With Christmas just around the corner, I wanted to share a selection of fantastic Shetland gift ideas with you. I always try to support local businesses as much as possible and try to buy unique, one of a kind gifts.
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.
A few months ago, during the school’s May long weekend, we headed north to the most northerly island of Unst to stay at Noosthamar – a picturesque self-catering holiday home overlooking the sandy shores of Burrafirth.
Unst is a two-ferry hop from Mainland Shetland and has a community of about 650 people. Getting to Unst is easy on the inter-island ferries that serve the isles and are operated by the Shetland Islands Council.
The return of the seabirds is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s filled with hope and the reassurance that, despite everything, the cyclical processes that guide the natural world continue regardless of the latest news story that’s making the headlines and keeping us awake at night.
Shetland is a birders paradise, with over one million nesting seabirds returning to their noisy colonies every summer, breeding on cliffs, moors, beaches and, even within the walls of a 2,000-year-old broch, their return is a welcome sight after a long winter.
People often ask why the seabirds only return to land in the summer, and the answer is simple. Seabirds can’t lay an egg at sea, so they have to come ashore to breed. Once breeding is complete and the chick/s has fledged, they return to the sea – sometimes thousands of miles from the breeding grounds.
Last weekend we visited Sumburgh Head and the fantastic new Unken Caffee. With commanding views out to sea and north across the South Mainland, it got me thinking about how past people lived and about the architecture, defensive or otherwise, that they built here.
Shetland’s South Mainland, at one time, was a highly fortified area. If we rewind about 2,000 years to the Iron Age and place ourselves at Sumburgh Head, the landscape would have been very different and, likely, quite intimidating.
At Sumburgh Head, where we stayed, an Iron Age fort, now lost to history, stood proudly on the headland. The next prominent headland to the southwest is Scatness and, right at the point of this headland sits the Ness of Burgi, the subject of today’s walk.
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 blog will look at some of the creatures associated with the sea.
Winter can be a really special time to go for an adventure. On a cold, calm day, the air is crisp, and the low light casts dramatic shadows across the parched landscape. We’ve been fortunate this winter in that the ground has been frozen. If it’s not frozen, sticking to coastal routes can help keep feet warm and dry in Shetland’s (usually) wet winters.
The smugglers’ cave in Burra is a brilliant walk to do with children because there’s plenty to see and it’s not too far to walk. Once they reach the destination, there’s the added promise of smuggling and piracy to keep them curious and engaged.
It’s not often that January brings prolonged periods of still and frosty weather, but that’s exactly what we had here throughout January and, as we battle with homeschooling and the ever-present threat of cabin fever, it’s definitely nice to get out into the fresh air for a few hours.
We recently walked around St Ninian’s Isle and, as well as being great for adults, this walk is also fantastic for anyone with children. It’s not always easy to persuade bairns to go on a hike, but this one is perfect as there’s a beach, plenty of wildlife and the promise of buried treasure at the end to keep them engaged.
Similarly, this is a walk that is just as rewarding in all seasons. I have highlighted it in winter because, unlike some other walks that can be too wet and boggy at this time of year, this walk is still relatively dry in winter (although you will need walking boots).
This is also a walk that I often do on tours of the South Mainland as the walk and distance can be adapted to suit everyone’s mobility. If you book a tour with me and want to do all or part of this walk, we can discuss that.
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.