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October 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 discovered a new walk and solved a riddle!

There's a chill in the air and autumn has arrived in Shetland. Afternoons have been spent rambling across hills the colour of burnt orange and the other evening I marveled at a Harvest Moon as big as a pumpkin! I've taken a trip down south to the golden sands of St Ninian's and I recently discovered another picturesque walk - Valayre. Head for Brae, take the turning to Sullom Voe and you will see a sign on your right and a place to park. Follow the path among the trees, above the winding burn and keep walking along the gorge as far as you can…

Handy tip: take a guided tour of St. Ninian's Isle with James Tait at Island Trails

As the days get shorter I am spending more time at my kitchen table - crafting. I've also heard from Laurie Goodlad, Collections Assistant at Shetland Museum. Laurie, and regular visitor to Shetland - Norwegian artist and ethnographer Amy Lightfoot, have collaborated on a forthcoming book: Traditional Riddles from Shetland: A book of guddicks. 'Laying up guddicks - or asking a series of riddles - was a familiar and integral part of a winter's night in aboot da fire'. The book includes explanations of traditional life and practices in Shetland, in addition to Amy's beautiful illustrations. I'll keep you posted when the book is due to be released. In the meantime, here's a riddle for you: "Roond laek a mill-stane, luggit laek a cat, staandin' upo tree legs, can du guess dat?" The answer to the riddle is at the end of the newsletter.

Find: 'Riddles from Shetland' Facebook page.

Did you know: Shetland has a superb dialect site - Shetland ForWirds?

Seeing is believing…

Sometimes I just can't put into words how stunning Shetland is, I keep on trying, along with many others. However, I often find a short film says it all. Perhaps my favourite video this month is from a visitor to Uradale Farm - Joseph Teyssier. For me it encapsulates the essence of Shetland. BBC One Scotland features Fair Isle and Foula (23rd September at 7.30pm) in Paul Murton's new series about Scottish islands: 'Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands'.

Talking of Fair Isle - I watched a fantastic Norwegian documentary about this beautiful island. There are no subtitles, but you really don't need them. The breathtaking scenery speaks for itself. The programme was filmed in 2012 and focuses on aspects of island living. There are short interviews with residents, including the late poet and musician Lise Sinclair and traditional boat builder Ian Best. Fair Isle is top of my must-visit islands (you can get there by boat or plane). It's also home to the world famous Bird Observatory & Guest House - the all inclusive accommodation is excellent value for money and staff can arrange trips to visit local artisans, in addition to superb birding activities. The early morning walk around the traps, seeing birds in the hand and learning about ringing techniques, was an unexpected highlight of my holiday. In addition to NRK TV filming in Fair Isle, they also explored mainland Shetland, including Jarlshof and Scalloway, and enjoyed music from Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag.

For a visual treat with a big heart - watch a music video from Utrecht based indie rock band Kensington - their new single Ghosts features wow-factor scenery from Out Skerries and stars many local residents, including John 'Gibbie' Arthur (he's rowing the boat) and his wife Alice - she speaks at the video's conclusion, "every rock, every hill, every piece of water - it means so much to anyone who lives here. It's a legacy that they've handed over to us. Once Skerries is in your blood, you're hooked for life".

Top tip: Skerries Circular is a superb day walk.

Vintage viewing: Fabric of Britain about Fair Isle knitting with a Fair Isle knitting demonstration by expert Sandy Black.

What's the buzz…?

Shetland Wool Week 7th-13th October 2013: Deborah Gray workshops (7th, 8th, 9th October): learn spinning and the craft of art yarns. Deborah has been spinning since the 1970's and was taught by (among others) Mabel Ross. She travels all over Scotland and Italy teaching people to spin, dye, felt and knit - from beginners to advanced. "I aim to enable learners to make creative use of natural and recycled materials to produce yarns that are exactly right for whichever project they have in mind." The Spinning For Beginners class covers fleece selection, sorting and preparation, drop-spindle spinning and plying (7th October, 10-5, cost £70.00 including lunch and refreshments). The Spinning For Intermediates class will show you how to get the best from your spinning wheel, spinning with purpose and choosing the right yarn for your project (8th October, 10-5, cost £70.00 including lunch and refreshments). Global Yell will host both classes and it's very easy to reach the island - just one short ferry trip from mainland Shetland. Call 01595 745804 to book the ferry or contact Andy Ross at Global Yell: 01957 744355 ( for workshop/travel enquiries. For those with a good basic knowledge - attend a Creative Art Yarns Spinning workshop - led by Andy and Deborah. Learn about blending fibres and combining different spinning and plying techniques to make unique yarns (9th October, 10-4, cost £70.00 Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick).

Makers' Market: 12th October 12-4, Town Hall, Lerwick. A great opportunity to see a wide range of Shetland wool products which are made locally, talk to the Makers and purchase unique gifts.

Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale 21st September - 3rd November: Variorum . Wilma and Barbara Cluness have created an eclectic mix of artwork. Not to be missed!

Shetland Arts & Crafts Annual Craft Fair and Shetland Food Fair - 15th, 16th & 17th November. Clickimin Centre, Lerwick: If you're looking for unique traditional and contemporary gifts, inspired by Shetland's heritage and culture - the Craft Fair is a must for Cool Hunters. Limited editions, the chance to meet the Maker and the perfect opportunity to do your Christmas shopping without long queues and Jingle Bells playing over and over again! There will also be over 15 stalls offering a variety of local produce. Provenance is guaranteed. Gourmet grazing can be experienced in the pop up café. See you there!

