I often drive past traditional Shetland crofthouses and wonder what they’re like inside. These are buildings that have fascinated me since I was little. Their simple lines, symmetry, and the way they bed into the landscape almost seamlessly continues to inspire my imagination in the same – perhaps less visually attractive way – that they continue to inspire artists and poets to commit pen or paint to paper.
I couldn’t say no when Steven and Debbie invited us to Yell to enjoy a weekend in Peerie Bugarth. The house offered all the charm and beauty of a traditional crofthouse but offered the comfort and space of a modern home.
Sandness is the most westerly frontier of Mainland Shetland. It has the distinct feeling of being an island rather than part of the Mainland due to its relative geographical isolation from Lerwick. The boundaries of Sandness are clear and the community has the same tight-knit feel that you would expect to find on any of the outlying islands, where a bond of community exists that has, in many ways, been lost from the rest of Mainland Shetland.
Ian Tait describes Sandness’ position well in the book's foreword, stating that:
“To most Shetlanders a trip to the place is a bit of an excursion, and Sandness has much of the aspect of one of our off-lying isles.”
The Sandness Story, published in 2021 by the Sandness History Group, tells the story of this remarkable community, remote by road from the rest of Shetland but intrinsically connected by old routes to the communities of Waas, West Burrafirth, Voe, Brae and Eshaness.
Old Lerwick: Lanes and Lodberries by Douglas Sinclair is the long-anticipated follow on from Old Lerwick: People and Places published in 2017. Douglas Sinclair is a Lerwegian and historian who grew up in the historic south end of Lerwick and has spent most of his life living in the heart of Lerwick, immersing himself in the history, the people and the places. He has dedicated much of his adult life to unearthing and telling the stories of the town – in fact if you’ve had a walking tour of Lerwick in the past, the chances are, Douglas was your guide.
Lerwick has seen an immense number of changes over the years, from its humble beginnings in the 17th century; a time of smuggling, Dutch fishermen and poverty, to the unsympathetic demolitions and rebuilding of the 1960s and towards the present-day town; a desirable and popular tourist attraction and thriving fishing port. [You can read more about the growth of Lerwick here].
I woke on the night and heard footsteps – it was her – I nudged my husband and said, “ssshhh, can you hear her?”
I was on high alert, we were staying in the West Wing of Busta House Hotel, and I knew that this was part of the building she haunted.
Busta sits, tucked away on the shores of Busta Voe, just a few miles from the village of Brae. Today it’s a three-star hotel placed in an idyllic rural location in one of Shetland’s most beautiful historic houses, but it also has its own unique ghostly tale to tell.
Jarlshof, sitting at the southernmost point of Mainland Shetland, is a fascinating archaeological site spanning some 5,000 years, outlining the various stages of human habitation in the islands.
The site is complicated and complex, yet fascinating and awe-inspiring – in fact, this is my favourite site on the Mainland to guide visitors around.
Jarlshof is mind-blowing. It's a site that will immediately put you in your place. It has the power to ground you and make you feel like an insignificant speck in a moment in time.
I've picked out a few fun facts to help you understand the site on a visit – some of these are more serious than others! And, for ease, I'll present them chronologically!
In Days Gone By
The Shetland Times (2021)
Buy it here
In Days Gone By, Charlie Simpson’s latest book is a newly published collection of essays that Charlie has written over the years and published in the Shetland Times newspaper. Across 20 pieces, Charlie covers much of 20th-century life in Shetland, from salt herring and wartime sinkings to developing the islands’ infrastructure and services.
Christmas in Shetland is something I’m asked about time and time again. What does Christmas in Shetland look like? What traditions do you have? What do you eat, and so on. And, to be honest – it looks a lot like Christmas all over the world, and certainly throughout the UK. We have the John Lewis advert, Wham, Buble and the great hunking turkey on the day.
We’ve lost so many of our Christmas traditions over the years, and I’ve sat agonising over how to sugar coat this and make it sound less like an accusation or something that blame can be assigned to. The truth is, it’s modernisation, and it happens the world over. Small island communities may feel it more acutely because so many of our traditions are still bound up within living memory – or are still practised by some. Change comes nonetheless, and there’s no stopping it.
Over 100 years have passed since the guns of the First World War fell silent over the battlefields of Europe. This week, I always think about the terrible loss of life – in both the First War and all wars.
I wrote extensively about the First World War after making it a personal mission during the centenary years to research and remember those who fought for King and country during that bloody war.
In the past, I’ve shared; a family story and a recipe for Trench Cake, a tragic and harrowing story of one Shetland soldier, killed at Arras, and a three-part series that looked at the role of women in the war who kept their minds and hands busy as they knitted woollen garments for troops overseas.
This year, to mark Remembrance Day and pay homage to those who gave so much for our freedoms, I thought I would share a book review of a recent publication based in Shetland and focused on the First World War period.
For visitors to Shetland, there are usually several requirements on their wish lists, including; scenery, wildlife and archaeology. The following walk is a fantastic way to explore all three of these on a moderate three-mile walk.
For this walk, we walked to the Burraness Broch on the island of Yell. Yell is just a short hop across Yell Sound on the modern inter-island ferry. The crossing takes about 15 minutes, and passengers can stand on the upper deck, enjoying panoramic views across the sound, past the uninhabited islands of Bigga and Samphrey. Yell itself is around 17 miles long and seven miles wide, boasting large expanses of uninterrupted moorland, stunning beaches and breathtaking coastal walks.
You know that feeling, as the days start to change and the seasons begin to switch, it feels as though we’re falling into autumn at freefall speed. That’s when I anxiously try to squeeze in as much as possible, squeezing those last drops out of summer as if I were squeezing a lemon.
August is a month that makes me uneasy; it feels like the best of the summer has passed. The flowers are spent and shrivelled on their once-proud stems, the colours in the landscape begin to mute, and the sun that hung suspended in an eternal summer sky through June and July drifts lower in the sky as the day slowly gives way to night once more.
Yet, real poetry comes with August and an urgency to tick off all those things you wanted to do in summer. June and July are like a high-octane ride, but August forces us to slow down and we appreciate the little things in nature so much more, as we know they are drawing to a close for another year, to return again on the wind, in another season.
Still, my mind begins to wander into the months ahead, towards autumn and winter, and as I blow the dust from the candles that have been left unlit since spring, and fill the basket with fire kindling once more, I reflect on the summer’s adventures.
The following walk stopped me in my tracks as I considered the tragic loss of life that took place on a lonely and remote hillside in the heart of Yell, Shetland’s largest North Isle.
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.