Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shetland part 2: A Wee Capital and Stunning Views

Flipping through the photos from my trip to Shetland, it became clear I could never sum up the place in one measly blog post.   Condensing the place into one article simply wouldn't do it justice, and I really want the chance to share all these photos with you! So I've decided to give you the highlights of my trip- in no particular order- in several installments.  So for today I give you (drumroll please) Lerwick, Eshaness, and Saint Ninian's Isle.


Standing on the top deck of the ferry, the bitter wind biting the tip my nose, my fingers, and my ears, I caught my first glimpse of Shetland: Lerwick materializing through the morning mist.

It’s a small town with a mere 7,500 inhabitents, but what Lerwick lacks in size, it makes up for in character.  It’s 18th-century sandstone buildings are built on top of one another; its narrow, cobbled streets wind up and down hills in little mazes.  Like many Scottish towns, Lerwick wasn’t planned, it just grew.  And while it’s lack of city planning frustrated us in our early efforts to find a grocery store, I found it charming.

Lerwick might be quaint and historic, but it does offer tourists plenty to see, as well as many choices for accommodation and amenities.  As Shetland’s capital, it’s home to Shetland Museum and Archives.  It’s also the launch point for boat tours, and a lovely place to stock up on hand-made Shetland souvenirs like jewelry, knit-wear, and local music.

Eshaness Lighthouse

About an hour’s drive from Lerwick, Eshaness Lighthouse was our first stop in Shetland.  Built in 1929 to prevent ships from hitting a group of Island's surrounding the North-Western shore, it now serves as a guesthouse (and boy, do I wish I had the money to stay there).

More impressive than the lighthouse is it's dramatic location: imposing cliffs  completely untouched by humankind.  Nobody watching but a flock of sheep, we spent an hour walking along the coast, but it seems we could have gone on for eternity. It might have been an excellent place to bring a picnic lunch, but we were perfectly content to climb rocks, becoming increasingly daring in our attempt to get a perfect photograph.

Saint Ninian's Isle

The walk to Saint Ninian's Isle was like nothing I've ever experienced.  It's connected to the mainland by a thin strip of beach, called an "ayre," so while Saint Ninian's isn't accessible by car, it's easy enough to walk over- we even found a tour guide in a very friendly stray dog.

The Isle itself is inhabited, as is most of Shetland, by thousands of sheep.  In fact, in order to cross the Isle, we had to jump a fence, and walk across a field full sheep poo, the animals watching us like we were crazy.  Getting our boots dirty was worth it though, as the coastal view on the Isle's West side was even more fantastic than Eshaness (not to mention the hiking bragging rights we earned.)

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