Shetland islands – dramatic cliffs and friendly people

Come to the boat club tonight, they said, there will be live folk music!

After dinner we went past the harbour and through the little ally until we found the door to the Leirwick boating club. We could not hear any music out to the street, but when we went up the stairs we found ourselves in a room full of people with their own instruments – violin, flute, guitar, mandolin etc. There was no people there just to listen – everyone was there to play. So we sat down, and they asked us if Jens was the Norwegian man who was going to bring a flute? I started to regret that I joked about Jens having a flute with him onboard, when they told him he could borrow one and join in. The flutes where a whole different kind, and these people were out of our league. But we were free to sit down anyway, and they started playing Scottish folk tunes, and other traditional music from different parts of the world. All of a sudden, one man stood up and sang a traditional song, all by himself, with a loud but beautiful voice.

After a while, we had finished our beer and wanted to say goodbye. They thanked us for coming by playing a Swedish “polska”, and we went downstairs to say hi to the guys in the bar that were playing darts. The Leirwick boat club was our waterhole during our stay – a place to take a shower, wash some clothes, update the weather forecast with their WIFI or just grab a beer.

Leirwick town

Leirwick is an old town with beautiful stone buildings and narrow streets. There is a lot of different restaurants and pubs to choose from and small quirky shops. We spent the evenings trying out different restaurants, but in daytime we wanted to see more of Shetland than the capital, so we decided to rent a car. Join us up and down the hills of Shetland!

Roads on Shetland mainland

The landscape in Shetland is rather special, it reminded me a lot of Iceland or northern part of Sweden. The hills are covered in grass or heather and the lack of trees enable you to see far away across the lakes and sometimes all the way to the ocean. Our first stop was Scalloway, a small village that lies on the west coast and also the former capital of Shetland.

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Scalloway harbour

We wanted to visit the Scalloway Castle, built in 1600 by Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland. We were lucky to find the castle open even though the museum was closed, and learned about the Lord who has been portrayed as one of history´s villains, always in conflict with the landowners which finally led to his execution for treason in Edinburgh in 1615.

Scalloway castle

Then we turned north, heading for the famous cliffs at Echa Ness. Before we arrived, we stopped for lunch in a hotel that was open for business already the year 1900, and had a magnificent view of the sea. It was clear that we came in the off season, since to only people there was the friendly and quirky staff. One of the men working there told us how he fell in love with Shetland in the 70´s and never left since then. The winters in Shetland is rather mild, but he fondly remembered the days when the snow could be several meters high, and even though they got stuck in the snow when they headed up the mountains they still got paid full. We also learned that it is not uncommon to see killer whales around Shetland, but we of course are here in the wrong season.

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Church beside the hotel close to Echa Ness

Approaching Echa Ness, the landscape was getting more and more dramatic as the you could see the dramatic cliffs close to the road.

Shetland scenery

Finally, we arrived in Echa Ness. The sun was shining and the sight was clear. Jens was disappointed that we didn’t go here a stormy day, but the waves clashing towards the cliffs were rather mighty even a calm day like this. We agreed that this is not a coastline you want to sail close-by.

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Echa Ness

In the ravines, the sea birds were circling up and down, or laying down to rest in the sun. The sound of the birds were lost in the high noise from the breaking waves.

Group photo in front of the bird cliffs

We took a hike along the coast line. Furthest out on one of the cliff Jens pointed out the perfect spot of grass to have a “fika” break before we continued walking.

Jens and Lotta gazing towards the lighthouse

Shetland is maybe best known for its Shetland pony, but when you’re here the only animal you really see across the island, besides the sea birds, are sheep. They are everywhere! If I were a sheep, I would be rather happy to walk along Echa Ness 🙂

Endless grass and small lakes for the sheep to wander next to the cliffs

Driving back to Leirwick, we took the opportunity to stack up on groceries on a supermarket before returning the car. After a nice dinner together with Lotta it was time to go to bed for the last time in Leirwick, and say goodbye the next morning to sail south aiming at Fair Isle.

– Petra


Author: sailingforharmony

Cruising the oceans, exploring the world

One thought on “Shetland islands – dramatic cliffs and friendly people”

  1. Hej resenärerna! Åh, ni är så modiga!! Härligt jobbat att har gjort er första öppna havs-korsning! Förstår att det var pirrigt. Jens kommentarer rätt roliga att läsa, den evige optimisten “tänk va kul det hade varit dag sju” 🙂 Shetlandsöarna ser vackert ut, påminner mig om mycket om Irland. Ser fram emot att läsa vart ert äventyr tar er härnäst! Stor kram från ettt höstvackert Sverige ❤


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