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Originally part of Norway, Shetland was gifted to Scotland as part of a royal marriage in the 15th century. There are still many Norse links, including the famous Up-Helly-Aa festival which takes place every year in January and involves most of the islands' twenty thousand or so inhabitants. Shetland is the most northerly part of the British Isles, it lies on the same latitude as Oslo, and it has heavy involvement with the North Sea oil industry.

Our trip to Shetland was the first family trip I had been on for four years, we went in mid-November 2003. There was a group of 8 of us altogether and we were heading up to Lerwick as part of the Aberdeen Strollers Rugby Club jolly to the 125th anniversary celebration of rugby in Shetland. One of the members of our group was none other than the founder of the Sullom Voe oil terminal rugby team, the Shetland "Oil Blacks" (founded somewhat less than 125 years ago). The trip was done in a weekend with a night on the boat both ways from Aberdeen and a night in a hotel in Lerwick. A game was played on the Saturday which I was duly called up for, and there was a dinner and a ceilidh with the Shetland rugby club that evening.


In 2002 two new ferries were commisioned for the 12 hour route between Aberdeen and Lerwick, the Hrossey and the Hjatland, old Norse words for Orkney and Shetland respectively. The journey is an overnighter and thankfully I had a cabin, as the swell as soon as we got out of Aberdeen harbour had people walking very wobbily everywhere and plates sliding around in the canteen. I was very impressed with the ships, and we had a look around the bridge and engine room on the way back. Standing on the bridge looking out the front into the pitch black while we charged along at 20 knots was a bit unnerving, I felt like saying "should you not have the headlights on?"

We were given a cheery welcome in Sheltand by an old mannie and this sign when we arrived in Lerwick.

Aright yerself!

Doon toon

Downtown Lerwick was not the easiest place to photograph, but I managed to get this nice shot from one of the quays up towards the town centre and the Grand Hotel.

This is more representative of Lerwick, folks with brollies and the bleak hills in the background. It is joked about that there are no trees in Shetland, they're almost not wrong, as trees seemed to be a bit thin on the ground.


Are you a member too?

My Mum pointed out that at least half of the houses in Lerwick had fishing nets sitting in their gardens. Was it some sort of cryptic affirmation of membership in a pagan island cult? Was it so they could still catch fish if there was an unthinkable disaster at sea and all the fishing boats sank? Or was it because these are the new garden gnomes?

Strangely, the populace must have thought at one stage that land was at a premium in Lerwick, as this house has been plonked right in the sea. This house must have some serious problems with damp, especially in their cellar.

Global warming these days...


We bought a postcard of southern Mainland Shetland, and then visited all four sights on it, this was the first, a traditional croft on the North Sea side, complete with thatched roof.

Part of the croft in the last photo was this interesting wee hoose, where someone used to live. I saw another one like this with a skylight cut out and a window fitted in the boat-roof.

I like living in my boat


This is Jarlshof, an iron age settlement at the very southern tip of the mainland of Shetland, and not unlike Skara Brae in Orkney. It is built right next to Sumburgh airport which services the rigs and has helicopters thundering in and out, which would no doubt surprise the residents. Who, as my Dad pointed out would probably by Teletubbies by the looks of these grass-covered house mounds.

St Ninian's Isle which lies off the Atlantic coast of the mainland is linked by a narrow neck of sand. With the ocean beating away at it on both sides it's a wonder it stays in place. Buried treasure was found here by a schoolboy in the 50s.

St Ninian's Isle


Scalloway is quite near Lerwick, on the other side of the mainland, on the Atlantic Ocean. There is a point in the mainland up towards Sullom Voe where the land necks to bring the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to within 10 metres of each other, barely more than the width of the road which goes between them.

One of the most beautiful parts of Shetland is the sky, with glorious sunsets abounding. Here the rays are bathing the Atlantic with their last light.

Setting sun

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2003-2014