Postcards from Shetland 20/06/20

Jun 20, 2020

Happy summer solstice!

The other day I was asked this question as part of an interview for “In Shetland, I’m happiest when…” My answer was “When I can be outdoors walking along the stunning coastline.” Often, when work is very busy and my head is buzzing with ideas, the only way to calm down is to head outdoors, walk and breathe the fresh air.

This week we’ve had three days of sunshine in the row! And it’s been warm, without much wind too. With some of the usual summer fog as well. Yes, this is Shetland in June, as we reach the longest day of the year. This time of the year is perfect for long after-dinner walks too, as it hardly gets dark and the landscape looks sublime when the sun starts dipping a bit.

This week’s Postcards are from out walk in Nibon in Northmavine (North Mainland of Shetland). It’s another of my favourite walking grounds.

I love this photo as it shows a detail of Shetland’s interesting landscape really well. There is so much human history around us in here in Shetland, and when you start looking closer you will start noticing the traces of our ancestors everywhere. For anyone with an interest in archaeology Shetland is a dream come true. My friend Chris Dyer, who works as an Assistant Archaeologist for a local heritage organisation wrote: “The landscape is a tapestry in Shetland – over 6000 years of human history from Neolithic homesteads, Bronze Age burnt mounds, Iron Age brochs, Pictish wheelhouses, Viking longhouses, medieval castles and modern crofting vernacular architecture.”

What a wonderful corner of Shetland explore. Or to live in… Imagine those views every day!

One of my favourite sights of Shetland summer – wild orchids. Heath Spotted Orchids are the most numerous orchids found here in the islands, but there are others. If you are interested in orchids you might like Orchid Summer, a book written by Jon Dunn, a local naturalist and photographer. Orchid Summer was published by Bloomsbury in 2018 and it is a celebration of the beauty and history of the wild orchid species of the British Isles.

I can never get enough of views like this – the sea, the clouds, the wildflowers and grasses, the lushness of the landscape, houses dotted along the coastline…

Life is busy sometimes but it’s important to make time for the important stuff. For me it is spending time together with my family and friends and going for long walks has been my favourite thing to do since my first time in Shetland back in 1999, when I was on a high school exchange here and my wonderful host family showed me some of Shetland’s most magical spots. On foot of course.

Those colours…

In the distance you can spot Da Drongs, a group of sea stacks off the coast of Hillswick Ness, which is another fantastic place for walking.

I love the sight of the low cloud or mist slowly rolling in over the hills.

Shetland’s ‘jigsaw’ shape makes the coastline amazingly long – at least 1,697 miles (2,702km). This is a very old landscape. Although repeatedly flooded by the sea, the basic shape of Shetland has probably changed little for many millions of years. Source:

A detail of Shetland’s summer flora.

And more hentilagets dotted around. These would have been a prized find in the olden days as wool was a very precious resource.

After a few steep climbs we were rewarded with this view. I love nothing more than to sit down on a high cliff that you have just climbed and enjoy the serene moment.

Geologically, Shetland is complicated, containing everything from volcanic lavas and granite to sandstone and limestone. The scenery carved from this complex geology includes some of Britain’s highest cliffs, hundreds of sea caves, wide-open sandy bays, miles of beaches, dozens of sheltered sea lochs or ‘voes’, and even salt marshes and sand dunes. More at

There’s so much colour in this photo – notice the sea pinks and lichen contrasting with the many shades of blue and turquoise of the sea.

Complete freedom to roam.

Another lovely orchid – they are fairly small so you have to keep an eye out for them.

This is another iconic view of Shetland – hills covered with bog cotton.

This view really sums up Shetland in summer for me.

And this one as well. A love sitting on a carpet of spring squill and wild grasses.

Another specific feature of Shetland is old croft houses nestled in the landscape. Often, when you look carefully, a bare hill will reveal so much more. First you will notice a greener patch of ground which would have been area used for growing crops, and then you might gradually start seeing more, such as outbuildings and old houses. This is what I love about Shetland so much. If you are patient it will reveal so much and will reward you with so many interesting things that could easily stay hidden if you don’t take time.

Hello there!

The perfect early summer night. Not a breath of wind.

And then the fog rolls over the hill.

Ok, one more look, I simply couldn’t get enough of this view…

I thought of Iceland when I saw what looked like steam rising from the loch. Sadly we don’t have any hot springs in Shetland. That would make it just perfect…

On the way home we had to stop to take more photos of bog cotton.

  1. Kerry Butler says:

    Beautiful pics, thankyou! I was wondering about the bog cotton – do people use it in textiles? Spin it, weave it?

    • Misa Hay says:

      Thank you so much Kerry, I am glad you enjoy these. I wondered the same about the use of bog cotton or cottongrass in textiles but I don’t think it is used.

    • Misa Hay says:

      Thank you so much Kerry, I am glad you enjoy these. I wondered the same about the use of bog cotton or cottongrass in textiles but I don’t think it is used.

  2. Cayenne says:

    Such wonderful views! Thank you for sharing your beautiful walks.

  3. MellyB says:

    Ahhhh so beautiful, I am in love with the big cotton


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