Shetland Museum and Archives is now on Twitter! There's plenty happening at this five star heritage hub - a Gentle Giant has taken residence, a Viking hoard is on display and there's a new Textile book available from the online gift shop: Shetland Textiles 800BC to the Present (10% off all orders until October 13th)

October's prize: Death on a Longship by Marsali Taylor

The lucky winners of 'My Favourite Walk' photo competition for 2013, in association with Shetland Motorhome Hire, will be announced in November's newsletter. In the meantime, a selection of submitted entries can be viewed on the Walk Shetland website. October's prize is Death on a Longship by Marsali Taylor. I'm reading it at the moment and it's a wonderful snapshot of island life. The story focuses on Cass Lynch - a native Shetlander, who ran away from Shetland when she was a teenager to pursue her dreams of sailing. She returns home to manage a job skippering a Viking Longship for a Hollywood film. When a dead woman turns up on the boat's deck, Detective Inspector Macrae places Cass and her family under suspicion. Cass must call on all her local knowledge and the wisdom she didn't realise she'd gained from sailing, to clear them all of suspicion - and to catch the killer before Cass becomes the next victim. If you'd like to learn more about Marsali.

Visit Shetland in the winter!

People often ask me, with concertina brow, 'what do you do during the winter months?' Well, the answer is - I'm so busy exploring the islands on foot (view Walk Shetland for a selection of rambles), following the Craft Trail, viewing the ever-changing exhibitions at Bonhoga Gallery, attending free talks at Shetland Museum and Archives, watching otters at play (join otterholic Brydon Thomason of Shetland Nature for a Shetland in Winter tour), taking photographs, attending festivals and events at Mareel, enjoying the mirrie dancers light up the night sky (view Ivan Hawick's incredible Aurora images) - that the winter is just another season of "there's too much to see and do and I'm shattered!" Shetland doesn't come to a halt during the winter months and we don't hibernate under a snuggly real Shetland wool duvet from Jamieson & Smith until spring! Visiting Shetland in the winter is a wild weather, Nordic Noir (winter must-read: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves), atmospheric, get-away-from-it-all holiday. Just remember to pack your thermals, waterproofs and a sense of adventure. There are plenty of guided trips and tours to choose from, including Shetland Geotours with Allen Fraser. National Geographic's Digital Nomad - Andrew Evans, joined Allen for an "awesome, just awesome!" winter tour last year and discovered the fascinating Volcano Trail. If you want to stay at an über cool retreat - book a Lighthouse holiday (I stayed at Eshaness Lighthouse for the weekend and it was brilliant fun), or cosy up at chic Belmont House, situated on the most northerly-inhabited island in the UK - Unst. There are so many winter activities to choose from - you'll need a holiday to get over the holiday!

Top tip: If you're looking for a winter festival with a difference - visit us January 28th 2014 for the annual Up Helly Aa - the largest fire festival in Europe and a great party too!

A trow alert and winter trip planning…

Before you visit Shetland - I must warn you about the mischievous ill trickit trows. There are quite a few of them about and they do like to enchant people and lead them astray. I've posted a picture of one in particular - he's called Muckle Moorit Magnie and he's been sighted on numerous occasions in a very attractive natural coloured Fair Isle jumper. He likes to jump out on unsuspecting humans and scare the wits out of them. DO NOT APPROACH! If you do see Muckle Moorit Magnie (about 42cms tall, 20cms wide and made from 100% Shetland wool) - contact Jackie at PS HQ. She'll alert the counter-trow surveillance team immediately. Jackie is the go-to lady for holiday planning, whatever the season (she came to Shetland for 6 months and has been here 17 years!) And, most importantly - she knows how to fend off a cheeky trow with a large set of felt teeth.

Did you know: you can listen to oral recordings of Shetland trowie tales? Put on the kettle, open a bag of Shetland Puffin Poo.

Handy tip : Sumburgh Airport is Shetland's main airport. There are daily flights from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. Plan and book your holiday. NorthLink Ferries offer an Autumn/Winter 2013 Family and Friends discount scheme from 1st September to 18th December 2013.

See you soon!

Guddick answer: A three-legged cooking pot! (lug: ear)


Congratulations to Liz Musser, resident of Fair Isle. Her film Henry and the Waxwings, narrated by Liz's son Henry, documents Henry feeding the fearless waxwings that reached Shetland last October. The video won a prize at this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards. It's a wonderful story and the magical short video can be viewed. Also a big Woop! Woop! to Brydon Thomason of Shetland Nature for being 'highly commended' in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards. His image 'the otter awakening' has a BIG aww-factor. Also, congratulations to Richard Shuckmith - a Shetland based photographer and the overall BWPA winner two years ago, was 'highly commended' this year for 'habitat engineers, horse mussel and crab', taken while working with a team of scientific divers from Heriot Watt University. View Richard's image. Shetland is a photographer's paradise and both Richard and Brydon hold photography workshops throughout the year. Another activity for your winter break!

PPS And for a special treat watch our new A - Z of Shetland video!

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