Friday, October 9, 2015

Shetland - Crossroads of Culture for 5,000 years

Almost 150 miles north of the Scottish mainland lies a misty group of islands collectively known as Shetland.  Though officially part of Scotland, Shetland is geographically and culturally about midway between Scotland and Norway.

Shetland is not a place that is particularly easy to get to, necessitating either four flights on two different airlines from home in central New York, or three flights and a 14-hour ferry trip.  Towards the end of the marathon 30-hours of flying, as we descended towards Aberdeen, over the Scottish Highlands, I stared out over snow-topped mountains and a twinge of unease touched my heart.  Were we doing the right thing?  We only manage to go on a big trip like this once in a long time, and it was a huge investment.  We had talked about going to the Highlands, and exploring their legendary beauty.  But the distant islands called.  Ten years before we had made our way to Orkney, the island group directly adjacent to the north coast of Scotland.  There, we had found ourselves completely enthralled at the amazing archaeological sites layered through time from the neolithic through the middle ages, thousands of years of history, all in the same place, and with only a small number of other tourists to share it with.  It was an unforgettable experience to wander through a 5,000 year old tomb, past an iron age tower, and around the walls of a thousand year old church ruin, spending hours exploring without ever seeing another person.  Shetland promised this again, only more so, with its spectacular archaeological sites, and even fewer tourists on this road much less traveled.

The Highlands faded into the distance and we came in low over Aberdeen, landing in time to catch our final flight out into the mists of the North Sea, to Shetland.  Someday we would come back to the Scottish Highlands.  But not today.  And we would not regret our decision to come all this way.

In the next few posts I'll touch on some of the highlights of this wonderful, mysterious place.

The shore at Eshaness

Iron-Age ruins at Jarlshof

Puffin at Hermaness

The site of a 5,000 year old settlement

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