The Wayfarer - An insight into the real Shetland

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Now I imagine that a lot of my readers may have been watching that excellent crime drama on BBC1 based in the Shetlands. I have never been there but have very much enjoyed the aerial shots showing a treeless countryside with steep impressive cliffs.

The BBC have certainly made the island very interesting by showing it off to its best advantage. The total length of the island is 70 miles but it has 900 miles of coastline and nowhere is further than three miles from the sea. Shetland is made up of 100 islands of which only 15 are inhabited by a total population of 22,000. There are numerous ferries keeping all the islands connected but It is amazing to consider a situation where a coastline dominates the whole area as much as this. The capital, Lerwick is further north than Moscow and lies closer to Bergan in Norway than Edinburgh. No doubt the Gulf Stream keeps the islands warm in the winter at least warmer than Moscow. Shetland was Norse until 1468 when it was mortgaged to Scotland as security for the dowry of Princess Margarethe of Denmark betrothed to the future James 111 of Scotland. When the dowry could not be paid the island was annexed to the Scottish crown. The Shetlands used to be called Zetland which is the old Norse name and I understand that there is still is a Marquess of Zetland. The highest point of the Shetland islands is Ronas Hill near the northern tip of the mainland which is some 1,475 feet high where at the top can be found a rare combination of Artic and Alpine plants. The first bombs in the second World War were dropped at Sullom but there were no casualties and little damage. The most attractive exports from the island is the Shetland Pony which stands some 42 inches high at its shoulder when full grown. Bred as a tough work horse pulling all sorts of ploughshares and equipment including trucks down the coal mines. When child labour was banned it became very popular. However I am sure there were many who would perhaps rather see the children back down the mines than this very attractive pony which has now become a pet in many parts of the world. I am joking of course, the Shetland Pony really is a treasure.

Now this brief insight into the Shetlands is so that when you watch the next part of the drama you can appreciate a little more of the Shetland islands which perhaps may make it all the more interesting.