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This blog is earlier in the week than usual but, let’s face it, who wants to read my blog on Christmas Day! – big thanks to you if you do!
To celebrate the 12 days of Christmas I thought I would share some of my blog archives with you. So, over the 12 days of Christmas, I will share a new (old) blog every day from the archive. It occurred to me that I’ve been writing a fortnightly blog for almost three years and there are many that you may have missed, not had time to read or you may be new to the blog so I hope this will give you a chance to read back and discover more.
I hope these will give you a deeper insight into life here and some holiday inspiration for when it’s safe to travel again.
It was funny going through all the old blogs, and amazing that there were a few I forgot I’d actually written. I’ve picked out a few of my favourites, your favourites, and ones that I hope will help with holiday planning (for when it's safe to do so again).
For those who don’t want to wait for a new instalment every day, I’ve summarised them below and I will share them on Facebook and Instagram throughout the 12 days of Christmas.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
The storm petrel experience at the Mousa Broch
"I was once told that to experience the sound of the storm petrels within the walls of the Mousa Broch was like listening to a fairy being sick. With images from Lady Cottingham's book of childhood dancing in my mind, curiosity found me standing on the pier at Sandsayre on Wednesday night, waiting for the Mousa Boat to take us on the midnight trip to see these curious little birds. Armed with a pair of binoculars and dragging my good friend Helen along, we were in good spirits as we boarded the Solan IV for the short crossing to the now uninhabited island."
You can read the rest, here.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Shetland & Scotland: the same but different
The differences between Shetland and the rest of Scotland can be quite striking. Many visitors arrive here expecting the full Scottish treatment – the haggis, the kilts and the bagpipes – and I find myself, as a tour guide, quickly explaining to them that much of the culture and tradition in Shetland stems from the close ties that we had with Scandinavia in the past and that actually, we have only been part of Scotland for some 550 years. For guests, particularly those from the New World, our inability to embrace Scottish culture and tradition after only 550 years usually gets a laugh in itself…
You can read the rest, here.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Geirhildr’s Loch: A Viking Saga
Geographically speaking, the loch at Girlsta is interesting; it's the deepest in Shetland, at about 65ft deep in places. From an ecological perspective, it's fascinating; it's the natural habitat of a unique sub-species of fish native only to Shetland; the slender char. Found in the loch, this fish is a relative of the Arctic char. The char was marooned here following the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. The char adapted and changed over the years into a distinct sub-species now only found in the loch of Girlsta. Fascinating as both these facts are, for me, the most interesting thing about the loch is the folklore associated with it, and the story of Geirhildr, a young Viking princess.
You can read the rest, here.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Grandad’s sweet oatcakes
Who doesn't love a bit of festive baking?
When I posted this blog I had just shared a photo of the cliffs at Eshaness and explained that it was a stormy day here in Shetland and that I was stuck at home with two snotty bairns so I planned on baking the Christmas oatcakes.
My lovely, engaging followers were quick to respond, and to message, asking that I share the recipe, so here it is.
You can get the recipe, here.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Getting here and away: A guide to travelling to and from Shetland
Getting to and from Shetland is really quite simple – you can get here by sea or air.
A rail link is out of the question as there are no trains and the biggest risk to travel arrangements will always be the weather. Being the only land-mass in a vast ocean brings its fair share of difficulties with wind and fog being the biggest perpetrators of travel chaos for visitors hoping to arrive and depart from the northern isles.
One of the first questions that I always get (along with where should we stay) is ‘what’s the best way to get to Shetland?’ The next question is, ‘should we take the boat or plane?’ To simplify this for you and to make it easier to make an informed decision, I’ll go through the pros and cons of each, here on the blog so that you can choose the best option to suit your needs, budget and time.
