"We never feel like we own it; we are custodians looking after it for the future," Rachael told me as she explained the history and her deep-seated love of the Boatman's House.
The Boatman's House, where we were to spend the weekend, dates back to 1854 when Hermaness Lighthouse was built to aid navigation. Clinging to the hostile slopes of Muckle Flugga, a rocky outcrop off the north coast of Unst, Britain's most northerly lighthouse still shines a guiding light across the water to those at sea – the Boatman’s House is part of the story of this iconic lighthouse.
I often hear visitors say that they’re going to Unst, but they’re not stopping in Yell; they’re just driving through the island to reach the ferry. This is a mistake. Whatever you do on your visit to Shetland, don’t make the mistake of dismissing Yell, as you are guaranteed to have an excellent experience if you do choose to stay – even for just a few hours!
I recently had an excellent day trip to Yell, visiting Ellie Duncan, creator of Island Ceramics, in her cosy studio overlooking the picturesque bay at Otterswick.
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.
“The winding voes and lakes of Clousetter, are wildly disordered by the irregular encroachments of the hills among which they run. Nature, from mere rocks and water, without the assistance of a single tree, has presented ceaseless varieties of interesting scenery.” ~ Samuel Hibbert (1818)
Clousta is an ‘old place’ – it has that sense, as if you’ve suddenly stumbled off the map. It’s a beautiful corner of Shetland’s West Mainland, inconspicuously tucked away somewhere between Eid (Aith) and West Burrafirth.
If you're looking to experience some of Shetland's incredible wildlife, you definitely need to add a trip to Noss to your list of things to see and do in Shetland. Joining Seabirds & Seals recently, I was able to 'act the tourist' for a morning and witness the incredible gannet colonies of Noss.
The experience is an astonishing spectacle – the natural world's equivalent of a teeming seabird apartment block, bursting with all the associated sights and sounds of one of Europe's largest gannet colonies. For this tour, you need look no further than Lerwick's Victoria Pier, where you can step onboard Seabird for a memorable boat tour around the islands of Bressay and Noss.
I know what it's like when planning for a holiday – so many questions and no one place where you can find the much sought after answers. I spend a lot of time answering questions online, whether on Instagram or my Patreon page. A lot of the time, it's the same questions that come up time and time again.
I've done several podcasts on my Patreon page that cover many of the frequently asked questions in depth (you can see the topics covered here). The following are some of the general 'top tips' I would give anyone planning to visit Shetland.
Sunday marks the first day of spring, and to mark this calendar milestone, I’ve been thinking about what makes spring such an exciting time of year and why you should consider a springtime break to Shetland.
As the days begin to lengthen and the dark grip of winter is slowly released, shadows shorten as the sun rises higher in our northern skies, and there’s real optimism in the air. There’s an urgency to the days as people begin to busy themselves in the garden, preparing the ground for growth and tidying up after a long winter of assault from the driving wind and rain.
Here are 5 reasons to visit Shetland this spring:
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!
If I had a penny for every time I was asked about winter in Shetland, I’d be a millionaire – and then some – and there are many reasons to visit, but you need to ask yourself first ‘what do I want from a visit’.
If the answer is puffins, light, activities, and long hikes with a picnic, you’ll likely want to visit in summer when the days are long, and the hills are dry enough to walk anywhere. If you’d like to feel the sting of the wind on your cheeks and the raw power of mother nature as you battle through the wind on a rugged headland before hunkering down in the evening with a good book and a dram, then you should consider the winter.
It’s no secret that winters in Shetland are long, dark and unrelenting. Many people move to Shetland believing they can handle it – they get darkness and poor weather in England too. Yet the darkness here is deeper, the wind blows stronger, the cold bites harder, and we’re not released from the grip of winter until well through spring. They say that spring arrives at a walking pace – so you can imagine how long it takes to trudge up here from London. It’s the unrelenting and often persistent onslaught of storm after storm that grinds people down – leaving us all longing for the bright emergence of spring.
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.