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.
Folklore was a huge part of Shetland’s society and culture in pre-modern times. Many of the folktales have been written down and, although many have now been forgotten, they can still be found in books and literature.
The dramatic coastline and moorland expanses have given rise to a rich and deep-rooted culture of folklore, superstition and deeply-embedded traditions.
In the past, education, literature and access to news was limited, even within the isles. Travel for pleasure was almost unheard of, and a venture out into the neighbouring parish or district was a novelty. Friends and neighbours, particularly in winter, would gather together beside the fireside and share stories and tales of the past to occupy the long winter nights. This series of blogs will explore some of these stories.
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.
There is nothing better than coming back from the beach with sandy pockets, burgeoning with gifts from the sea but, as with everything, we must collect responsibly and always ask, ‘how will my actions impact the natural world around me?’ We are all magpies; we search for treasure, scouring the shoreline for a glittering shell or a salt-encrusted sea-worn pebble. And that’s fine, as long as we do so responsibly.
Shetland’s shores are a veritable treasure trove where the discerning eye can pick out sea glass, precious stones, shells and, most highly-coveted of all, the elusive grottie buckie (cowrie shell), thought to bring luck and prosperity to the finder. It’s supposed to be good luck to carry one in your purse, so that’s precisely what sits in mine; alongside the loose change and crumpled receipts.
Tomorrow is hallowe’en, that time of the year when bairns go guising (trick or treating) brandishing neepy lanterns – not pumpkins, although we do carve these too. Anyone who has tried to carve out a neep (turnip) will know how much of a labour of love this is!
Hallowe’en is held on the eve of All Hallows’ Day, a Christian celebration dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows). The celebrations are punctuated with spooky tales and stories of ghosts, ghouls and paranormal activity.
Shetland is no stranger to ghostly tales; in fact, I spoke a lot about this on this week’s podcast with Alexa Fitzgibbon.
This week, I thought I would share a few ghost stories with you; so draw up a chair, dim the lights and pull a blanket around your shoulders because things might get a little spooky …
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.
Skidbladner longship in Haroldswick, Unst.
Shetland – and Orkney – were once part of the wider Viking world and many of the Norse influences can still be observed in Shetland today, mostly in the place-names they left behind with strong Norse connotations. Norn, a form of Old Norse, was spoken in Shetland until about 300 years ago. Today, many of the dialect words still in use have their roots in the Old Norse language that was spoken here at one time.
The Vikings are thought to have arrived in Shetland from western Norway between 800 and 850 AD and subsequently settled, giving rise to what is known as the Norse Period. Both Shetland and Orkney became Viking, and later Norse, strongholds until 1469 when the rule was passed over to Scotland, bringing a close to over 600 years of Norse rule.
A ruined house at Tingon, Northmavine.
The Highland clearances are known the world over for the cruelty and inhumane treatment shown to 19th-century tenant farmers who were thrown from their homes and land at the hands of their landlords – known locally as lairds. Blighting much of the Highlands and Islands during the 19th century, Shetland was no stranger to heartache at the hands of ruthless landlords and the men who did their bidding for them.
Shetland was certainly not immune to this period of cruel injustice. Although perhaps less affected than some parts of the Scottish Mainland, for the communities and families who were evicted from their homes, the pain was no less devastating. Communities across Shetland were ripped apart at the hands of landowners who cleared the tenant farmers, replacing them with Blackface and Cheviot sheep.
The clearances were a particularly dark period in Shetland’s history. One of cruel injustice, persecution and fear. Locally, we hear stories of houses being burnt to the ground, of babies being carried out in kishies [straw baskets] in the dark of a winter night and the destitute and homeless walking for miles, carrying their few possessions with them as they went.
For those who want to dive a little deeper into the wild, Tingon, Northmavine is a great place to get-away-from-it-all.
Tingon is a peninsula on Shetland’s rugged north-west coast. To the west is the North Atlantic, flanked by sheer cliffs that create an imposing barrier to any boats, and to the west, the skyline is dominated by Ronas Hill, Shetland’s highest point.
Walk: 4 miles (6.5 km)
Terrain: Fair, walking boots/hiking trainers would be best to wear
Time: 3 hours (we spent three hours exploring the area, this allows lots of time to enjoy the sites at a leisurely pace)
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.