02 November 2013

Shetland - Part 1

Been missing in action.......Thimbleanna has been chasing me on that front! Thank you Anna! Time for a few posts then...... 

This summer was busy with work so post-Cannes there had been no holidays. Deadlines achieved at the end of August meant a flurry of travelling activity in September.

First stop - the Shetland Isles, the most northerly point of the United Kingdom, situated about 70 miles off the north coast of Scotland. Rugged and wild, with an amazing coastline, wildlife, history and textiles. The perfect place for an outdoor loving, knitter.

We arrived in a rain storm and managed to manhandle our suitcases into our tiny rental car and headed north from the airport to the beautiful purple house  we had rented in the small village of Gulberwick, about 3 miles south of Lerwick on the Mainland. Just after we set off, my friend Karen, sitting in the passenger seat, said "Diane, you're driving on the runway" - needless to say I was a little taken aback.....just how has I ended up on the runway and how was I to get off it.....do not fear, it turns out that the main road does indeed cross the end of the runway and that they do close the road when a plane is coming in to land or take off - phew!

The house we stayed in was perfect - warm and cosy, high quality fixtures and fittings and the location ideal for touring the island and accessing supermarkets and petrol stations. It also came with fresh homemade bread on the kitchen table, beautiful Shetland butter in the fridge, flowers on the dining table and Shetland biscuits in the tin.

On our first day we had arranged to be taken out by a guide from Shetland Nature to look for one of Shetland's most charming characters - the otter. Our guide Gary met us in Brae to the north of the mainland and asked if we wanted to forgo some of our otter spotting time to go and see a pod of pilot whales, rare visitors to the islands. How could we turn down such an exciting offer and we spent the next 1.5 hours watching about 40 pilot whales in one of Shetland's voes (Shetland/Orkney dialect for a long narrow sea inlet). We decided to leave when it became apparent that the whales might be trying to beach themselves and we realised that we didn't want our joy at seeing the whales to turn to tragedy. Luckily we heard later that day, that after getting a boat in the water, locals were able to redirect the whales back out to sea.

We then headed off in search of otters and after an hour or so at one of the small ferry terminals (where we didn't manage to spot the otters) we headed to one of Gary's preferred sites where we were looking for a mother otter and her 2 cubs. We were not disappointed and spent almost an hour tracking them along the cliff tops as the played in the ocean below - truly beautiful!

It had been a misty, damp day - dreich we would say here in Scotland....but it was definitely brightened by the wildlife.

All the wildlife photos were taken by my talented friend Karen Myers and her super dooper camera and zoom lens - thank you Karen for letting me use them.

Day 2 we had decided to go and walk round St Ninian's Isle but the weather was again less from perfect so we ended up going into Lerwick where we wandered round the headland and the town centre, going into some of the small shops and onto the Shetland Museum

The old houses in Lerwick are called the Lodberries - right on the water, apparently the name lodberry comes from an old norse word hlaoberg which means a place where boats could come alongside for loading and unloading. Apparently all the merchants in Lerwick had their own lodberries: a jetty, a store and a house. In the grey weather they were remarkably atmospheric.

The Museum is definitely worth a visit, housed in a new building on the waterfront it tells the story of Shetland from neolithic times till today and of the people and activities that influenced the island's development. It tells the story of Shetland, focusing on things such as culture, customs & folklore, trade & industry and textiles. 

The textiles were stunning - a wide range of Shetland knitwear, using Fair Isle and Shetland techniques, a thorough history of knitwear. The museum uses drawers and pull outs to display jumpers and other Fair Isle and lace knitting...a interesting way to enable you to view both sides of a garment up close.  We didn't even go to the archives, but if you are interested in knitting, Fair Isle, Shetland Lace etc then there are many more examples of the craft to be found in the archives. 

It was lovely to see a number of small knitted Fair Isle cottages that were part of an arts project that took place on the islands a number of years back, with mini cottages being placed in outdoor settings.....

The Museum also has a great cafe overlooking the dock and a great shop.

Daisies on the dock at the Shetland Museum. 

After an extremely large scone in the museum cafe we headed north for a drive around the island. We headed to one of the more remote bod's on the island - bods were where fisherman lived during the fishing season, the idea of which has been developed in recent years to create economical, basic self-catering accommodation for visitors, some having no electricity and outside toilets. We headed to Nebister Bod, the only original fishing bod still being used in this way, down on a peninsula, in one of the most picturesque locations possible, with the tide washing up to the front door and the potential to spot otters. It would certainly make for a wild and wonderful location for a night.

More to follow.....including yarn stash enhancement opportunities.


Bethany Hissong said...

You do realize that you just wrote about my dream vacation!! I've been reading Gavin Maxwell's book "Ring of Bright Water" about the area and the otters! Your photographs of the Lodberries are so beautiful! Thanks for sharing the details of your visit-- makes me want to go even more!

Thimbleanna said...

Ohmygosh -- I'm right there with Bethany - this would be my dream vacation!!! I need to find a knitter outdoor travel partner -- the problem is that a lot of knitters would rather sit inside rather than hike around and see the great outdoors! Shetland is at the TIPPY TOP of my bucket list.

It sounds like you had a great time. Thanks so much for sharing your photos and information!!!

Anne Marie said...

Hey Anna, I'll go with you, I love spending time outdoors and have the wind mess up my hair and make my cheeks go read.

As long as I can curl up in a chair with a cup of tea or hot cocoa in the evening, and then some knitting of course!

Thank you for sharing Diane, you have been far to spare on the blogging lately! :-)