The days are changing as the seasons switch. And, like a light that’s shut off, it feels as though the dial has been turned to autumn as summer fades into memory once more. The nights are visibly darker, and the air has changed; there’s a sting in its embrace, and I feel myself turning my collar against it.
Yet, despite this change, the daylight is still long enough to make the most of the fine days, and the chill in the wind isn’t enough to leave us lounging by the fire with a steaming mug and cosy socks just yet. There are still plenty of reasons to enjoy Shetland in autumn, and here are just five of them:
Sign up for a course
One of my favourite ways to unwind, reconnect with the natural world – and myself – and try out a new skill is to do a course. Over the years, I’ve done a few, from watercolouring the landscape with Mike Finnie, glazing ceramics with Ellie at Island Ceramics and jewellery making, again with Mike Finnie at Red Houss Shetland.
But there are others too; you could do a session painting pottery at Aa’ Fired Up on Commercial Street or a glass workshop with Glansin Glass. It’s always worth checking online to see what’s on throughout Shetland Wool Week – with classes in knitting, design and all things textile industry related, there’s something for everyone. Shetland Wool Week is usually held at the end of September.
Walk on the wild side
Autumn is punctuated by fierce Atlantic storms that thunder through the landscape, creating drama and adding depth to a landscape that continues to inspire creatives and those thrillseekers who live to experience the raw energy of an Atlantic onslaught.
Nothing beats the feeling of donning a pair of waterproofs and layering up against the wind before heading out for a walk to witness the sea crash towards the shore. Watch as the Atlantic rollers break against the mighty cliffs at Eshaness, or change the topography of a quiet bay as sand shifts, and beaches are re-sculpted, erasing the footsteps of those who walked before you.
Look out for the Northern Lights
“The sight filled the northern sky; the immensity of it was scarcely conceivable. As if from Heaven itself, great curtains of delicate light hung and trembled. Pale green and rose-pink, and as transparent as the most fragile fabric, and at the bottom edge a profound and fiery crimson like the fires of Hell, they swung and shimmered loosely with more grace than the most skilful dancer. Lyra thought she could even hear them: a vast distant whispering swish.”
~ Philip Pullman
Shetland is the best place in the UK to spot the Aurora borealis – known locally as the mirrie dancers. The northern lights are a spectacular and tantalising night-time phenomenon occurring in polar regions. Caused by activity on the sun’s surface, they have inspired people for thousands of years. Shetland’s folklore tells us tales of bad omens, increased fertility, and changes brought forth by this nocturnal spectacle.
Spot autumn migrants
Shetland is a birders’ dream, particularly during the migratory season when, as birds are on the move, they pass through Shetland – or are blown off course, arriving tired and weary before flying off once more towards their winter destination.
Throughout autumn, warblers, thrushes, finches and chats make an appearance across Shetland – as well as rare and scarce migrants, blown in by chance. The shoreline offers opportunities to watch waders feed and beautiful ducks – such as the long-tailed and shelduck and divers.
I joined a few birders recently for a day spotting birds around Shetland’s south mainland, and although they said it was a slow day for birdwatching, my tally for the day included 48 species. Highlights for me were spotting three divers together – red-throated, black-throated and great northern – and a barred warbler.
Visit a museum
Sometimes, even the hardiest among us must admit defeat and stay indoors – and what better way to while away an afternoon than in the company of relics from the past, stories, and 5,000 years of human history in the islands.
Shetland Museum & Archives is open all year round, offering a compelling window into the past. Hoswick Visitor Centre is also open all year round and has an excellent craft shop and cafe. Many of the community museums remain open into October before closing till spring. A few of my favourites are:
However you choose to spend your autumn adventure in Shetland, be sure to wrap up well and pack for every eventuality. You may find this blog helpful!
If you’re planning to visit in winter, consider these 5 reasons to take a winter break.
Until next time - happy adventuring,
Hello from Laurie
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for - whether you're planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some 'home' inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.