…can often take form in local heritage centers and museums, which are easily found by visitors and openly advertised in Shetland brochures, tourist websites and local networking. Experiencing these places have often proved impressive, such as our earlier visit to Quendale Mill. Needless to say, our short discovery trip to the second largest Shetland island, Yell, and to Britain’s most northerly inhabited island, Unst.
Shetland Ferry Service–
Obviously, getting from the mainland to these islands require using the inter-island ferry system. The ferries are the responsibility of the Shetland Island Council (SIC), which maintain a fleet of some 12 ferries with services between all inhabited islands. More information can be had at Inter Island Ferry Service.
As for the degree or quality of this service, I asked a vacationing employee on Yell about this. His reply was that the council’s intention was to provide the absolute best ferry service possible to Shetland citizens. At any time on any day, the ferries can be booked. With this I asked, What about 3 am on January 2, for example? His comment was, book a few days beforehand and the ferry will be ready to give service at this time on this day!
After having used the ferries to the northern islands, The Shetland Inter Ferry Service keeps time, has clean and well-maintained ferries and gives smooth boarding with pleasant service from staff.
Unst Heritage Center–
The Unst Heritage Center is an example of local community effort with exploring, maintaining and exhibiting local history, culture and identity. A small building in the village of Haroldswick, the Heritage Center exhibits the crofting culture of Unst as well as glimpses of historical matters and how people and services were the village and Unst.
The attendant, or host for the heritage center, was an exceptional resource of information. She readily supplied answers to visitor questions, but even provided more information or news to similar subjects. We learned of an easier way to see Muckle Flugga lighthouse, that there was to be sheep shearing later that evening and that there was to be a traditional music and slideshow event given at the Public Hall in Uyeasound. The little “extra effort” that most visitors appreciate.
The exhibition was very thorough in content and ranged from Unst geology to relics from an earlier post office and school environment. I personally was impressed with the details found with a life-like model of a crofthouse interior, where one could almost walk inside and shake the hand of the “lady of the croft” sitting next to her warming fire.
Later, we found a great B&B called Prestegaard in Uyeasound and attended the gathering at the Public Hall, where we listened to a superb group of teenagers playing traditional folk music and watched a slideshow. We were personally served with tea and cakes as a small boy went around and collected donations to a cancer fund project the community was supporting. All volunteer work!
In the morning, we visited the nearby Muness Castle of Unst. What would Scotland, or even Shetland, be without derelict castles. This exceptionally interesting attraction was open to visitors, free and very visitor friendly. Great fun for everyone with an imagination for history!
Burravoe’s “Old Haa”–
The next day, after the ferry ride back to Yell, we drove a side road past “The White Wife” and onwards stopping at “The Old Haa” in Burravoe. Again, like so many other places on Shetland, this was a local community effort and attraction and centered its exhibit on local whaling history and sailing as a compliment to crofting. Interestingly, Shetlanders would sail through the years to Greenland and Antarctica to search for whales in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the exhibition should tools and implements for this work together with whale, seal and otter displays.
Again, as most Shetland heritage places, coffee could be bought and we took our cups outside to the back garden where we sat in the warm sun and let our eyes glance over a greatly appeasing array of flowers along the stone wall.
After having visited several heritage centers or museums, I have been immensely impressed by the details and degree of work that has been invested in these places. After asking, I found that some of the staff are employed on a seasonal basis but that most work is done voluntarily by citizens. The upkeep and maintenance, or even the actual start-up costs for the buildings, are subsidized by the Shetland Council, Shetland Amenity Trust etc. in some way or another. Economically, it seems apparent that Shetland prioritizes needs and wishes for its citizens and show support for local ventures and development. Could this be an example for other places in the world?
I want to congratulate and honor all the volunteers that are involved with and have developed these places. They do amazing work and which tourists and visitors really enjoy but, also, the local community has pleasure in and learns so much of the past with.