You can read more about getting here and away, here.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
A shetland shipwreck: Shetland & the Queen of Sweden
Time stood still for me today, as I paused and listened to the wind howl down the chimney. In that moment, I was reminded of something someone told me once, a marine archaeologist, who said that one of the most moving things he had discovered on a shipwreck was a stopped clock, stopped at the precise time of loss. In a world governed by time, a stopped clock holds such profound meaning. This idea, of time standing still forever, is something I think about whenever I consider the wrecks lost at sea here in Shetland.
One of these incredible historic vessels, the flagship of the Swedish East India Company, was the Drottningen af Swerige (translated as Queen of Sweden). Under the command of Captain Carl Johan Treutiger, the Queen, a 147ft, 950-ton merchantman, carried 130 men and 32 guns. Built in Stockholm in 1741 for the princely sum of £12,500 she was the largest vessel in the company’s fleet. A trading vessel to China for the Swedish East India Company she was a ship to admire and marvel over – and one they were rightly proud of. She was partially loaded, en route to Cadiz (Spain) for more supplies before continuing to Canton (China) when she floundered here.
You can read more about that, here.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
The spring equinox and a Neolithic temple
Today I stepped back in time 4,000 years to the heart of Neolithic Shetland, to that moment as dawn arrives and the world stops, where just for a moment everything falls silent. The birds stop singing, the sheep grow quiet, the wind lulls and life is suspended while that first ray of sunlight makes contact with the cold earth as it awakens from winter once more.
The equinox is quite simply that time when the day and night are of equal length; there’s a balance in these days, but also a sense of polarisation. It feels as if we are hanging on a pendulum, in free-fall, suspended as the world is about to be set into motion; like a rollercoaster at that point before the drop. The days and nights are equal; but the tides give their most extreme versions of themselves; licking the tops of piers at their height and, as they recede, revealing all kinds of mysteries from the murky depths below.
You can read more about this, here.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Happy Newerday (New Year)
Happy New Year!
Today we welcome in the New Year but, for residents on the island of Foula, they won’t bring in New Year until 13th January. The island, home to around 30 people lies about 20 miles (32 km) to the west of Shetland and is arguably the UK's remotest inhabited islands. This tradition, of celebrating Christmas and New Year later is also marked by several communities in the northern isles of Yell and Unst.
You can read more and find out why they celebrate later, here.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Packing list: what to wear in Shetland
I’m always reminded of the words of my great-grandmother when thinking about what to wear; her words still echo in my head as clear as though it was yesterday. “Nivir cast a cloot, till da munt o’ May is oot” were the words she – and many before her – said. And it’s true; we still experience cool weather in May.
So, for those who are planning their Shetland wardrobe, here are a few pointers.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
A beginner’s guide to Shetland: a few pointers in the right direction for those arriving
You’ve read the travel guide? Great. You’ve seen the Shetland TV series, even better; now read a real guide from a local. Delve a little deeper into the fascinating culture of the place I call home: Shetland.
Our island’s culture and tradition is unique and distinctively ‘not Scottish’ – if that’s a thing? We’ve only been part of Scotland for 550 years so don’t expect to find any haggis, kilts or bagpipes here.
So, for those arriving here for the first time, I’ve compiled this little Survival Guide – a beginner's guide to Shetland, if you will. It’s by no means comprehensive and should be taken a little tongue-in-cheek, but here you go.
You can read the blog here.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Top 7 places to visit in Shetland
I have put together this guide to the ‘Top 7 in Shetland’ for visitors. These are all outdoor activities for varying abilities (and most can be tailored into a shorter or longer experience depending on interest and/or ability). I should also say that this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather it gives an idea for ‘something to do’ for every day of a week-long break.
You can explore these here.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me …
Lerwick: A potted history on the growth of a town
During the summer I offer guided evening tours through Lerwick that explore the old town, its buildings, its people, and all the stories associated with them. Without giving away too much of the tour, this blog will shed a little light into the history of our capital – and only – town in Shetland.
You can read more about that here.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2021 and, as ever, thank you so much for your continued support and encouragement in all that I do.
A little about Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for, whether you are planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.