September 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 launched a creative scene newsletter and I've been keeping in touch…
I've recently launched a newsletter about Shetland's vibrant creative scene. You can read the first issue here. Don't forget to subscribe! I've also been corresponding with some of our Visit Shetland newsletter subscribers - thank you so much for getting in touch and a BIG thank you to everyone who continues to read my monthly rambles, including Jason - he sent a brilliant cartoon image of me. Ms F asked me about island hopping /booking flights and cancellation due to poor weather. I directed her to the North Isles Weather site, established by Fair Isle resident Dave Wheeler. A handy resource for planning trips and tours. Mr N is coming over here on a cycling holiday and asked if we suffer from midges. We do experience the occasional day when midges are out in force; however, the wind often keeps them at bay. My top tip: if you do get nibbled - dab neat lavender essential oil on the bite - alleviates the itching like a dream.
What makes Shetland unique…
I've been reading about incredible close encounters of the Orca kind - a pod of 5 killer whales and more than 30 white sided dolphins were seen close to Sandwick. The killer whales entertained crowds of onlookers along the coast from Levenwick to Cunningsburgh for most of the day. The Crawford family watched the whales from their boat and could smell the whales' "fishy breath!" View a jaw-dropping YouTube video of the close encounter here. Misa, my PS colleague, recently visited the island of Noss and spotted puffins, gannets and a basking shark. On the west side the first long-eared owls to breed in Shetland for nearly 40 years have successfully reared three chicks, and at home I found a willow warbler snoozing on my doorstep! One of the things I love about Shetland, and what really sets it apart from many other destinations, at home and abroad, is that you can get so close to wildlife and there are no pricey excursions necessary. Shetland really does suit all pockets and allows everyone the chance to experience our incredible natural heritage daily.
Did you know: the killer whale, or orca, is actually a member of the dolphin family?
Top tip: Shetland was featured as the best place for bird watching in the Simon King Wildlife Marquee at the British Bird Fair. Here's a selection local birdy resources: Fair Isle Bird Observatory: the Warden's diary; Nature in Shetland (latest sightings), Shetland Autumn Birding tours with Shetland Nature and Winter Wildlife trips with Shetland Wildlife.
Four seasons in one day…
I've spent many a happy evening walking in my backyard - bell heather dazzles in purple, blue devil's bit, violet self-heal and bog cotton (known locally as lucky minnie's oo) carpet the moors. Haymaking has begun and the fields are pale yellow, my orange Peruvian lilies seem to glow in the twilight and dark arches (moth) flit and flutter around my kitchen door. As I amble through the long grass towards my 'switch-off' place - by a bubbling burn - I watch the different weather fronts that surround me: the voe sparkles in the distance under a powder blue sky, heavy black clouds gather behind my cottage, and to the east - mist descends over the hilltops. Four seasons in one day, as always… Walking in Shetland, whatever the time of year, is a magical experience and my most memorable ramble to date has to be the Hams of Muckle Roe Circular…
Into the wild: Hams of Muckle Roe Circular and a message in a bottle found….
Pack a picnic, switch off your smartphone and take your time - the Hams of Muckle Roe Circular is just too beautiful to hurry. There were many highlights, including the climb up South Ward and panoramic views from Saxa Vord, Unst to Fitful Head. We stopped for a cuppa at the World War One lookout post that was connected to Naval headquarters at Busta House, Brae, and drank in the views. We marveled at the well-preserved Norse Mill, the abandoned crofting township, the striking red cliffs and natural arches. We climbed Harri Stack and rested amongst sea pinks, watched Liberty - a small fishing boat - bobbing across calm waters while cormorants gathered on the cliff edge. Idyllic. I went 'purling in the ebb' and discovered my first ever message in a bottle at North Ham beach, which made my day. We continued south to the impressive stone built croft of Burg - breathtaking views across the Hams. As I write hubby has just returned from mountain biking the entire walk. "Incredible!" He announced as he rushed through the door trailing mud everywhere! My insider tip: cross the bridge that links this picturesque island to mainland Shetland and go play. Muckle Roe is a world away from the rush-rush of daily life and the perfect place for adventurists and tired urbaneers looking to kick back and escape into the wild.
PS team news: Misa has also been rambling and loved Culswick Circular '..walked to the Broch of Culswick and returned along the coast with spectacular cliffs and lovely views of Foula…I love the old 'kale yards' and planticrubs.'
