Saturday, 16 April 2011

Discovery and rediscovery

I realise I have been incredibly remiss in not blogging sooner about my fabulous trip to Shetland at the end of last month. So hopefully this will make amends.

I ended up in Shetland by way of a series of happy coincidences - I made contact with an old University friend through Facebook last year. We'd shared a flat as students for a year and it was only when we got talking some 23 (cough, cough!) years later that we realised what good friends we would have been at the time if only we'd known. By way of explanation, I spent much of my year at the flat, not actually at the flat but instead either at Teviot or my boyfriend's gaff. Not, I hasten to add, at the library. My degree was in reality nothing short of amazing when you consider how little studying I seemed to do!

Anyway, it wasn't so much friends reunited, as friends rediscovered so when I found myself at the end of March with holidays still to take, a long weekend possible and a trip to Inverness for work already in place, it was a simple step - and happy coincidence - to extend the journey up to Shetland to see Diane and her family.

The flight to Sumburgh was as much of an experience as I'd been promised. As we touched down briefly at Kirkwall Airport I realised that when I landed at Sumburgh I would have frequented no fewer than 14 UK airports. Who would have thought there'd be so many?!! And when I landed at Sumburgh I was indeed bemused. It was as miniature as I had expected but I hadn't expected a) the runway that starts almost before the land does, or b) the access road that crosses the runway! As Diane explained, she'd seen my flight landing as she was driving into the airport. It was only on the way out - across the runway - that I realised what she meant.

So Shetland, wow! That's pretty much it, just wow! What an amazing place. I know I didn't see it in the roughest of weathers and I'm sure at times it can be hard living up there, but I fell in love. I now know why my friend Keith blogs incessantly about it. There is a magic and a beauty that is hard to surpass. And the people are a joy - the warmth and welcome I experienced from Diane, her family, her friends and her neighbours was striking. I really did feel like I'd come home, and that to a place I'd never been before.

But what did you do? What did you see? I can hear your questions, oh loyal readers. You shall not be disappointed. Here follows a blow by blow itinerary...

Friday evening - arrive Sumburgh, met by Diane and 2 elder sons, youngest being confined to barracks with Chicken Pox. Drive approx 1 hour to the north of the Mainland to Muckle Roe and my bed for the weekend. Charmed by eldest son en route making my heart swell with his undisguised pleasure at my visit. There followed much wine, seafood chowder with prawns and Shetland bannocks.

Saturday - a refreshing walk on the cliffs at Esha Ness, watching the waves, the birds and the boys not necessarily in that order followed by a couple or 3 lattes at the Esha Ness Braewick Cafe, a hurl along the coast line including a visit to Nibon and what must be the most perfect retreat for (re)born romantics, before heading back across Mavis Grind - where the Atlantic and the North Sea almost meet and a brief visit home to gather strength for Mussels and chips at Britain's most northerly fish and chip shop. Then it was time for a Stampin' Up party and my latest crafty discovery.

Sunday - another refreshing walk on the cliffs, this time at Muckle Roe itself, followed by a trip to the Spring Bulb Show - complete with afternoon tea and cakes, rounded off with a delicious Sunday roast courtesy of Diane's other half. Mmm, it's no wonder I've put on weight!!

Monday - and we girls headed off to sample the shopping delights of Lerwick. And boy were there delights - fudge, smellies, books and more fair isle and knitwear than you could shake a stick at. I was in heaven! Who needs High Street, particularly when you can get it all on the internet these days!? We followed our shopping up with some more seafood at the Lerwick Museum before a quick dash round the exhibits - and more shopping. Back home for a dinner of salmon (yes, I was in seafood heaven all holiday!) followed by a madcap game of Monopoly with the wheeler dealers that are Diane's sons!

Tuesday came all too soon and before I knew it, Diane and I were on our way back to Sumburgh Airport, by way of Bonhoga Gallery and an inspiring exhibition of Urban Baskets, followed of course by the obligatory seafood meal - marinated herrings this time. Then it was time to whisk down to Sumburgh, say (a tearful) goodbye to Diane and jump on my flight back to Edinburgh. And the delights of 'mainland' transport connections.

A fantastic break, all too short, in which I barely scratched the surface of the wonders that make up the Shetland Islands. I don't know what I was expecting - somewhere harsher and more brutal I suspect - but it certainly wasn't what I found. It was a peaceful place, and I loved it. For more photos, see my album on Flickr.

I don't think it will be my last visit. Thanks, Diane. I'm so pleased I've (re)discovered my friendship with you.

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