The Shetland Isands. The big one is Shetland
Moving North meant cooler weather and we were grateful for the warm jackets that we had brought. After the extreme heat of Portugal we had to repack our cases to put the summer clothes to the bottom and warm ones on top for Copenhagen. Fortunately it was made easier on the ship as we could unpack all we would need for the 2 weeks and leave our cases closed.
Lerwick has a harbour for small boats and ships have to anchor outside of the. This meant to get to the island we were taken by a tender boat. These were actually some of the life boats which were manned by members of the ship’s maintenance crew. All crew members had to do more than their main job of maintenance, catering, guest services, cleaning or whatever else they were employed for. There were times when we even saw the Captain pitching in to direct us. That is an excellent example of good leadership.
As Shetland is part of the UK a few of us had to get transit visas to visit the island. We received a letter the previous evening telling us to be at the Guest Services desk at 08:00. The 2 of us duly arrived on time to be told to wait in the Card Room for Immigration Officers to come on board at 08:30. They finally arrived at 08:45 and by then there were 7 of us – 2 other South Africans, 2 persons from India and one man from Turkey. We and the couple from India were through very quickly once our visas were stamped. The other SA couple had applied very late and had to purchase full visas at twice the price of a transit one as they understood that they had not needed one. We never did learn what happened with the man from Turkey as he said that he was a US citizen and so did not require a visa.
Once we had been cleared we went down to the deck from where the tender was being boarded. A note here to those who may worry about getting off and on the tender, there is absolutely no need to do so. Members of the crew are always on hand to assist. One day I saw them assist a lady in a wheelchair out of the chair and on to the boat to a convenient seat. They then folded the chair and strapped it in. To access the tender one’s ship pass card is scanned, digital photograph checked and another crew member counts everyone who leaves the ship. After the 5 minute ride to the pier we were once again assisted off the boat and directed where to go to reach the town, the street of which was on the harbour wall.
A life boat tender
We had not booked a ship excursion for Shetland but when we reached the town there was a tour company offering a visit to a Shetland Pony farm and to the town of Scalloway on the west coast, directly across from Lerwick. We decided to join this tour which started at 11:00 giving us a couple of hours to discover Lerwick itself. On first sight it is an old town with many buildings of brown sandstone. The street along the harbour wall comprised mostly shops and offices. Residential buildings were on the hill behind the 2-street ‘CBD’.
Street along the harbour wall
As we walked along we saw a very steep slope connecting the main street and the 1st residential street. The thought of carrying shopping up that slope, with a central rail for support, I found rather daunting. From what we saw of the population there were many elderly and they must have had cars or been really fit to get their shopping done.
The steep slope between streets
A side street leading to the beach
Shetland is well known for its sheep farming and beautiful wool and we visited a knitting shop in the main street. The quality of the work was outstanding. Although tempted we didn’t buy anything as we knew that we would not wear it due to it being very warm. Across the road was a bookshop and I could not miss that. It was much bigger than appeared form outside and had a large variety of books.
Main street through Lerwick. Knitting shop is the red building on the left and the bookshop is almost opposite it
We continued up the road to where it was joined by the harbour road and, looking over a wall, saw what the townsfolk referred to as their beach. It could probably accommodate 50 people at most.
At the harbour wall at the beach
Just before 11:00 we returned to the harbour area to catch the coach taking us on our tour. We were shown through the residential part of the town and then moved into the countryside which was dotted with sheep. At one little village we passed through we could see into the conservatory in one home and it was filled with motor bikes, the passion of the owner.
At the Shetland Pony farm there were 7 ponies belonging to farmer and her husband. While she told us about the ponies all of whom she knew by name and age he was going around behind them with a shovel and tray cleaning up. We felt quite sorry for him as they had a number of busloads coming through and he had to keep the place clean. These short ponies have reduced in number from about 1000 to less than 100 in the past century as they are no longer needed to work in the mines for which they were originally bred. They were excellent for this work as they are small and very strong.
Cleaning up behind them was a never-ending task
From there we travelled to the town of Scalloway which was previously the Capital of Shetland. Lerwick is now the Capital. Scalloway was of strategic importance during WWII in preventing German invasions coming via Norway. There is a museum dedicated to the cooperation between Norway and Scalloway and, when Queen Sonja of Norway visited in 2007 with Prince Charles and Lady Camilla, they opened the museum.
The Museum. Photos were not permitted inside
On a piece of land next to the museum are the remains of a castle built in the mid-16th Century. In 1600 by the 2nd and last Earl of Shetland and Orkney Patrick Stewart added a tower. He never got to live in the castle as the local people despised him for following in his father’s footsteps and taking their land. In 1609 he was imprisoned in Edinburgh and beheaded a few years later. The Castle has been made safe for visitors to walk through and there are explanatory signs in each room.
Remains of Scalloway Castle with the tower
Between the museum and the Castle are 2 large concrete bollards used to block the streets and the harbour entrance against German vehicles.
2 WWII bollards
Explanation of the bollards
Before reboarding the bus to return to Lerwick some of us took a walk down to the harbour and had a good laugh when the first place we saw was a Chinese Restaurant!
Just in case you thought I had made it up
It was a really beautiful day both weather-wise and from the point of view of the scenery and education.