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Review: Shetland Islands


United Kingdom

My Shetland Islands Holiday

  • By SilverTraveller SilverTravelUser_3546

    2 reviews

  • Aug 2013
  • Husband

52 people found this review helpful

We started our holiday in Aberdeen as the plane to The Shetlands only flies on certain days. We stayed at the Royal Hotel quite old fashioned but with very good service.

However it wasn’t long before we arrived in the airport at Sumburgh. We picked up our hire car and set off for Lerwick, where after checking in to our bed and breakfast we decided to explore the town, which in the past relied on the Dutch herring industry and didn’t become the capital until the 17c. We looked at the harbour where a cruise ship had docked , and saw a memorial to the crew of the whaler Diana. Diana was a whaling ship built in Bremen Germany in 1840. In 1866 she got trapped in the ice at Baffin Bay for 6 months. The Captain and many of the crew died. As many of them were from Lerwick the memorial was built. In 1869 while making her way from the Davis straight she encountered a strong gale and was washed into the Donna hook sands on the Lincolnshire Coast and broke up. Her loss ended the whaling industry in Hull.

The Customs House used to be The Tollbooth dated 1770 and housed the Sheriffs Court and Prison. Outside is a Lodberry a place for loading and unloading ships..Lerwick had a reputation for smuggling. In recent times an assortment of barrels, kegs and jars have been found in cellars and tunnels under the streets.

A view opposite Lerwicks Tesco superstore shows rocks where seals and a variety of waterfowl often sit. Not far away is Clickimon Broch, one of Shetlands major archaeological finds. An iron age house once stood on the mound around 600BC.

This is our hire car. It was so windy we had to mind the doors didn’t blow off when open. Our next stop was Scalloway, Shetlands Capital in 17c.. Shielded from Atlantic gales by the rugged isles of Trondra and Burra, its harbour was a refuge for ships Scalloway Castle was built by forced labour for Earl Patrick Stewart in 1599. It was occupied for less than a Century and is roofless. On the waterfront is a memorial to the Shetland Bus Heroes who made the village their base in WW2. They used to rescue Norwegians from their Nazi occupied homeland. Model of one of these little boats stands on top of this memorial.

There are a lot of places to look at views. Salmon nets, remote houses, fishermen.

In Weisdale there are a lot of ruined Bods(small cottages), where people were moved on to make room for sheep. We were lucky enough to see some Shetland Ponies. There is a farm at the end of a lane where you couldn’t go any further unless you wanted to hike over the hills. There are very few trees on the Shetlands because the wind kills them. The only shops are in Lerwick and a few in Scalloway, and few tearooms exist. We saw this graveyard on a remote hill. The Fuglaress Lighthouse marks the entrance to Hammanvoe harbour and the Southern approach to the Port of Scalloway. These Cliffs at Eshaness are made from Lava. and Volcanic Ash, and here are some more dramatic cliffs.

Johnny Notions Bod belonged to Johnny Williamson who invented a type of smallpox vaccination which saved 3000 people in the villages. He lived 1740-1804 and was given the nickname Johnny Notions.

On the last Tuesday in January nearly 800 torch bearing guizers march behind a Viking galley which is burnt with great ceremony. This is called Up Helly A . We were able to visit the up Helly A museum. The leader of the up Helly A procession is called the Jarl. He and past Jarls spend all year building the galley and their costumes and shields and torches. Each Torch is made from 4ft pole with Hessian sacks rolled and nailed Then again a square of Hessian. A cement base is applied to prevent flames going down the torch stick. Finally the Torches are soaked in paraffin with each one absorbing over half a gallon. They now weigh over 14 pounds.

Next day we went to look at artefacts in Lerwick museum , early houses, implements, waterproof shoes made from animal skins Here is a costume worn by a Skekler and his assistant to bring luck to Bride and Groom (known as straw boys).

Next day we thought about going to Mousa Broch by boat but the weather was too poor, so we looked at the boat at the pier and the museum. Here you can read about Ursula Smith and the Press Gang. The Napoleonic war broke out in 1793 and the Royal Navy started Press gangs. When the Navy tried to take her two brothers she resisted them. They took them anyway. Later a Lieutenant Wilson returned and stunned her with the butt of his pistol, breaking her tooth, bursting her cheek, and cutting her eye as she tried to get away he hit her on the head with his sword. Next day she was taken to Lerwick where her wounds were dressed and she reported the incident to the authorities. Lieutenant Wilson was convicted for assault and endangering her life so that she was in imminent danger, but he was only sentenced to 14 days in prison.

There used to be a flit boat which took the animals to market from the area.

A lady called Betty Mouat went on the packet boat Columbine In 1886 when she was a frail 60 year old. To sell her knitting in Lerwick. The wind became violent . The skipper and the mate were blown overboard , the other sailors tried to rescue them in a little lifeboat on the side, but to their horror they saw the Columbine had sailed off on its own. A steam freighter went out but no sign so they assumed it was lost. 9 days later with only milk and biscuits to eat Betty and, the Columbine washed up on the coast of Norway.. It was seen as a miracle. Queen Victoria sent her £20.She lived to 93. 32 years after her ordeal.

Nearby is Hoswick centre. Here are some of the radios from the museum set up by a radio amateur Cecil Duncan. There is some weaving equipment too.

Next day we went to Croft House. Here is a bed with a straw mattress, a Shetland chair and the waterwheel outside.

Back in Lerwick we paid a visit to the Town Hall which has wonderful stained glass windows and carvings. There are also ceiling shields. 

A trip I liked was to the Bod of Gremista. Later home to Arthur Anderson, who started out by salting fish, went to sea, and became head of P&O.

Another visit to Lerwick museum, floor 2. Knitted garments, early typewriters and a slide show machine. That evening we went to a talk at the museum on the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Sarah Graham, the speaker was an environmental lawyer who lives in the area.

On the way to the airport we visited Jarlshof, which came to light 100 years ago when a violent storm exposed massive stonework under a grass mound, above the sandy beaches at East Voe near Sumburgh, 6 main levels from stone age hut 4000 years old, through to Iron age Broch, to Viking Village, a farmstead and a wheelhouse emerged.

Nearby is Betty Mouats Bod. Scatness Broch stands in the field next door.

Then it was off to Sumburgh airport for the flight home, but not without seeing the view of Sumburgh lighthouse. Built by Robert Stevenson who accompanied Sir Walter Scott on a cruise to the Shetlands in 1814, that inspired Scott’s book the Pirate which is set around Fitful Head and gave Jarlshof its name.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    about 7 years ago
    We've had many holidays in Shetland over the years and I thought I knew it well - but you've discovered several places we've not been too!

    We were lucky and did manage to get to Mousa Broch, an amazing place.

    We love Shetland - the sweeping vistas and wild scenery. The people are so friendly too.

    Do they still do the Sunday Afternoon teas during the summer? Every Sunday the village ladies of one of the villages would put on a spread. All were welcome and what a spread it was too, all home baked. There was rivalry to see who could put on the best show.
  • Vicky11
    about 7 years ago
    Great Love Scotland.