Shetland Rocks

by Louise Thomason -

The eagle eyed in Shetland can’t have failed to have noticed the brightly coloured, painted rocks popping up all over, often in unexpected places.

These cheerful stones – decorated as ladybugs, beetles, pizza slices, rainbows, sometimes with flowers, sometimes with messages – are hidden all around the isles: in bus stops, doorsteps, playgrounds, carparks – everywhere and anywhere!

What started as something to keep bairns entertained has grown into an isles-wide movement – Shetland Rocks – enjoyed by adults and children alike, with visitors to the isles and even some businesses getting involved.


The idea is simple: paint or decorate a rock with a design, put a message on the back asking for it to be rehidden, hide it somewhere, and wait. Your rock may or may not be found, but if it is, chances are that someone will take a photo and post it to the movement’s Facebook group, Shetland Rocks, before hiding it again for someone else to find.

While there are similar activities taking place around the world, in Shetland the rocks phenomenon began with two local mums keen to find more things to keep their children entertained over the summer.

Emma Graydon and Kerry Shorrocks both live in the south Mainland. Kerry, who had recently moved to Shetland and was looking for new things to do online, stumbled upon the idea of painting stones. Aafter hiding a few stones locally, asked Emma if she would help and set up a Facebook page to keep a track of where all the stones went.

Emma said: “Kerry hid lots of stones beside her neighbours and at local hot spots. She also hid a stone beside my house for my daughter to find and I posted the photo and re-hid the stone, (it’s still doing the rounds a year later). Neither of us knew of other groups when we started but have since discovered so many!”

The women said it took a little while for other people to understand what they were trying to do, but before long the idea had blown up, with more and more people getting involved and joining in the rock decorating and hiding fun.

“It took a good bit of perseverance to get it going. It was worth it though. We have been absolutely blown away by the interest and the amount of members [the group] has! We thought that if a few folk joined in we'd be doing ok. We never imagined that it would get so big! We initially thought that if we were lucky a hundred people might join.”

We have been absolutely blown away by the interest... We thought that if a few folk joined in we'd be doing ok. We never imagined that it would get so big!

From the fun of decorating the rocks to thinking of a place to hide it, going out to place it in the wild, and then the anticipation of seeing who finds it and where it turns up – there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Emma said: “I think it's enjoyed on lots of different levels, the bairns love finding a stone. The excitement on their faces when they find one is priceless! They also love seeing their stones being found (and seeing its photo on Facebook).

“Our daughters who are too young for Facebook ask frequently to see the Rocks page - it's like hide and seek! It's also really easy for all people to do! It's also now being enjoyed by very creative adults, it seems to have unearthed lots of hidden artists! Some of the stones are amazing works of art and people love finding them.”

Local mum of three Katrina Williamson said that her children love being involved, and that Shetland Rocks was a brillaint activity for the whole family to get involved in together. She also said the creative aspect is a great way for her to relax, too.

She said: "We are making a #Kallinesskawaii series of rocks, because kawaii drawings seem to be quite popular at the moment. The kids help me pick what they think we should do and they help colour in the pictures on the rocks. This is our under the sea ones which we have hidden around Lerwick already.

"I’ve just finished a woodland series which will be hidden next week, and we're hoping to do safari series next and a Halloween series for October. We love doing this! I love drawing so this is my time out. And the kids love colouring and hiding them in places around Shetland! It works great for the whole family and gets us out and about more."

There are similar groups around the world: The trend originated in the U.S. and has spread to the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand as well as other countries, with people sharing photos and information on rock locations on private Facebook groups.

Several Shetland rocks have even begun turning up in far off locations, with some recent posts to the Facebook group including a Shetland rock taken to America, another found in Madeira and others in London.

The Facebook group currently has over 2000 members and is growing on a daily basis with some local businesses even taking part.

Emma said: “We are also delighted that local businesses have joined in too! I suggested a while back that perhaps shops and businesses could paint a stone with a reward for the finder. The St Magnus Bay hotel really helped and gave away goodie bags and reduced price lunches - it's fab. Disability Shetland had recently joined in the fun too! It is truly outstanding.”

Emma and Kerry are hopeful that the trend will carry on beyond the summer “We hope it's something that will continue, it's naturally going to be quieter over winter but we have some ideas that we intend to work on for Christmas and into the spring, so watch this space! We are also nearly a year old so will be doing something to celebrate that.”

Posted in: Community

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