Here is the Move.Shetland.org newsletter from October 2010, which we hope you find of interest. If you're considering a move to Shetland, please don't hesitate to contact us for advice.
Earlier this year, Keep Scotland Beautiful called for beach users to review the nation's 56 Seaside Award beaches online so that other visitors knew what to expect when they arrived. Now, the environmental charity has announced the public's three favourite award beaches, revealing that St Ninian's Ayre, a beach on the south western coast of mainland Shetland, has topped the poll.
St Ninian's Ayre is in fact the UK's largest active sand tombolo. It links the Shetland mainland with St Ninian's Isle, where a treasure trove, believed to have been buried by priests at the time of the Viking invasion, was discovered in 1958. The beach received a third of the reviews submitted across Scotland and had an average rating of four out of five.
The runner-up was Coldingham Bay, in Berwickshire, but another Shetland beach – the beautiful Sands of Breckon in the north of the island of Yell – came in third, again scoring an average of four out of five and with over 20 reviews.
Donna Hegarty of Keep Scotland Beautiful explained that more than 150 people had reviewed beaches this year. She said: "It is clear that the Shetland beaches have this year captured the hearts of Scottish beach-goers and congratulations should be offered to the local communities and Shetland Islands Council, who both help to maintain these beaches."
Shetland's coastline, which extends to a remarkable 1,697 miles, is hugely varied. Many sections feature dramatic cliffs, sometimes with caves, stacks, arches and blowholes. Elsewhere, though, there is a wide range of beaches, including a number of very beautiful stretches of sand. However, there's great variety: at one cove (or geo, in Shetland dialect) on the island of Unst, the shore has a unique covering of smooth black, grey or green serpentine pebbles.
With a puffin-cam successfully charting the progress of a puffin chick at Sumburgh Head this summer, these colourful little birds have had even more public attention than usual. The chick and its parents will now be out at sea where, this winter, they'll have unusual company. A life-size bronze puffin, measuring 30 cm high, will spend the next seven months mirroring the natural habits of its real-life counterparts by wintering at sea aboard the 'Hrossey', one of the two cruise ferries that link Shetland with Orkney and Aberdeen. The puffin has been created by Eddie Hallam, a renowned sculptor from Derbyshire, who makes life-size bronze sculptures. As part of his work, he spends time on Scottish islands researching and sketching seabirds. This puffin has been donated to the Scottish Wildlife Trust to help raise funds and awareness for the charity's work to protect all of Scotland's wildlife for the future.
The plan to attach the work of art to the ferry for the winter was hatched by Eddie, and the idea was immediately supported by NorthLink Ferries, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the People's Postcode Lottery and VisitScotland. The sponsors have launched a competition to name the unusual puffin adventurer.
Eddie Hallam explained: "My passions for conservation and bronze sculpting inspire me to create life-size models of wildlife which attempt to capture the essence of the amazing animals which surround us and really do them the justice they deserve. The Scottish Wildlife Trust strives to protect Scotland's valuable wildlife and conserve its biodiversity for the future, and I hope the story of the adventures of the puffin sculpture spending winter aboard this NorthLink ferry will provide a way for me to give something back to wildlife and contribute to the work of the charity. The time the puffin sculpture spends at sea will radically change its appearance to give us a small insight into what these small, hardy creatures endure on the open waters. This authenticity will hopefully make it more attractive to wildlife enthusiasts when it is auctioned to raise money for the Scottish Wildlife Trust next year."
The Scottish Wildlife Trust has warmly welcomed the generous donation. The puffin is perched above the aft deck of the ship, easily visible from the passenger areas, and has already become a conversation piece for ferry travellers.
The port of Lerwick is a popular destination for the many cruise liners that, in summer, ply northern waters. This year, there have been 48 such visits, bringing more than 30,000 passengers, a new record.
