Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lerwick, Shetland Islands, UK

We finished our project in Norway and stopped over in Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands north of Scotland. What a great little place...

Lerwick and Victoria Pier
Humans have lived there since the Mesolithic period, and the earliest written references to the islands date back to Roman times. The early historic period was dominated by Scandinavian influences, especially Norway, and the islands did not become part of Scotland until the 15th century. When Shetland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, trade with northern Europe decreased. Fishing has continued to be an important aspect of the economy up to the present day. The discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s significantly boosted Shetland incomes, employment and public sector revenues. The local way of life reflects the joint Norse and Scottish heritage including the Up Helly Aa fire festival, and a strong musical tradition, especially the traditional fiddle style. The islands have produced a variety of writers of prose and poetry, many of whom use the local Shetlandic dialect. There are numerous areas set aside to protect the local fauna and flora, including a number of important seabird nesting sites. Lerwick is Shetland's only town, with a population of about 7,500 - although about half of the islands' 22,000 people live within 10 miles of the burgh.
Lerwick Harbor The islands' motto, which appears on the Council's coat of arms, is Með lögum skal land byggja. This Icelandic phrase is taken from Njáls saga and means "By law shall the land be built up".[1] The islands lie some 80 km (50 mi) to the northeast of Orkney and 280 km (170 mi) southeast of the Faroe Islands and form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total area is 1,468 km2 (567 sq mi)[2] and the population totalled 23,167 in 2011.[3] Comprising the Shetland constituency of the Scottish Parliament, Shetland is also one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the islands' administrative centre and only burgh is Lerwick. The largest island, known simply as "Mainland", has an area of 967 km2 (373 sq mi), making it the third-largest Scottish island[4] and the fifth-largest of the British Isles. There are an additional 15 inhabited islands. The archipelago has an oceanic climate, a complex geology, a rugged coastline and many low, rolling hills.


Sunrise over the Harbor 

Wade and Max on Gangway Security 


Founded as an unofficial marketplace to service 17th century Dutch herring fleets, Lerwick took a long time to grow. Because of its illegal status (and alleged immorality!) the straggling hamlet around the shore of Ler Wick ('muddy bay') was demolished by order of the Scalloway court in 1615 and 1625. The Dutch burnt the fort in 1673 and the French set fire to Lerwick in 1702. Most of the sandstone buildings on the waterfront date from the 18th century, although a few, such as 10 Commercial Street, are older. The narrow main street still follows the old shoreline but modern harbour works have been built out in front of shops and warehouses that once stood in the sea. Perched on a hillside overlooking the harbour, the town's lanes retain their charm - and their shelter from the prevailing south-westerly gales. In AD 43 and 77 the Roman authors Pomponius Mela and Pliny the Elder referred to the seven islands they call Haemodae and Acmodae respectively, both of which are assumed to be Shetland. Another possible early written reference to the islands is Tacitus' report in AD 98, after describing the discovery and conquest of Orkney, that the Roman fleet had seen "Thule, too".[Note 1] In early Irish literature, Shetland is referred to as Inse Catt—"the Isles of Cats", which may have been the pre-Norse inhabitants' name for the islands. The Cat tribe also occupied parts of the northern Scottish mainland and their name can be found in Caithness, and in the Gaelic name for Sutherland (Cataibh, meaning "among the Cats").[7][Note 2] The oldest version of the modern name Shetland is Hetlandensis, the Latinised adjectival form of the Old Norse name recorded in a letter from Harald count of Shetland in 1190,[9] becoming Hetland in 1431 after various intermediate transformations. It is possible that the Pictish "cat" sound forms part of this Norse name. It then became Hjaltland in the 16th century.[10][11][Note 3] As Norn was gradually replaced by Scots, Hjaltland became Ȝetland. The initial letter is the Middle Scots letter, "yogh", the pronunciation of which is almost identical to the original Norn sound, "/hj/". When the use of the letter yogh was discontinued, it was often replaced by the similar-looking letter z, hence Zetland, the misspelt form used to describe the pre-1975 county council.[13][14] Most of the individual islands have Norse names, although the derivations of some are obscure and may represent pre-Norse, possibly Pictish or even pre-Celtic names or elements.[15] Shetland is around 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of mainland Scotland, covers an area of 1,468 square kilometres (567 sq mi) and has a coastline 2,702 kilometres (1,679 mi) long.[2] Lerwick, the capital and largest settlement, has a population of 6,958 and about half of the archipelago's total population of 23,167 people live within 16 kilometres (10 mi) of the town.[16] Scalloway on the west coast, which was the capital until 1708, has a population of less than 1,000.[17] Only 16 of about 100 islands are inhabited. The main island of the group is known as Mainland and of the next largest, Yell, Unst, and Fetlar lie to the north and Bressay and Whalsay lie to the east. East and West Burra, Muckle Roe, Papa Stour, Trondra and Vaila are smaller islands to the west of Mainland. The other inhabited islands are Foula 28 kilometres (17 mi) west of Walls, Fair Isle 38 kilometres (24 mi) south-west of Sumburgh Head, and the Out Skerries to the east.[Note 4] The uninhabited islands include Mousa, known for the Broch of Mousa, the finest preserved example in Scotland of these Iron Age round towers, St Ninian's Isle connected to Mainland by the largest active tombolo in the UK, and Out Stack, the northernmost point of the British Isles.[18][19][20] Shetland's location means that it provides a number of such records: Muness is the most northerly castle in the United Kingdom and Skaw the most northerly settlement.[21]

