Postcards from Shetland 13/06/20

Jun 13, 2020

The second week of June and the weather has been what you imagine summer at 60° north be like. Bright sunshine but cold winds, still days but under a lid of impenetrable cloud – that’s why most of the photos from this week look so dark. It’s strange, you don’t think about it at the time but when you go through the phots you realise just how much the sun gets filtered through those clouds. But I still love this light and it’s been great to get outdoors.

I’ve been busy working on the new Shetland Wool Adventures Journal for a few weeks solid, so it was great to head to Burra to pick up one one of the knitted samples from Donna Smith. We took the opportunity to go for a walk to Meal beach and along the coastline.

The contrast of the turquoise sea, the light sand and the dark sky is spectacular. Often in Shetland you get a little strip of sun reflecting on the horizon which I find absolutely magical.

You can imagine how cold the sea is. On average it’s around 9°C/48°F all year round. So not much swimming here… at least not without a wetsuit.

This time of the year is Shetland is rich wildflowers. Wilt almost continuous daylight everything grows really quickly.

And the lambs are getting big too.

In Shetland you can walk anywhere providing you follow the The Scottish Outdoor Access Code. And that’s a good thing as our coastline is amazingly long – at least 1,697 miles (2,702km).

What a view to enjoy from your house!

When we were walking and enjoying a long overdue catch up with Donna my boys played at the beach. It was such a lovely afternoon and we got home completely rejuvenated and tired out from the fresh air.

Here’s a detail of Shetland’s typical summer flora – you need to look close but when you do you’ll be rewarded by miniature pieces of beauty. I wonder how many species there are in this one spot. I read somewhere recently that someone had a study done at their croft and over 80 species of wildflowers and wild grasses were recorded. Considering Shetland is often perceived as barren it’s quite amazing.

And here’s another interesting fact – Shetland’s own native forrest! Ok, it’s a bit of an exaggeration but this is creeping willow (Salix repens) that is native to Shetland.

On Sunday we met with my friends and their kids for a walk along Sandwick’s coastline. If you look closely across the water you might just about notice Mousa Broch. Brochs are an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structures found in Shetland and some parts of Scotland.

These buildings have an incredible physical presence, and could be described a marvel of engineering legacy. They continue to puzzle and cause debate among architects, engineers and archaeologists. Their function isn’t know, they might have been lookout towers or defensive structures.

The finest remaining example is the Broch of Mousa, which has survived the intervening millennia virtually intact. It rises to over 13m high making it the tallest prehistoric building in Britain.

But we headed to a different broch this time – Burraland Broch. It’s not as well preserved as the Mousa one, but the outer walls of Burraland still stand to eight feet with interior galleries and outbuildings in evidence around the exterior.

Details of the Broch walls. Many brochs have been taken apart over the years and the stone had been reused for building dwellings.

And yes, you can crawl inside and explore… if you’re quite small! Behind there’s the No Ness peninsula.

The best part of the walk was our al fresco high tea with flasks of tea, pancakes and scones. What a treat. We were joking this summer, as we might not be able to travel far we, should do ‘broch bagging’. With around 100 sites along Shetland’s coastline that sounds like a lot of fun.

More coastal views.

This is an interesting structure worth noting. In 1798 Sandlodge copper mine opened with a series of tunnels which ran out a considerable distance into the sea. Unfortunately due to the cost of extraction the mine was not financially viable. There were various attempts to reopen the mine at the early 20th century.

And look at the lovely primroses (May flooers in Shetland dialect) at the banks.

A typical view on Shetland walks – hentilagets. I wrote about these in the previous post.

On the way back we enjoyed great views of Bressay and Noss.

More wildflowers and old buildings.

Beautiful red campions.

And the day wouldn’t be complete without a swim in the sea! I wasn’t brave enough but my son thought if was fun. Brrr!

  1. Ngaire Mabel Phillips says:

    Lovely photos.
    I haven’t seen campions for many years. We used to see them on the roadsides along the gravel roads when we walked to school. Roadsides are mown or grazed now so we don’t have the wild flowers that we used to. That was in the 1930s. (I am 91 now).

    • Misa Hay says:

      Thank you for getting in touch and for sharing your memories. We’re quite lucky here in Shetland, the council recently decided to mow the roadside less frequently to allow wildflowers go to seed. I’m so happy that’s the case. Thank you for following the blog! All the best from Shetland!

  2. Ngaire Mabel Phillips says:

    I forgot to say that I live in the Waikato in New Zealand.

  3. Lori Messer says:

    I’m so enjoying these virtual walks around Shetland albeit vicariously! Some day I’ll visit in person!

  4. jean bennett says:

    brings back such lovely memories of my visits to shetland over the years

  5. Mary Jo Bayliss says:

    Thank you for the lovely reminders of this place that absolutely stole my heart xx I was there two years ago, and hope to return one day. I spent yesterday putting together a Shetland presentation for a virtual summer camp I’m leading, and was time traveled back from searching through my images. Thank you for sharing your walk! I’m glad you’re well 🙂

    • Misa Hay says:

      Lovely to hear from you Mary Jo and I’m really glad to hear this is bringing some of those Shetland memories back! xx

  6. Emily F Giraudin says:

    I love seeing your postcards. It gives me an idea of what will come next year. I can’t get over the fact that you are wearing knit hats, gloves and wool tear coats in June! I’m in NY state USA and where I live we get over 100 inches of snow during winter. The land scapes are stunning and love seeing the sheep roaming. Enjoy!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for taking us on your walk. I can feel the cool air against my face and that “fresh air end-of-walk” feeling you described. You know how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful place! (Santa Monica, California, USA)

  8. Nicole Fields says:

    Thank you for these peeks into a place I am yearning to visit. It is my firm commitment to myself that I will make it to Shetland in the next five years for a mini sabbatical from teaching. I look forward to wandering the coastline and knitting while I am there.

  9. Debra says:

    Great pictures; so looking forward to a future visit.

    Thank You!

  10. Kathleen says:

    Thank you so much for the postcards. I would have been in the UK now and had plans to visit Shetland, but because of our altered reality, am home in New Zealand still. Your postcards are the next best thing to discovering the beauty myself. Again, thank you for the magic.

  11. Sally Davis says:

    Thank you for the lovely photos
    I was supposed to leave for my trip to Orkney ,Shetland and Fair Isle next week
    I live in Canada
    I am comforting myself with knitting keps, making oatcakes and looking at your photos
    I was in Shetland last June so I cannot complain – it was beautiful 😊

  12. Lois says:

    I agree with all the lovely comments above. This year we would have been home in the UK, and looked forward to a visit to Shetland. Now that has to wait, but I have ordered your latest publication and will enjoy your world vicariously, from our home in Michigan, US. Thank you for sharing your peace and beauty with us

  13. Alison LaVigne says:

    Thank you for sharing! Your postcards remind me of my own, the ones I take on my walks here on Cape Cod. We are all connected, no matter how far we roam. Thank you for taking the time to post. Cannot wait to visit one day!

  14. Karen Beckett says:

    I have only been to Shetland once but fell in love with the area. Your pictures and commentary make me yearn to go back. Beautiful in a raw, natural way.

  15. Jenny Davies says:

    These pictures are so beautiful, they are stunning. I live on the south coast of England between Southampton and Portsmouth and can see the sea from the end of our road, it has a beauty of its own especially when you go to the parts that you cannot get to by car. My father in law lives further along the coast where it is lovely sandy beaches. Haven’t had a swim yet but intend to. I run a knitting group in our local pub (not at the moment!) I will pass on your details as I’m sure others. Would be interested. Enjoy the summer.


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