A fire pit made using stones from historic buildings at Fethaland. Photo: David Murray
This blog is a little reminder, and hopefully a helpful guide to accessing the outdoors safely and responsibly in Shetland. I first published this in the Shetland Times, our weekly newspaper, to raise awareness amongst locals. The message remains important to everyone visiting Shetland, particularly those who hope to access some of our many beauty spots.
People are being urged to get-to-know the Scottish Outdoor Access Code before heading into the countryside after what has been described as “a crazy summer” by one westside crofter.
Shetland’s top beauty spots have seen more traffic than Piccadilly Circus this summer as locals, lifted from lockdown, took the opportunity to visit places such as Westerwick, Fethaland, Muckle Roe’s scenic area and Uyea.
‘Whiskers’, a favourite grey seal at Shetland Catch. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wills.
With more and more of us looking to literature to get our daily break away from the news, I thought that in this blog, I would share a book review I wrote for The New Shetlander. The New Shetlander is a magazine founded in 1947 – the oldest literary and community journal in Scotland. It comes out every quarter, and the editors welcome contributions about Shetland and the world. If you would like to subscribe to the magazine, you can do so here.
The New Shetlander is Scotland's oldest literary and community journal.
The book that I reviewed is very fitting to an audience of would-be Shetland visitors. Recently published, it was written by Jonathan Wills who operated guided boat tours around Lerwick and Noss for over 20 years. He shares his knowledge and recollections from his time as a tour guide in this lavishly illustrated paperback.
Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction.
“But Mr. Jeremy liked getting his feet wet; nobody ever scolded him, and he never caught a cold!” ~ Beatrix Potter.
Namaste all, that’s what we do now, right? We don’t shake hands, we keep outside two-metres of each other, and we watch the news with growing anxiety and concern. I’m hoping to keep this blog post upbeat, I’m going to tell you about frogs, but first, I need to outline the business side of things (and feel free to skip on past this to the bit about frogs!).
I’ve not planted my garlic yet. To most, this isn’t very meaningful, but to me, it’s a really big deal. I’ve been self-sufficient in garlic for at least six years, and this is the first year that those hopeful little bulbs have not been carefully placed into the cold November earth. I’ve also not planted my spring tulips – another source of frustration and anguish – another stick to beat myself with over the dark months.
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you." ~ Jane Eyre
When I was about 12 years old, I wrote a poem about a caged bird. It wasn’t that great; nobody really liked it but me – not even my mother. For me, it spoke more about how I felt when I put the words on paper than what the words actually said. I dumped it, although I wish now I’d kept it as it sticks in my memory like that little grains of sand between the toes after a stroll on the beach.
This was my most liked photo of 2018. An abandoned house in Burra.
This is not the blog post I had planned out in my mind. I had great intentions. I was going to make time, sit and write a meaningful and reflective post about my first year in business; what I’ve learnt and how I mean to progress in 2019. Unfortunately, it’s 5.30 (it's now 10.50) on Hogmanay, there’s a Nerf gun war happening in the living room, Aaron’s trying to make a beef wellington with a running commentary, Lena has been cooped up inside for too long and is bouncing off the walls (literally) and I’ve already poured a glass of wine. Never mind. It actually sums up this whirlwind of a year to a tee. We've never quite stopped and everything has been done at a hundred miles an hour so why change now, at the close of play on Hogmanay?
Therefore, I thought I would have to confess to how I ended up in the pub on a Friday afternoon. In this particular case, the story involves, 'The Guide, the Drunk and the Thule!'
We've just had the summer solstice here in Shetland. That time of the year when the long days of summer merge together in a haze of soft sunshine and warm breezes which are punctuated with the sweet smell of squill and thrift, a time when the laverock's (skylark) song never ceases and the sun only dips below the horizon momentarily. Or not. This past week has seen the worst weather of the summer so far. Today, Saturday, I stayed indoors most of the day with the fire on, watching from the window as my neighbours braved the wind and rain to have their annual midsummer BBQ (hats off to them, they did it)! The wind has decimated the garden and the few trees which do endure the elements here have been stripped bare of their new, spring leaves.
Today has been another very busy day Guiding! I feel as though I've hit the ground running and it's extremely invigorating! My first season as a fully fledged Guide has started with a bang. On Saturday I welcomed two lovely groups from the Celebrity Eclipse who were making a short visit to Shetland before heading south to Dublin. After appearing at Victoria Pier at 8.15am for duty it was a case of load the bus and go! We went to Jarlshof, taking in the scenery of Shetland's spectacular South Mainland. We were lucky enough to catch a group of seals on Rerwick beach and the guests were in good spirits as Shetland presented itself in all her early summer glory. It was a fantastic day, blue skies and a sun that never abated. Unfortunately for me, the crew seat on the bus meant that I was in full sun and my left cheek went a lovely 'brighter shade of red'! After a jaunt round Jarlshof and 5, 000 years of human history it was back to the town to pick up the next lot of passengers from the pier. Without even time for a pee we were on our merry way again. I returned at 5.15 feeling happy, tired and extremely satisfied that everyone on the tours had enjoyed Shetland at its best.
Today was a similar format but this time, the route was West and the ship was the Norwegian Jade. Our tour involved a stop at Shetland Jewellery and the Scalloway Museum and Castle. The day started with very, VERY, thick fog and between the three lanes and the Halfway House, we could see nothing! Thankfully, I had enough fillers up my sleeve to occupy everyone till the fog lifted. As is the case so often in the summer, Scalloway was basking in lovely, bright sunshine as the east coast lay shrouded in mist. Thankfully my guests were very pragmatic and just glad that they had picked the west route rather than the south on this particular occasion!
A fantastic day - Guiding really is FUN!
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.
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Shetland with Laurie
Copyright ©Alexa Fitzgibbon
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Shetland tourist info: shetland.org