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Published: September 7th 2012
In 2005, we spent two weeks exploring Scotland and fell in love with the country. Hopping off our flight in the Shetland Islands, we acknowledged that it is good to be back on Scottish soil. The green rolling hills and craggy coastline are so inviting.
Our day started early leaving for the Reykjavik airport at 5am giving us plenty of time for airport security and all the other nonsense that you encounter when traveling. We landed safely in Glasgow and had a 7- hour lay over waiting for our flight to the Shetlands…. as you can imagine there are only so many flights to the islands. The initial plan was to do a little driving and sight seeing and also catch some local music that we had read about. More on that later.
We find ourselves already four weeks into our sabbatical and have learned that we most likely need to chill for a few days. We’ve been on the move constantly and haven’t stayed in one location for longer than two nights. This is actually a bit less because it’s not like you are spending a whole 48 hours in one place, but rather
arriving in the late afternoon after a full day’s outing, settling in, then getting up the next day and having at it again. So we picked some nice places to relax and take it easy for a few days.
We frequently head to locations after the tourist season. We often miss the peak weather but also miss the crowds as a result. The locals are often a bit more relaxed and open to conversation as a result. We have found that off -season allows an experience of a more natural life in a location. And occasionally the cost for lodging is a bit less expensive. All in all, not a bad plan.
So—we waited to go to the Shetlands in September. We considered that if we were writers, we would hunker down in the Shetland Islands along the rugged coast and be stimulated by the ever-changing weather. The wind can be wicked and unforgiving. We are pleased that it is warmer here than our last couple of destinations, but we have also experienced those 40 to 50+ mph winds, rain, drizzle and an amazing day of sunshine. The weather was rather “dodgy” as they
However, our one sunny day was spectacular and provided a good look at the island’s natural beauty. They don’t even make mention of the wind unless it is blowing greater than 20 MPH. Of course when you are in a land with no trees and the Atlantic Ocean brings constant breezes, this is what you get.
The Shetlands are not that big in size and during our brief time we were able to explore the southern, western and some of the northwestern part of the main island. The sounds of the Shetlands
Fine fiddlers abound! On Monday night we were directed to the community center to listen to local music. They have an auditorium set up with local arts and crafts before the concert starts. At the appointed time we were ushered into the concert hall to listen to 11 members of the Shetland Fiddle Society. They have been playing traditional Shetland music for 52 years. Their enjoyment of playing was obvious and the crowd was pleased by the performance. The main attraction for the evening was Bryan Gear and Violet Tulloch. They are professional performers
and they put on a grand show. Smiles were on our faces and all within the audience. We had a great evening but for our money we really enjoyed the less professional performance by the Shetland Fiddle Society.
On Tuesday night we were sent to the Douglas Arms Pub for music. We were told it was a casual group and you never knew who would show up to play. About 8:15pm two gentlemen walked in with six or seven instruments and started tuning up. By 830pm they started playing, one on guitar and the other on fiddle. They were very good. Over the next 30 minutes slowly one or two at a time locals wandered in and started playing with them. By the end of the evening there were 4 fiddlers, 2 guitarists and a banjo player. They also had 2 mandolins that they played from time to time. As it turns out one of the fiddle players was American and she used to play in a Bluegrass band. Not sure why she is in the Shetland Islands or where they picked her up but she was good.
If we had visited one week
later we would have been in town for the Shetland Islands Blues Festival….maybe next time Soaked in Scalloway
We were out exploring this fascinating and rugged island in our Fiat (which resembles a giant white egg) and headed for Scalloway to explore an ancient castle. Our innkeeper told us to drop by the museum and pick up the key to the castle—they let you explore the castle by yourself. That sounded cool—We’ve never been handed the keys to the castle before! This sounded positively grand! We chatted with the docent in charge of the museum and off we went. Two steps out of the museum, the skies opened up with a downpour the likes we had not seen in a long time. Reminded us of getting soaked in a summer Florida downpour except it was cold and we had 40 mile an hour winds. Yes, 40! In two seconds we were soaked to the core. I must say our spirits were dampened. Now we came prepared with raincoats, but when it rains sideways, there is nothing you can do. We wandered through the castle and read all the info but in the
back of our minds we were dreaming of hot showers and dry clothes. If you get to Scalloway the castle is worth the visit. Seriously, we are not exaggerating--- we were completely soaked and cold. That ended the idea of strolling through the museum—thank goodness we had already been to the one in Lerwick and had an idea of the local history. We headed straight back to our guesthouse to get warm and dry. 6 degrees of separation
It has been said that all people are connected in one way or another by 6 degrees and we have had proof of that many times in our lives and have again experienced this in the Shetland Islands.
While we were living near San Francisco we have become friends with Andre and Linda. They are living and working in the wine country intermittently while working on visas so they can move from Newcastle, England. Once we announced to them that we were taking a few months off work to travel of course they wanted to know where we were going. We rattled off the list of countries and they were puzzled why we
wanted to go to the Shetland Islands. We love Scotland and have always wanted to see more of their islands was our answer. It turns out one of their three sons lives there. We stopped by to meet Jay and had a wonderful visit. If that was not enough of a coincidence, this morning we were talking with the owner of the guest house in Lerwick where we stayed the last 3 nights. He knew we were heading to the western Shetlands and suggested we stop at J & K Butcher shop and purchase some sweets on our way past. You aren’t going to believe this--- but he knew that Jay worked in this butcher shop. A bit more of the conversation revealed the business was started by Keith’s family and that he knew Jay. OK, it’s a seriously small world. Observations
You know you are in a small place when the main road drives over the runway at the airport. When a plan is landing the flashing light and the guard rail stop traffic and you sit and wait until the plane lands.
We chuckle when we are in Scotland, Iceland or
the Faroe Islands because the sheep roam free, or so it seems. It is not unusual to see them sitting or standing by the road or for that matter standing in the middle of the road. They are not incredibly bright animals, but the ones in the Shetlands usually get out of the way of an approaching car. Being from the U.S. this is very foreign to us. MJ is always attempting to find the perfect sheep photo. Hopefully she has done it this time.
The people are warm and friendly and the cuisine is quite good. A full Scottish breakfast will get you plenty of food and some black pudding to boot. Hard to imagine how it got its name, given that it is not pudding at all, but rather animal blood, oatmeal (at least in these parts) and some sausage. After it has been cooked, it takes on a black appearance. Tastes better than haggus, but it not something to pine for.
Reminder: Scotland drives on the wrong side of the road (from our perspective). The Shetland Islands has many one- lane roads so you must pay attention when driving. There are
many places to pull over to take turns passing.
We were surprised to find oil refineries here on the islands. This brings many big ships and tankers into these waters.
Shetland Ponies are cute! Places we stayed:
While in the Shetlands we stayed in 3 wonderful places. We highly recommend all of them. We splurged a bit while we were here and we are glad we did. Each locations has unique architecture and personality.
Alder Lodge Guest House—in Lerwick
Burrastow House-- in Walls
Busta House—in Brae
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