What about language? Gaelic, as spoken in parts of the Western Isles and West Highlands of Scotland, has never been part of Shetland culture. A few people who’ve moved here from other parts of Scotland can speak it, but you’re much more likely to hear Polish or Urdu. Shetland does have its own dialect, though: it’s a blend of Old Scots and Old Norse; words like peerie (small) are used all the time.
Is the nearest railway station really in Bergen, Norway? It’s a lovely idea, but a modern myth. Our nearest stations are at Thurso and Wick in northern Scotland. However, Bergen isn’t that much farther away if you’re in the north of Shetland and it does have our nearest full branch of IKEA – the next closest (at the moment) is in Edinburgh, though there’s a small delivery branch in Aberdeen.
Are there really no trees? It can seem like that, especially if you arrive at Sumburgh Airport and drive north. But there are respectable numbers of trees in places such as Lerwick, Scalloway and Voe, plus several plantations in Weisdale and a few elsewhere. Shetland’s once-widespread cover of hazel, downy birch, aspen and willow disappeared because of grazing sheep and not, as is often assumed, the wind. The increased number of trees and shrubs is actually one of the most notable changes in Shetland over the past thirty years.
Can you really play golf at midnight in summer? Yes. With the sun above the horizon for nearly 19 hours in June, our light midsummer nights are one of the islands’ most appealing features. It doesn’t get completely dark between mid-May and early August. Instead, we have a kind of unfinished northern sunset, producing the twilight that we call the ‘simmer dim’.
What about those dark winters? At our latitude, the days are particularly short in December and January, with the sun very low in the sky and appearing for less than six hours around the winter solstice. But, to compensate, we quite often have the thrill of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Most people would probably say that the amazing summer nights more than make up for slightly longer winter ones. And of course, there are the famous Up Helly Aa fire festivals and many other social events to ‘lighten the year’ - one of the meanings of ‘Up Helly Aa’.
Come and see for yourself.
You’re always welcome.