Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Exploring the Shetland Islands

We said goodbye to Norway and headed for open sea towards the Shetland Islands. Our crossing happened during the night and in the morning, we woke up to the sight of dozens of green islands passing by the ship. Soon after, we were already in Lerwick, the main port here in the Shetlands. With a population of 7500, the town has a cozy atmosphere and is easily explored by foot. This is also the best way to see all the little streets that are too narrow for big vehicles like buses. Our guests were free to roam around and visit the museum, tourist office, shops and notable buildings like the Town hall, Fort Charlotte and the Clickimin Broch.
Many of us also hiked around the town along the coast where many grey seals were lying on the rocks and where tiny Shetland ponies were grazing the fields. The morning was also the departure time for two of our excursions that many of the guests joined. The scenic mainland drive took us to Jarlshof, which is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in the Shetlands. It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD. The name Jarlshof meaning "Earl's Mansion" is a coinage of Walter Scott, who visited the site in 1814 and based it on the Scottish period name of "the laird's house". It was more than a century later before excavations proved that there had actually been Viking Age settlements on the site. Walking through the remains of this settlement really allowed us to get a feeling of how these buildings were put together and what their layout was.
The tour also took our guests to Hoswick, where they could 
get an understanding of the history and culture of the Shetland Islands from the very informative displays. They also sell typical knitwear here and several of the guests grabbed the opportunity to get some locally made souvenirs for home!

Our second excursion took us to the settlement of Scalloway, where we were able to visit the museum and the Scalloway Castle which was built in 1600.
By this time, the sun had come out and the weather got very comfortable. On the way we stopped at a viewpoint, which we also did on the way back where we got to have an idea of how many islands the Shetlands are composed of. Views wear clear and winds were low. Very pleasant conditions to take in the surrounding landscape. Our guide was kind enough to answer all sorts of questions and taught us a lot when it comes to economy and culture of the Shetland Islands. 
Our hotel manager accompanied some of the guests to a place called Jamieson´s of Shetland. It is a local wool shop that has specialised in the wool from the native Shetland sheep for already 5 generations! Again, a good occasion to get some locally made souvenirs. Once everybody was back on-board, it was time again for the embroidery group to meet up to practice their Hardanger embroidery skills. Shortly after, Fram departed Lerwick sailing through the islands with a mesmerizing sunset on our starboard side. It was the perfect ending to our day in the Shetland Islands and a moment to remember how lucky we have been with the weather during the trip.
To celebrate and finish the evening in (Fram) style, we hosted a crew show in the Observation Lounge so our crew could show of their skills and talents for us to enjoy and admire. It was a very cheerful evening and we are very much looking forward to the next days of our trip.