For a lass from Shetland, whisky seems an altogether ‘Scottish’ thing – we don’t produce whisky (yet) in Shetland, and we never really have, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a good appreciation for the water of life.
I’m leaving my island home for this blog and heading to the Scottish Mainland to tour Scotland’s famous whisky triangle in the beautiful Speyside region.
I hope you enjoy this break from the Shetland content and enjoy joining me on a journey through Speyside.
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].
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.
Book review – Aye Someane Deid, Aye Someane Boarn: Fiction and reminiscences in the Shetland dialect
Ah, what a read, what a joy – Aye Someane Deid, Aye Someane Boarn – is the literary equivalent of a big bosie [hug] with an old and trusted friend. After the rush of Christmas, I read this book in the long month of January and what a tonic Barbara’s words were. She left me laughing, smiling, and longing for more.
There are many fantastic books published in Shetland and, with Scotland's Year of Stories kicking off, I thought it was a good opportunity to review Barbara Fraser's new book Aye Someane Deid, Aye Someane Boarn.
This book, released by the Shetland Times in 2021, is a true masterpiece in storytelling and one that I’m sure will go down in history as one of the best pieces of work in the dialect of our generation.
The book is a collection of fictional tales and reminiscences Barbara has shared about her time growing up in the beautiful Culswick Valley and her later adult life working her croft in Gulberwick.
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.
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.
We all have Christmas traditions – those things that we insist on doing, just to add to the Christmas "to-do" list. I'm no baker, but every year I like to make gingerbread, oatcakes and mince pies. I've shared my oatcake recipe before, and this year I thought I'd share my recipe for gingerbread.
I've no idea where this recipe came from, it's handwritten in my recipe book so is likely plagiarised from someone beyond me! Anyway, it's tried and tested, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
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.
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.