Lerwick, Mainland, Shetland, Scotland, United Kingdom

Our first port of call for our month in the United Kingdom was Lerwick.  The town of Lerwick is located on the island of Mainland.  Mainland is part of the Shetland Islands.  The Shetland Islands are part of Scotland which is a a part of the United Kingdom.  So where were we?  We were in Shetland, specifically Lerwick.

The trail along the shore with Lerwick in the background

The town of Lerwick has about 7,000 people and is the biggest town in Shetland.  The Shetland archipelago has over 100 islands but only 16 of them are inhabited.  The total population of the region is 23,000.  The heritage of the people is both Scottish and Viking, and both are celebrated equally.

Tom and I decided to explore Lerwick on our own, since the town is so small.  Our ship was too large to dock, so we rode a tender boat in.  We are not, however, the largest cruise ship to come to Lerwick.  Last week a ship with 8,000 passengers stopped by, which doubled the population on the island.  It made the front page of the weekly paper.

We were met in the harbor by volunteers passing out maps and answering questions.  Tom and I had a plan for the day, so we quickly headed out along the shoreline.  There is a paved path that goes most of the way around the island close to shore.  It is a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  We walked a little over a mile until we came to Clickimin Broch, where we left the shore path.

Clickimin Broch

Clickimin Broch is an outstanding example of a broch, a sophisticated type of stone-built round house found only in Scotland. Clickimin Broch has evidence of settlement spanning over a thousand years.  Inside several layers of rock walls rises the broch.  To the west of the broch tower are the remains of a number of different structures dating from around 1000 BC to 500 AD.  We walked all around the broch and explored the various nooks and crevices in the rock walls.  Very impressive.

After the beautiful walk and the impressive broch, we headed to the Shetland Museum, which was on the other side of Lerwick.  It didn’t take us long to walk there, and it was interesting to see the old buildings of the town, still made of local rock.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed when we got there.  It doesn’t open until noon, and we were there at 11 a.m.

We found out later that it was also Spring Bank Holiday so schools and some businesses were closed.  Bank Holiday used to be Whitsunday Monday, but they changed it to the last Monday of May and call it Spring Bank Holiday.  It isn’t Memorial Day, like in the United States.  It’s just a holiday, which gives everyone a long weekend.  For no particular reason.

Fort Charlotte

We found Fort Charlotte and walked around there.  The fort was originally constructed in 1665, but the Dutch burned it down a few years later.  The fort was rebuilt in the 1780’s but was never used for defense.  But we enjoyed seeing the historic bastions and even found some cannons for Tom.

Looks like Tom is ready to fire on our ship!
Commerce Street

After the disappointment at the museum, Tom and I decided to check out the shops.  Most of the shops were open and doing a brisk business.  I heard some of the locals asking the shop owners why there were so many people.  I’m sure the shop owners are glad of the extra business that the cruise ships bring in.  Tom and I went in more shops in Lerwick than we had in any other port.  The small shops along Commerce Street were a treat to visit.

We spent some time in Jamiesons of Shetland.  They are a family-owned business in operation since 1893.  The Jamieson family raise Shetland sheep and process their wool for yarn that is knitted, woven, and sold throughout the world.  Their only shop is in Lerwick, but they have a mill in Sandness where the wool is scoured, spun, dyed, knit, and woven.  Although the shop is small, they offer over 300 colors of their wool in many different thicknesses.

As soon as I walked into the shop, I was drawn to the 25g miniskeins.  I walked down the line of colors and picked out five shades of a heathery green.  I decided I wanted to make a Fair Isle hat with the greens and the manager of the shop helped me find a pattern.  It is the pattern from this year’s Shetland Wool Week, which is September 29-October 4.  Maybe I could convince Tom to come back for that.

Another shop we really enjoyed was Island Larder which had locally sourced food items for sale.  Tom and I were having a hard time finding a place for lunch.  All the restaurants were overwhelmed by the number of cruise ship passengers.  The line for the Fish and Chips shop was out the door and down the block.  When we came to Island Larder, we decided to see what they had to offer.

Mallow cookie

Only the most delicious homemade goodies we could want!  They had ice cream made there in the shop, fudge made with ingredients from local farms, and cookies.  The cookies looked wonderful, so Tom and I decided to have a cookie and delay lunch until we got back to the ship.  The woman in the shop proudly told us that the cookies were made from Shetland eggs, Shetland butter and Belgian chocolate.  Tom got a chocolate chip cookie and I got a mallow cookie.  The shop makes its own (marsh)mallow and puts it in the middle of a chocolate chip cookie.  The cookies were so good that we went back for seconds!

We spent a while looking for a demitasse spoon.  I liked Lerwick so much that I wanted one just from the Shetland Islands.  Although there were several shops that sold souvenirs – postcards and magnets – none of them had a spoon.  Most of the souvenirs were items made in Shetland, and they were beautiful, but they were a higher caliber of souvenir than we wanted.

Tom and I enjoyed our day in Lerwick very much.  It was fun to talk to some local people and hear their beautiful Shetland pronunciations.  The people were very friendly and welcoming of our cruise ship invasion.  And we got to see some gorgeous scenery and historic sites.