The last vessel of the season, the Grand Princess, was the largest ever to call, weighing in at 108,808 gross tonnes and featuring, among many other diversions, a nine-hole putting course. The 2,300 visitors aboard brought a late-season bonus to shops in the town, thronging Commercial Street in search of souvenirs and postcards. They also had a choice of tours including the Jarlshof prehistoric and Viking settlements as part of a scenic south mainland drive; the scenery of western Shetland; Shetland ponies and Scalloway Castle; and walking tours in Lerwick, featuring historic Fort Charlotte.
In late afternoon, the Grand Princess set off for the Faroe Islands, two hundred miles north-west of Shetland, on a transatlantic cruise that takes the ship to Fort Lauderdale to begin its Caribbean cruising programme on 11 October.
Victor Sandison, Lerwick Port Authority's Deputy Chief Executive, said that it had been another "milestone cruise season". He added that the port had continued to develop its visitor facilities, for example by creating a new "welcome ashore" pavilion. The £85,000 investment by the Port Authority will enable the Meet-and-Greet team to provide orientation and information in pleasant surroundings.
Mr Sandison revealed that 44 cruise ships are already booked for 2011, including two more record breakers, Crown Princess (113,651 gross tonnes) due on 7 June and Costa Pacifica (114,500 gross tonnes), scheduled for 11 June. Both will be on maiden visits, as will another five of the vessels currently lined up.
Shetland businesses wishing to develop the skills of their workforce will benefit from a new grant scheme supported by the European Social Fund (ESF). Shetland Islands Council has been awarded just over £85,000 to establish the Shetland Business Growth Training Scheme, which will part-fund short training courses in most economic sectors.
Head of Business Development, Douglas Irvine said: "We recognised that there was a gap in the availability of funding to enable the majority of local businesses to develop the skills of their workforce. This scheme will enable businesses to access training opportunities which may not have been previously possible and encourage them to consider the benefits of a better-skilled workforce. During the current economic climate, giving local businesses the opportunity to invest in skills development will also help them remain competitive and sustainable".
A recent edition of Condé Nast Traveller magazine features an interesting article in which the author, James Scudamore, compares Shetland with its southern neighbour, Orkney, drawing out the contrasts and similarities between the two island groups. As he points out, there is much that they share, including a rich archaeology and a strong sense of Norse heritage that even extends to young people using old Norn words in their text messages.
However, the article rightly highlights the differences, most obviously in the landscapes and seascapes and the effects that the environment has had on the way of life. With a few exceptions, Orkney is relatively flat and low-lying, with fertile farmland, whereas Shetland, as our photograph shows, is often rugged. Traditionally, Orcadians tended to look first to the land for a livelihood whereas Shetlanders relied much more on the fruits of the sea. Today, as James Scudamore explains, Shetland has made good use of the revenue from oil development to create an impressive range of local amenities. Read the full article here
Shetland is host to some 26 species of hawkweed, 18 of which grow nowhere else. However, all the species are in decline; those that have survived tend to be confined to locations relatively inaccessible to sheep.
Shetland Amenity Trust's Woodlands Team and Shetland Biological Records Centre are taking part in a National Species Action Plan for Shetland's endemic hawkweeds in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Shetland Conservation Volunteers. Shetland botanist Walter Scott has also contributed to the success of the project by way of advice and material.
One of the successes to date is that Hieracium hethlandiae, which was extinct in the wild, is nevertheless still growing in artificial cultivation and will be reintroduced into the wild in due course. The project aims to ensure that there are at least two viable populations of each species in Shetland.
Dr Tim Rich, Head of Vascular Plants at the National Museum of Wales, was in Shetland recently on a research trip to examine hawkweeds. Dr Rich is a hawkweed specialist who, with Walter Scott, is shortly to publish a book on Shetland hawkweeds. Following a visit to Shetland Amenity Trust's greenhouses, Dr Rich said: "I was very impressed by the scale of the work growing the hawkweeds, and the understanding of their importance and how to grow them. This is the best example of cultivation of these plants for conservation I have seen. The work the Trust is undertaking in maintaining populations in cultivation is of clear importance."
