COVID-19 update: Shetland is now reopen to visitors but lockdown restrictions are in place in Aberdeen.
If you're planning a trip, or travelling through Aberdeen, please read our guidance on travelling responsibly.

November 2014 Move Shetland Newsletter


Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the November 2014 issue of our monthly newsletter.

It seems no time since we were making the most of a great summer, but now the clocks have gone back, Hallowe'en is past and enormous bonfires stand ready to celebrate Guy Fawkes" night. The first autumn gales have blown by, too though the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo passed too far south to cause us much disruption, apart from minor delays on ferry services. We've had some good walking weather, too: my picture was taken on a breezy but sunny ramble along the cliffs at Eshaness, in the north-west of the Shetland mainland.

It's been a very good month for bird-watchers, with a generous sprinkling of migrants. There have been hundreds of the commoner ones such as geese, thrushes, goldcrests and redwings, but many rarer visitors have turned up, too, as the list of latest sightings confirms. A Siberian Rubythroat, an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler and a Hume's Warbler were just some of the rarities; our Blog of The Month brings nature news from the island of Whalsay.

Indoors, we heard Dvorak, Schubert, Corelli and Bruch, among others, from the Shetland Community Orchestra, plus a performance of Verdi's MacBeth by Scottish Opera, a storming set from The Men They Couldn't Hang, an evening with singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni and, not least, the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival. Another highlight was Gillian Anderson's extraordinarily intense portrayal of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, streamed to Mareel in Lerwick from London's Young Vic. And of course we welcomed lots of enthusiasts to the islands for Shetland Wool Week, which goes from strength to strength and has a very firm place in the calendar.

Ahead, there's more music, including the Shetland International Guitar Festival, which kicks off on 6 November and features Martin Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel. A little farther ahead, the Boys of The Lough and other, local artists will be playing a concert in memory of Shetland Folk Festival stalwart, Davie Henderson. The November film programme at Mareel looks good and dozens of local clubs and groups have begun their winter activities. We're also looking forward to treating our taste-buds at the annual Shetland Food Fair, when dozens of local producers will be displaying the best that the islands have to offer.

Events are beginning to appear in the diary for 2015; the fire festival season gets under way in January, with the largest of them – Lerwick's Up Helly Aa – taking place on Tuesday 27 January. Farther ahead still, Dylan Moran, the latest in a lengthening line of comedians to make the trip north, will be heading for Shetland on 5 March.

If you're thinking of making the move to Shetland, we strongly recommend a recce in winter as well as in summer. If you'd like to link a trip to the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, it's not too early to think about travel and accommodation, as – although it's essentially an event by and for local folk – hundreds of visitors make the journey every year.

Rescuing Wildlife Brings Award To Shetland Sanctuary

Decades of valuable work by the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary has been recognised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at a ceremony at the House of Lords.

Jan Bevington set up the sanctuary in 1987 when she rescued a seal pup abandoned on the beach just below her house in the village of Hillswick, which lies in Shetland's north-west mainland. Word of the facility quickly spread and, over the years, the sanctuary has been a temporary but welcoming home to many seals and otters, featuring in television programmes such as Simon King's Shetland Diaries. With her husband, Pete, and volunteers, Jan also helps with other wildlife rescue work, for example when whales, dolphins or porpoises get into trouble in inshore waters around the islands.

IFAW President and CEO, Azzedine Downes, congratulating the winners of the awards, said:

“I am always thoroughly amazed at the uplifting tales of animal welfare in action that we celebrate at the International Fund for Animal Welfare's (IFAW) annual Animal Action Awards ceremony at the House of Lords. This is always one of the most highly anticipated events on the IFAW UK office calendar.

“The awards give us and our supporters the opportunity to draw attention to just some of the many unsung heroes who toil endlessly to improve the lives of animals. They are an inspiration to us and to many others who hear about these individuals" dedication.

These stories give us a chance, as well, to reflect on the unique relationships between animals and people, which further enforces that our work to improve animal welfare is so vitally important.”

Also present to hand over the awards and congratulate Jan and the other winners were Baroness Gale and naturalist, broadcaster and regular Shetland visitor Bill Oddie.

