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Shetland – the North Atlantic Gateway

von Wilfried Klöpping

Shetland lies in the North Atlantic, equidistant from Aberdeen, Bergen and Torshavn, one hour by air from Aberdeen or overnight by ferry. Shetland, my island home, has belonged to Scotland for just over 500 years, so our heritage is a mixture of Scandinavian and Scottish. We have 22,000 people, 1,000 Shetland ponies, 283,000 sheep, 200,000 puffins, 54,000 gannets, 11,000 storm petrels! We have 138 sandy beaches on our 1,700 miles of coastline, many providing a haven for seals. Shetland has at least 100 islands spread over 567 square miles, but getting around is easy, with good roads, an excellent ferry service between islands, and flights to some islands.

The capital is Lerwick, which sits on a natural harbour sheltered by the island of Bressay. The buildings are gable-end to the sea to fit more of them in. Since the first proclamation was read at the market cross in 1838, Lerwick has grown to a population of 7,500, with a busy port visited by vessels of every size, including fishing boats from Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia. Fishing is Shetland’s main industry. The Shetland pony can be seen in the fields and some will come and talk to you. The Sheltie, native here for thousands of years, was used by crofters to carry things; they stay outside all year round and are the strongest of all horses for their size. The foals are born in May and stay with their mothers until September. They grow long winter coats to protect them from the Shetland winter winds.

The Shetland dialect comes from the same roots as Scandinavian languages and has a similar tone when spoken by Shetlanders. Several place names are from the old Scandinavian language of Norn. We hold a number of festivals throughout the year, starting in January with the fire festival of Up Helly Aa, the Folk festival in May, the Accordion and Fiddle festival in October, and many others.In mid-summer we have nineteen hours of daylight and five hours of „Simmer Dim“, the twilight that is one of our attractions. During the seabird breeding season (May to July) the Sumburgh Head colony is easily accessible and has thousands of seabirds.

Of our 6,080 archaeological sites, Jarlshof is the best known; one of the most complex archaeological sites in Europe, it covers the period of human settlement from the Neolithic (5,000 years ago) almost up to the present day. Because of its world-class geology, Shetland was awarded European Geopark status in 2009 and in April 2010 was awarded membership of the Global Network of National Geoparks. We have an amazing variety of geology covering three billion years – where else can you walk on an ancient ocean floor, explore an extinct volcano and stroll across shifting sands all in one day? A holiday in Shetland is special, and we’d love to see you.

Catriona Anderson
-Green Badge Tourist Guide

Fotocredits: Udo Haafke

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