Music is never far away in Shetland and, hot on the heels of September's Shetland Blues Festival, the annual Accordion and Fiddle Festival kicks off on Thursday 7 October and runs until Monday 11th.
As the programme (download here - PDF format) demonstrates, it's a big event. Fifteen concerts or dances are packed into four hectic days, distributed among ten venues from Mid Yell and North Roe in the north of Shetland to Cunningsburgh and Sandwick in the south. A total of 61 bands or soloists are billed to appear, 24 of them from outside Shetland. The biggest concert and dance of the festival takes place in the spacious Clickimin Centre on the Saturday night, when around 800 dancers will take to the floor in what Wanderlust magazine describes in its current issue as a finale "so wild you can hear it in Edinburgh (allegedly)."
Meanwhile, one of Shetland's younger exponents of the fiddle, Maggie Adamson, has won through to the finals of the 2010 Glenfiddich Fiddle Championships. The competition concludes in the Perthshire village of Blair Atholl at the end of October. With Shetland guitar virtuoso Brian Nicholson, she's already recorded three widely-praised CDs and has toured extensively. We wish her well in the contest.
The work of two Shetland artists is to appear in the next "100sqft" exhibition, to be held in New Orleans and London. The concept behind the exhibition is that 100 pieces of art work, each of them a foot square, will be exhibited in a ten-foot square grid. They'll also be viewable on the 100sqft website. The New Orleans show is part of "Arts After Dark", an exhibition that opens on 23 October and includes work by artists from both New Orleans and the United Kingdom. Afterwards, at the end of November, the 100 artworks will transfer to a venue in north London.
The two Shetland artists involved are Abby Faulkner and Austin Taylor. Abby – who is responsible for the Shetland My Love blog that we've previously featured on these pages – has entered one of her drawings, "Cloud Appreciation", featuring her engaging and amusing characters, the Raincoats. If her work sells, she'll donate the proceeds to Help for Heroes, a charity which supports those in the armed forces who've been injured in combat. Abby blogs more about this – and about those Raincoats – here.
Austin, a widely-travelled photographer whose portfolio includes astronomy and wildlife, has held an online poll to help him decide which image he should enter in the 100sqft exhibition. You can see all the candidates – and find out which one came out on top – at Austin's blog site.
Shetland has a remarkably diverse and vibrant visual arts scene and a great range of craft work. If you'd like to explore more of it, two good places to start are the website of a local artists" group, Veer North and the site run by Shetland Arts and Crafts.
Shetland's telecommunications infrastructure is set to be significantly enhanced with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). A grant of £367,500 will enable Shetland Islands Council to make a connection to the Faroese fibre optic cable which runs between Faroe, Shetland, Orkney and the Scottish mainland. Marvin Smith of the Council's Telecoms Project team explained that the funding would allow the Council to move forward with the creation of a fibre optic network for Shetland. He added that the project was vital "to give Shetland a modern telecommunications structure and enable future broadband telecoms projects to materialise".
When the Commonwealth Games in Delhi reach their conclusion, 346 people from all over Scotland will take part in a ceremony to mark the handing over of the Games Flag to Glasgow, which hosts the event in 2014. Three of them are from Shetland: Heather Gordon, James Watt and Kathryn Spence recently set off for Glasgow, where they'll rehearse a mass dance routine before heading to India. James Watt said that they were all looking forward to see how the performance will take shape and what they'll be doing. The closing ceremony will take place on 14 October and will be broadcast on BBC2 television, beginning at 2.30pm.
Each month, we feature one of the many blogs about Shetland. We hope that they'll help our subscribers explore the many facets of life in Shetland that make these islands such a special place to live and work. The usual disclaimer applies: Shetland.org isn't responsible for the content of any external link, nor does the inclusion of a link imply any endorsement.
There are well over twenty active Shetland blogs and several of them focus on Shetland's wonderful wildlife. This month, we've chosen one of these and we'll feature others in the months ahead. This month's blog comes from David Gifford, a keen photographer, and it offers a photographic record of the islands that can be viewed either month by month or by category. View David Gifford's Shetland photography.