September's prize: red-carpet camping in a Shetland motorhome
Go glamping not wamping (wet weather camping)! Once again Promote Shetland is pleased to announce the 'my favourite walk' photo competition in association with Shetland Motorhome. In order to camp in style all you need to do is submit a maximum 200 words story about 'my favourite Shetland walk' and include a photo too. The prize is a week's rental of a luxury motorhome and a moreish welcome Shetland hamper. There's also a public vote prize: a delicious hamper from the Shetland Fudge Company - famous for its chocolate Puffin Poo! Recent entries can be viewed via the Promote Shetland Facebook page. The competition closing date is 30th September and the winner will be announced soon after.
Did you know: Shetland has heaps of well-equipped campsites? Be sure to visit Braewick Café and Caravan Park (Northmavine) - superb facilities, knock-out views, first-class museum in the area: Tangwick Haa (ask to listen to vintage recordings of times past) and a superb walk at Eshaness.
Handy tip: Want to meet Shetland artisans? Follow the Craft Trail and find that special keepsake for friends and family and get insider information about what to see and do.
What's the buzz…?
For beer buffs: A new brewery has opened! Lerwick Brewing Co will quench your thirst with Skipper's Ticket and 60° North.
For treasure hunters: part of the largest hoard of Viking silver to be found in Scotland (by a young Orkney boy in 1858) is displayed at Shetland Museum and Archives. Look out for the coin from Baghdad. View the Skaill Hoard from 26th July 2013 to 31st January 2014.
For textile treats: Lighten - exhibition at Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale (until 15th September)
For creative nomads: James Thomason - Here and There (24th August -30th September). Read about James' fascinating life in Australia and Shetland and view his work at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum and Archives. I'm off to meet James soon and he will feature in a forthcoming Creative Scene newsletter.
For film buffs and bookworms: the annual Screenplay (31st August-7th September), curated by celebrated film critics Ruth Williams and Mark Kermode, offers a fantastic array of things to see and do, including a Q&A session with the enigmatic actor, writer, director and producer - David Morrissey. The annual Shetland Book Festival - Wordplay - (31st August - 8th September) has an exceptional programme of events, including a spoken word performance by renowned poet, Andrew Greig.
For when you feel like singin' the Blues: The 10th annual Shetland Blues Festival 13th September - 15th September. A Molotov cocktail of blues with rock, jazz, Americana, soul and funk.
For fans of The Shetland Quartet: Visit Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival: Bloody Scotland, and raise your glasses to the recommissioning of Shetland by the BBC. Ann Cleeves, award-winning author, and friends will be bringing a flavour of the islands to the festival (14th September 8.00pm). For just £9.00 (£8.00 concession) you can enjoy a night of live music, specialty food and beverages sourced from the Auld Rock. Book online NOW!
For country music fans: Shetland Country Music Club presents A Country Jamboree Festival (19th- 22nd September). Tickets from Shetland Box Office
For yarn addicts : Shetland Wool Week (7th-13th October) offers a range of fabulous events, including Textile Treasure Tours. In the meantime, why not venture to the 'edge of the world' - Foula, and watch a hand-shearing video here and download a free Foula Wool poster here
For a brilliant read: No Skylarks Sing by local writer, Millie Vigor and published by Robert Hale Ltd. An atmospheric and passionate story of life on a Shetland croft - find out more here
See you soon!
PS. Another one of my favourite events is on the horizon - Doors Open Days. The gatekeepers of a selection of fascinating buildings, normally closed to the public, will, during DOD, give you free access. Shetland dates/times/places are yet to be released. If you fancy putting your feet up and whisking yourself away to Shetland, without packing your outdoor gear and with a cup of tea in hand - click here for live webcams and for afters - read Nick Bruno's fantastic article: 'Sixty Degrees of Separation in Shetland' - featured in The Independent. If you do pop over - pack your swimming costume - St Ninian's Isle, a 'sand tombolo' has been ranked, by Travel Magazine, among the best places in the world to swim - the only place in Scotland to make the list of the '50 best swims in the world'.
If, after all this Shetland activity, you fancy a slice or three of freshly baked bread - preorder James Morton's Brilliant Bread (release: August 29th). James reached the final of The Great British Bake-Off 2012 and modelled some very attractive Fair Isle tank tops. He has a superb blog with delish waist expanding recipes (Mars Bar macaroons - yum!)
The No.1 choice for mammal waching, birding, wildlife photography, botanical & walking holidays in Shetland. 20 years of experience and 40 holidays to choose from! ATOL. 9151.
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