New Artwork To Be Created For Shetland Library

Shetland Library has been selected as one of five libraries in Scotland to benefit from a new permanent artwork as part of Book Week Scotland 2014

The Book Week is a celebration of books and reading which runs from Monday 24th to Sunday 30th November 2014. The purpose of the new artworks is to make libraries more visible in their own communities and to raise awareness of them as important assets for local people to enjoy.

The artwork will be created by Glasgow-based artist Rosemary Cunningham and will be inspired by Dear Library, a poem written by best-selling Scottish author and playwright Jackie Kay. Dear Library highlights the important role that libraries can play at every stage of an individual's life, from childhood to old age.

Rosemary Cunningham says that she's delighted to be involved. “I'm a keen reader myself and storytelling is a big part of my practice. It's exciting to be one fifth of such an interesting and challenging project.”

Karen Fraser, Executive Manager, Library Services said that she was really looking forward to seeing the art work. “We are delighted that we've been picked for this project. Our staff work hard to make the Library inviting and user-friendly and this project fits perfectly with our aims”.

Shetland Apprentice Triumphs At Construction Awards

A Shetland apprentice is building a name for himself in the construction world, after winning a top industry award.

Christopher Smith took home the National Construction College (NCC) Outstanding Apprentice of the Year award at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Pride of Construction Awards ceremony at Old Billingsgate in London at a ceremony in October.

National Construction college student Christopher – who works at Irvine Contractors Ltd in Lerwick – is now in the third year of his apprenticeship. After being presented with the award, Christopher said,

“I'm proud to have received this award. The training and support I have received during my apprenticeship from my employer, the NCC and CITB have helped give me a great start in the construction industry.”

Andy Walder, Principal at the National Construction College, said, “Christopher is an outstanding apprentice and a worthy winner of our Outstanding Apprentice of the Year award due to his attitude, aptitude and ability. Christopher is a credit to the industry and we wish him further success in his career.”

The 24-year-old's boss. Leslie Irvine, said, “His commitment and enthusiasm shines through to all who come into contact with him, both employees and customers. He consistently shows the right attitude towards work, is a strong team player, an integral member of our staff and an important part of our succession planning to help our business to grow in the future.”

Another National Award Beckons For Frankie's

Frankie's Fish and Chips, in the village of Brae, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Good Catch Award, part of the National Fish & Chip Awards, for the third year in a row.

Co-sponsored by the Marine Stewardship Council and the Marine Conservation Society, the award recognises fish and chip shops which successfully source and promote sustainably caught and harvested fish and shellfish. Frankie's will compete against Kingfisher Fish & Chips in Plymouth and Olley's Fish Experience in London for the top spot.

Frankie's has already been chosen as the best fish and chip shop in Scotland in the National Fish & Chip Awards and will go head to head with nine other fish and chip shops from around the country for the title of best in the UK. All the winners will be announced at a special event to be held in London in January. The annual awards are organised by Seafish.

“At Frankie's, 98 per cent of the fish and shellfish we sell comes from sustainable stocks, so we're delighted to have been shortlisted in the Good Catch Award,” said Frankie's manager John Gold.

Meanwhile, Frankie's has won yet another award, carrying off the prize for "Best Eatery" at the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, where, as we also report, the Lerwick Brewery impressed judges with its lager.

Brewery Gains Another Plaudit And Gin Is On The Way

One of Shetland's two breweries has won the accolade of "Highly Commended" for its 60° North lager; and gin distilled in Shetland will be on the market soon.

The owners of the Lerwick Brewery are understandably delighted to have picked up the praise at the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards. The award was presented at a dinner, held in Inverness, which was attended by more than 300 food and drink representatives. More than 40 businesses were in competition for 14 awards. The commendation follows a Great Taste Award for the lager just a few months ago.

Meanwhile, gin from Shetland's first distillery is due to hit the shops soon. Shetland Reel Gin will be produced initially in small batches and the first batch will be hand-bottled and sold in a Shetland tweed bag. It will only be available in Shetland, but national and international distribution is being planned for later production.

Within the next few years, the distillery, on the island of Unst, will also produce whisky, making it the northernmost single malt.

District of the Month: Yell

Every district in Shetland has its particular appeal and, each month, we look at what each part of our islands can offer for new residents. This month, we go north to Yell.