The geology of Shetland is complex, with numerous faults and fold axes. These islands are the northern outpost of the Caledonian orogeny and there are outcrops of Lewisian, Dalriadan and Moine metamorphic rocks with similar histories to their equivalents on the Scottish mainland. Similarly, there are also Old Red Sandstone deposits and granite intrusions. The most distinctive features are the ultrabasic ophiolite, peridotite and gabbro on Unst and Fetlar, which are remnants of the Iapetus Ocean floor.[22] Much of Shetland's economy depends on the oil-bearing sediments in the surrounding seas.[23] Geological evidence shows that in around 6100 BC a tsunami caused by the Storegga Slides hit Shetland, as well as the rest of the east coast of Scotland, and may have created a wave of up to 25 metres (82 ft) high in the voes where modern populations are highest.[24] The highest point of Shetland is Ronas Hill, which only reaches 450 metres (1,480 ft) and the Pleistocene glaciations entirely covered the islands. The Stanes of Stofast is a 2000 tonne glacial erratic that came to rest on a prominent hilltop in Lunnasting during this period.[25] Shetland is a National Scenic Area, although unusually this single designated area is made up of a number of discrete locations: Fair Isle, Foula, South West Mainland (including the Scalloway Islands), Muckle Roe, Esha Ness, Fethaland and Herma Ness.[26]

Found a 1967 Dalek at London, Heathrow... Believed two have been captured by Cpt Jack of Torchwood

What..? A Pub in England... Never! 

and then I caught my ride home...


1. "Shetland Islands Council". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
2. Shetland Islands Council (2010) p. 4
3. National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
4. Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 406
5. Breeze, David J. "The ancient geography of Scotland" in Smith and Banks (2002) pp. 11-13.
6. Watson (1994) p. 7
7. Watson (2005) p. 30
8. Oftedal, M. (1956) "The Gaelic of Leurbost". Norsk Tidskrift for Sprogvidenskap. (Norwegian Journal of Linguistics).
9. DIPLOMATARIUM NORVEGICUM. p.2 [1190] Dilectissimis amicis suis et hominibus Haraldus Orcardensis, Hetlandensis et Catanesie comes salutem.
10. Gammeltoft (2010) p. 21-22
11. Sandnes (2010) p. 9
12. "Placenames with -a, hjalt, Leirvik". Norwegian Language Council. (Norwegian). Retrieved 26 March 2011.
13. Jones (1997) p. 210
14. "Zetland County Council" Retrieved 16 July 2009.
15. Gammeltoft (2010) p. 19
16. "Visit Shetland". Retrieved 25 December 2010.
17. Shetland Islands Council (2010) p. 10
18. Hansom, J.D. (2003) "St Ninian's Tombolo". (pdf) Coastal Geomorphology of Great Britain. Geological Conservation Review. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
19. "Get-a-map". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
20. Fojut, Noel (1981) "Is Mousa a broch?" Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 111 pp. 220-228
21. "Skaw (Unst)" Shetlopedia. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
22. Gillen (2003) pp. 90-91
23. Keay & Keay (1994) p. 867
24. Smith, David "Tsunami hazards". Retrieved 7 March 2011.
25. Schei (2006) pp. 103-04
26. "National Scenic Areas". SNH. Retrieved 30 March 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog entry on Shetland. Please may I appropriate your picture of Lerwick at the top -- I'm writing about it on my own blog at If you mind about this, tell me and I'll take the photo down (it hasn't got there yet). You captured some gorgeous images here.