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( Charity Number SC 027207 )

On 6th June 2018, a number of our members headed to Shetland on our Spring Tour. A short report on the trip is given below.

NTS-LMS Spring Tour of Shetland, 2018

At 5 p.m. 26 of our group met at the NorthLink terminal in Aberdeen to board M.V. Hrossey. We had a nice dinner and sailed over a smooth sea to arrive in Lerwick the next morning. After disembarkation, four air travellers joined the group and we met our guide Les Sinclair and our driver Alistair Mullay. First, we set off to the Shetland Museum, which is the best place to start any first Shetland visit as it is a really excellent museum which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.


Sumburgh Head, the most southern point featuring an impressive lighthouse on a steep rock. Several of us experienced their first real live puffin. This year there were less than usual but sufficient to enjoy their behaviour and seemingly clumsy flying.

After lunch, we visited Jarlshof, pictured on the right. Neolithic people first settled at this site around 2700 BC, and it remained in use until the AD 1600s. It includes the remains of a Bronze Age smithy, an Iron Age broch and roundhouses, a complex of Pictish wheelhouses, a Viking longhouse and on top a mediaeval farmhouse.

Our next stop was the Croft House Museum where we experienced how crofters lived until the recent past. One room to live and one room to sleep in box beds. The other side of the building was for one cow, storage and an additional animal. Straw covered the croft house and was kept in place by ropes weighed with stones hanging down at the sides of the walls.

At our hotel, the Shetland Hotel in Lerwick, a welcome and get together-reception with canapes was followed by an excellent dinner.


The next day we drove to the first ferry that took us from the Mainland to the Island of Yell. We followed the eastern coast and enjoyed the emptiness, absence of trees and abundance of sheep. Hills covered by peat in an ever changing brown with a hint of green covered by overcast skies with shades of bluish grey. Temperature was about 13°C. As usual on Shetland there was no rain. After the second crossing, we arrived in Unst. By then everything was "the most Northern in the UK" ranging from bus shelter to pub, petrol station, post office, etc. Our first stop was Haroldswick Heritage Centre, formerly the school and was devoted to Unst’s history and spinning and knitting. A kind local woman provided background information and gave a demonstration of spinning.

The next stop was the Saxa Vord Reel distillery. We saw how the various tastes of the increasingly popular Reel gin are produced. They also produce whisky to mature. After we tasted all varieties of gin and whisky, we headed for lunch.

After lunch we visited the memorial to 31 seamen who died 100 years ago when their E49 submarine struck a German mine on 12 March 1917 just off Unst. Next was the famous decorated bus shelter which features a new theme every year.

We had a quick visit to Muness Castle, a sister castle to Scalloway Castle. Just before boarding the Unst-Yell ferry we had a good view of Belmont House, a NTS property which has been restored and is let as a holiday or event venue.

After an uneventful journey back to the hotel and our dinner we saw Shetlands Gjengen in preparation of next day’s visit to Scalloway. The film gives the story of the Shetland Bus, Norwegian fishing boats which regularly carried Jews and other refugees, resistance people and equipment between Norway and Shetland. These dangerous journeys were undertaken under the cover of darkness in the long winter nights when the weather is at its worst. There were many losses due to the weather and the Luftwaffe. Many fishermen who sailed Shetland Bus boats feature in this 1954 black and white Norwegian film


This day was devoted to Scalloway. We went to the Shetland Bus memorial, pictured on the right, and saw the slipway that was made available to repair the fishing boats and after 1943 faster American submarine chasers. The Norwegian fishermen sailed as a unit of the Norwegian Navy. The new museum hosts the former Shetland Bus museum and provides information about Scalloway, the capital of Shetland before Lerwick became its capital. Adjacent to the museum is the ruin of Scalloway castle.

Next we visited Hoswick Visitors Centre where we had lunch. We arrived at the same time as the sun. An interesting feature on display was the so-called Hoswick Whale Case. In 1888, crofters drove 331 Long-finned Pilot Whales on the beach. The crofters rejected the Lairds claim to a share of the proceeds because it all happened outside his property on the beach. Finally, the Laird lost and the crofters won the case in 1890 in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

We went back to Lerwick and we had some free time to explore Lerwick


We drove all the way to Esha Ness. From a distance we saw the oil Terminal which keeps a low profile to be hidden in the hills. We drove along Ronas Voe, where in 1674 during the Third Anglo-Dutch war, an unknown number of the crew of the Wapen van Rotterdam were killed in action by three English frigates.

The Group at Esha Ness

We then visited Esha Ness. There we wandered about, enjoying the birds, the cliffs, the view and the splendid weather.

After lunch and a quick visit to Tangwick Haa Museum we drove back where Les took us for a walk and gave us an interesting history of the town of Lerwick pointing out various film locations from the BBC Shetland series.

At the NorthLink terminal, we said goodbye to our four air travellers, Les and Alistair. We embarked and had dinner.

To our surprise and delight, the captain of M.V. Hjaltland slowed down at Noss, which is famous for its bird nesting cliffs. We floated around for about half an hour and admired the many birds soaring on the sea and the cliffs. Regrettably, the captain decided to proceed and we woke up in Aberdeen after another smooth crossing

Lesley, Norman, Connie, Bart

The National Trust for Scotland - London Members' Centre is a registered Scottish charity number SC027207.

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