Yell is the second-largest of the Shetland islands and is about 28km (17.5 miles) from north to south and 12km (7.5 miles) from east to west. It lies just north of the Shetland mainland.

The interior of Yell is mostly peat moorland but the coastline is very varied, with cliffs, rocky shores and two particularly fine beaches, at Westsandwick and Breckon. As a succession of television naturalists has recognised, the island is one of the best places in Europe to see otters, but whales and porpoises appear from time to time around the coast and, inland, there's a varied bird life including Red-throated Divers and Golden Plovers. You can read more about the island's natural and human history in this downloadable (pdf) leaflet.

The island's population is around 1,000 and all the settlements are around the coast. The largest is Mid Yell, where there's a modern junior high school, a health centre, a superb leisure centre with swimming pool, a shop, a pub and other facilities. There are other shops in Ulsta, Aywick and Cullivoe. Other community facilities include no fewer than eleven village halls, reflecting the fact that – as elsewhere in Shetland – there's a very active community life. Yell folk care very much about their heritage, too, and an excellent community-run museum in Burravoe offers insights into the island's past and celebrates the work of the late Bobby Tulloch, a noted naturalist and photographer.

There's no large-scale employment in Yell. Some people commute to jobs in Shetland's north mainland or Lerwick but others work locally in crofting agriculture, fishing or fish and shellfish farming. Several artists and craftspeople practise in the island, making jewellery, basketwork and textiles, or painting and drawing. There's a weaving studio, too, as well as Britain's northernmost art gallery.

Yell is undoubtedly a great place to get away from it all, but it has good connections to the Shetland mainland; the ferries offer half-hourly departures for most of the day, and the journey takes only fifteen minutes. From the ferry terminal at Ulsta, it's possible to be in Shetland's capital, Lerwick, in an hour, or at Sumburgh Airport, at the southern end of Shetland, in about an hour and a half.

Above all, Yell is known as a particularly friendly place; there's always a wave for passing motorists and Yell hospitality is as welcoming as you'll find anywhere. Islanders are keen to attract new residents and they'd be delighted to hear from you.

Major Exhibition Brings McCullin's Work To Shetland

For a generation, the photography of Don McCullin imprinted the reality of conflict on people around the world; now, it is to be shown in Shetland.

The exhibition, entitled Fallen, is being jointly presented by Shetland Museum & Archives and Shetland Arts in Da Gadderie (part of the museum) and the Bonhoga Gallery, in Weisdale, from 29 November 2014 to 22 February 2015.

McCullin worked for over 20 years documenting conflict and social deprivation throughout the world including; Vietnam, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and Beirut. For McCullin, the work wasn't simply about the photographs, but about humanity.

This will be the first time these powerful images will be shown as part of Artist Rooms, an inspirational collection of modern and contemporary art acquired for the nation by Tate and The National Galleries of Scotland through the generosity of Anthony d'Offay, with additional support from other funders, including the Art Fund

A team of "youth ambassadors" has already begun work on a project that will draw inspiration from McCullin's life and work, exploring contemporary issues in Shetland. They'll produce photojournalism and a short film, which will be available online. Local singer-songwriters, helped by Lewie Peterson of The Revellers, will be working on original music that explores Shetland as home, and what this means to different people.

A powerful documentary film about Don McCullin's life will be shown in Mareel on 2 December to complement the exhibition.

To find out more information about Artist Rooms On Tour please visit To see the full Artist Rooms collection please visit and

Jobs of the Month

Jobs on offer at NHS Shetland include a post for a Patient Flow Nurse, a Senior Charge Nurse and an Advanced Nurse Practitioner.

Vacancies with Shetland Islands Council include posts for a Head Teacher on Fair Isle, a peripatetic English teacher, a Communications Officer, a ferry Engineer and an Early Years Worker in Cunningsburgh.

It's also a good idea to check the job sections of the Shetland Times and Shetland News.

Blog of the Month

Since it's been such a good season for bird-watchers, it's good to see some more of the excellent photography that local naturalists produce. John Lowrie Irvine is one of several enthusiasts who keep an eye on wildlife on the island of Whalsay, recording his finds in his Bird Diary and there are some beautiful shots of otters, too, in the Latest News section.

View Blog

Add to
My Shetland
My Collection 0