Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Weekend in Shetland

I’m a country girl.  There- I admitted it.   In a town of about 6,700, I grew up picking apples, riding bikes, and playing hide and seek in a huge back yard.

So to me, Edinburgh’s a big city.

I realize that at 470,000 people, Edinburgh’s a relatively small city.  But I have to think about things like bus schedules here.  At least once a week, I get lost trying to find a shop or restaurant.  I have to struggle through rush-hour crowds to make it to school events. And don’t get me started on choosing pubs for a night out- there’s so many options, it’s impossible to get a group of people to agree on where to go.

As interesting and engaging as Edinburgh is, city life can be stressful for a country girl like me. So a trip to Shetland last week was the perfect chance for me to give my brain a rest and unwind.

Shetland is a cluster of Islands in the far North of Scotland.   150 kilometer’s away from the mainland, it’s the perfect destination to escape city stresses.  In fact, even though Shetland is made up of over 100 isles, only 15 of these islands are populated by a mere 22,500.  And even though we didn’t leave Shetland’s “mainland,” my friends and I rarely saw another soul in our 2-day trip.

Shetland  may have been mentally relaxing, but don't think we lazed around there.  Shetland is an outdoorsman's paradise, perfect for a weekend adventure.  We spent all of our time exploring the mainland’s beautiful but perilous landscape: windswept beaches, steep cliffs, rolling hills, and endless green fields.  Driving through the countryside there were so many natural wonders to explore, and by the end of each of our nights, we were completely exhausted.

Our group was keen to break away from the hostel scene and try out a new kind of accommodation.  By renting a böd, or simple camping cabin, we experienced something unique to Shetland-- and proved how tough we were.  Originally built to house fisherman, these buildings truly provide the bare minimum for survival- bunk beds , a refrigerator and stove, a shower (with lukewarm water), and a fireplace.  There was no linen, no mattresses (ok there little plastic matts), and most importantly no heating.  We spent our one very cold and windy night in Shetland huddled as closely as possible around a peat fire, wrapped in blankets and sipping wine.  It was cold, but it was fun, and I think sharing this experience made us bond as a group.

Expect more specifics about travelling in Shetland soon!

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