has to be the first port of call on your Shetland adventure - the Boat Hall is not to be missed. For more information about visitor attractions, open during the winter months - call Jackie: 01595 989898. Top tip: subscribe to Unkans - a fascinating free online heritage and culture newsletter, published every two months.

Experience stress free shopping: Shetland Arts & Crafts Christmas Craft Fair 15th-17th November, Clickimin Centre, Lerwick: If you're like me and enjoy searching for unique hand made gifts - then the Shetland Christmas Craft Fair is the place get your shopping 'wrapped' without going crackers. There are no queues, Christmas cheer abounds, contemporary and traditional crafts will inspire and you can meet the Maker and have a jolly good chat. And, if you're feeling peckish - the Shetland Food Fair is happening right next door. Top tip: the piri piri truckle, from award-winning Shetland Cheese (winner of an award at the foodie Oscars: Great Taste 2013), is the perfect spicy winter warmer. Jay's hampers are fab cheesy value for money (starting at £8.99). Order soon! Don't forget to visit Bonhoga Gallery - the Christmas art and craft showcase starts in November (and an exhibition by local artist Paul Bloomer: How Then Shall We Now Live? 16th November - 22nd December) You must visit the café - a heartwarming bowl of soup and the fluffiest cheese scones are not to be missed. Can't make it over here? No problem. December's newsletter will feature Christmas gift ideas for all ages, to suit all pockets.

Top tip: Join the Shetland Arts & Crafts Facebook page here and keep-up-to-date with Shetland's creative happenings.

The fiery festival to attend - Up Helly Aa - 28th January 2014 : the biggest wildest fire festival in Europe and truly a sight to behold. Details can be found here.

I thought I'd share a few handy tips:

  • Book the Town Hall tickets asap (great party - BYO, food supplied throughout the night and morn). Tickets are available to purchase online between Christmas and New Year (limited availability)
  • To watch the procession - wear layers - lots (think Arctic expedition)
  • Book an Up Helly Aa tour with superb guide Douglas Sinclair
  • Be sure to organise your travel itinerary NOW! Up Helly Aa is a very popular festival and thousands of visitors, from across the globe, come to watch this extraordinary event.

See you soon!

PS Have you heard of Skekling? Find out more about this old Shetland folk tradition in November's issue of News from Shetland's Creative Scene.

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