Travel blogger shares highlights of Shetland visit
by Promote Shetland -
So far, 2020 has been a tricky year for travel. The coronavirus pandemic forced many of us to cancel our summer holiday plans and reconsider how and where we visit next. What's been heartening is the number of people who have expressed an interest in coming to Shetland – if not this year, then in the future. If this is you, then you might find this blog useful for planning your trip.
Kay Gillespie is a Scottish travel blogger known as The Chaotic Scot. She visited Shetland earlier this summer to experience a Scottish island community post-lockdown. Keen to showcase the beauty of Shetland while being a responsible tourist, she made the most of her short trip to Shetland exploring the Mainland and the island of Bressay. It was her third visit to the islands and it didn't disappoint.
"I just love the remoteness, the wild scenery, and the island way-of-life," says Kay. "The history and heritage of Shetland is absolutely fascinating, from the Neolithic times and the Viking era right up to today. The locals are so friendly too – I could listen to the accent all day!"
"Paul from the St Magnus Bay Hotel was kind enough to take me to Fethaland for the afternoon and it was just one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen," says Kay. "The weather was amazing and there was no other sign of life – apart from one wee seal swimming around the bay. From the ruins of the old haaf fishing station and the remnants of an Iron Age settlement to the remote location, it’s a hidden gem in every sense.
"On the same day, I took a trip with Sea Kayak Shetland. We set off from The Blade at Heylor and paddled alongside the vibrant red granite cliffs. The sunshine sparkled on the sea, as we made our way through caves and striking sea arches. We even encountered some seals and puffins along the way. From start to finish, this was a truly memorable day on Shetland."
Kay travelled solo to Shetland, staying at Busta House, on the outskirts of Brae, and the St Magnus Bay Hotel in Hillswick. She recommends other solo travellers book into a local hotel or B&B too, so they can get useful travel tips from their hosts.
"Their recommendations are invaluable and you always learn things you can’t read about anywhere else. Even if you have a loose idea of what you want to do when you get there, I can guarantee that will change when you speak to your local hosts," she says.
Other Shetland travel tips from Kay include supporting the local economy by buying from local shops and making the most of public transport.
"If you are camping, coming in a motorhome or self-catering, wait until you arrive on Shetland to shop for food and supplies. Treat yourself to a meal in a local café or restaurant and buy local gifts and crafts to take home. Make sure you pre-book accommodation, restaurants and activities; particularly at the moment since businesses are operating at reduced capacity.
"When you’re heading out for the day, purchase or download a map as there is a high chance you will drop out of internet signal and Google Maps isn’t always reliable. Pack water and snacks, and make sure your camera is fully charged as I suspect you will be taking a lot of photographs.
"There are local buses which will take you around the islands. It's always a good idea to plan ahead using the bus timetables so that you don’t get stuck anywhere.
"I travelled around on an eBike, which will be available to hire from Hillswick Shop in the future, so that’ll be a new option. I loved cycling along the quiet roads and the hills were no problem at all with the extra push from the battery!"
Kay's main piece of advice, however, is not to try and do too much. Shetland enjoys a laidback, slower pace of life, so make the most of it.
"Try not to squeeze too much into one day. Shetland is the perfect place to slow down and simply appreciate your surroundings.
"Even if you know roughly what to expect, Shetland will still find a way to surprise you. I’m always amazed that I don’t have to fight my way through crowds of tourists at such stunning locations. Shetland’s far north location has very much shaped the identity of these islands, and the remoteness also saves them from falling victim to over-tourism. It’s a real novelty having beautiful beaches, dramatic cliff tops, and ancient ruins almost all to yourself."