As we move into the New Year, it’s difficult not to feel as though we’ve been short-changed. We all liked to imagine that 2021 would be like hitting the reset and bring a fresh start, a line in the sand of sorts. Yet, we are still fighting the same struggles we were in 2020, and coronavirus is still an ever-present threat to the world.
Travel looks like it may well remain hampered into 2021 as restrictions continue and nations race to get mass-vaccinations rolled out as our health systems, as ever, bear the brunt of the coronavirus fallout.
I’ve received many emails looking to book tours for 2021 and, at present, my diary remains closed as the situation continues to change and develop on almost a daily basis. That’s not to say things won’t improve as the year wears on, but for now, I believe we are best to wait, dream and plan.
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.
This week, as we transition into December, I wanted to share something a bit different on the blog, and I wanted to tell you about a fantastic day out I had recently with Mike Finnie of Red Houss Shetland.
It pains me to say it, but with Christmas approaching, we’re all looking for that extra special gift, idea or experience and Mike’s jewellery making workshops make a fantastic gift. Choosing presents can be so tricky as we all have so much already, and it’s often hard not to buy things that are just adding to the layers of ‘stuff’ people already own. I like to try and choose unusual gifts; ones that support local businesses and are unique and meaningful.
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.
The Burn of Valayre, Delting, Shetland.
It strikes me that despite having children, I’ve never really written about things to see and do with them, so in this blog, I’ll share a short walk to do with kids. Many of the trails that I write about are long and involve carrying tired legs for a part, or all, of the way – great if you want to build muscle, not so great if you want to relax and soak in the scenery.
Here in Shetland, we are just heading into the second week of the October holidays, where more and more, as parents, we begin to run out of ideas for things to do to occupy our little monkeys. Hopefully this blog will give you a new idea and inspire you to pack a picnic and head out for a few much-needed hours outside.
Jarlshof, the Earl's House (see The Pirate below). Photo: Sophie Whitehead
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying getting through my reading list recently; and what better way to enjoy a place, without visiting, than through the pages of a well-written book.
In this blog, I have selected my top 10 Shetland fiction reads which I hope you too will enjoy and savour until you can visit. So draa in a chair and start reading ...
St Ninian's Isle beach in Shetland's South Mainland.
Whether it’s hidden coves, sweeping sands or stony strands, Shetland has it all and, among the many beaches that make up Shetland’s breathtaking coastline, there are five that have been included in the national Beach Awards, part of the Keep Scotland Beautiful charity.
These awards “are the benchmark for quality, celebrating clean, well managed and sustainable beaches.” Those selected “demonstrate excellent beach management and environmental best practice, and maintaining high standards.”
As 2020 is the Year of Coast and Waters I thought I would bring you a list of Shetland’s award-winning beaches. As many people are spending this time planning their next holiday, why not start with some top-rated beaches to get your next holiday off to a flying start.
‘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.
Up Helly Aa is almost upon us and you can feel excitement levels in the town growing as people make ready for, what is to some, the social event of the year. Up Helly Aa, despite what is often believed, is not an ancient festival passed down from Norse times, but it is a festival with its roots in Shetland’s Victorian era. And like any proper Victorian soiree, theatrical pomp and ceremony were allowed unbridled power to shine.
Up Helly Aa’s roots can be found in the 19th-century tradition of ‘tar-barrelling’, a practice which saw the town’s young men rolling burning barrels of tar through the narrow streets of Lerwick. This was banned in 1874 as it was dangerous and caused damage to local properties and humiliated the law-enforcers who were often tricked by the rowdy youths and locked into an endless game of ‘cat-and-mouse’. It has been argued that following the Napoleonic Wars, the men returning had developed a taste for firearms and so began the tradition. In the past, Shetland followed the Julian calendar long after the rest of the world adopted the Gregorian calendar. Christmas was held on the 5th January, New Year on the 12th and Up Helly Aa (or Uphellia) was held 24 days after Aald Yule, on the 29th January. However, the act of tar-barrelling might occur on any of these occasions.
As you read this, I will (hopefully) be sunning my weary legs on a beach in the Adriatic, or exploring a medieval town’s backstreets. The reality is, I’ll probably be trying to rub sun cream into sandy skin, stickied with ice-cream while wondering if it’s an acceptable time to order a large glass of sauvignon blanc. As I was planning the holiday, I found myself ‘googling’ “best things to do in Croatia” and realised that this is what many Shetland visitors will also be furiously googling before any trip to our islands. So, 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.
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.