To the far North of the Scottish mainland lies the beautiful Shetland Isles – a group of islands whose known history stretches back 3000 years to the time of Neolithic Man. Shetland’s best known history begins with the Viking invasion of the island in 800 AD. The island was under Norse control until 1471 when it was annexed to Scotland as part of a marriage treaty between James lll of Scotland and a Danish Princess. The strength of Shetland’s Norse roots is demonstrated in its many place names, its Viking statues and Norse architecture.
Up Helly Aa
The most lasting memories of Shetland’s connection to its Norse past can be seen in the Up Helly Aa festival that takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January every year regardless of rain, sleet or snow. The dark, cold night sky bursts into life as people known as Guizers follow their leader, the Guizer Jarl, to celebrate their Viking heritage by taking part in a torchlight procession followed by the burning of a great Viking Galley. Thousands of people from around the world gather in the Shetland capital to witness the event.
Archaeology of Shetland
People with a great interest in archaelogical sites will not be disappointed when visiting Shetland. The three main sites on any visit to the islands must surely be Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof with others such as the Clickimin Broch, Scalloway Castle and Museum and St. Ninian’s Isle also worth a visit depending on time.
A museum depicting the heritage of the islands, the Shetland Museum and Archives, can be found in the capital, Lerwick and is well worth a visit. The impressive museum contains information and collections relating the history of the Shetlands from its early beginnings to modern day.
As expected, being an island nation far out in the North Sea, devoid of urban cities and towns, the island is rich in natural beauty. Nature has constructed stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches and a diversity of flora and fauna.
One of the most magical sights must be the haunting colourful Northern Lights on a cold winter’s night.
If your pleasure is to explore the great outdoors, Shetland provides opportunities for walkers, climbers and cyclists to enjoy nature at its best. The coastal aspect of the island allows the outdoor activities of sailing, surfing, diving and fishing to be enjoyed to the full. The golfer hasn’t been forgotten either with the island providing three main golf courses where one can tee-off at midnight during the long, clear summer nights.
Whatever your reason to visit Shetland’s Isles you will not be disappointed.
It is no surprise that my very talented friend, Chris Tait (author and poet), chose her native Shetland as the place to record her latest poetry collection.