Shetland highlights, 1 – The Crofthouse Museum

I could go on about Shetland at length, but that would probably not be very exciting – and would probably largely consist of me raving about Fjara, a newish place to eat and have a drink near Tesco in Lerwick; it’s very good. The seals come up around it too – outside Tesco was one of the best places to spot seals, and I was a bit worried that they might have moved on. Nah.

still a good rock

Once you’ve got a good rock, you’ve got a good rock.


I’ve decided to highlight a few aspects over the next few posts, often photographically, and end with a slightly hysterical look at what I bought. (One of the bags was quite overweight, cough, cough, can’t think why that should have been.) For anyone who knows Shetland, I hope they’re evocative; for anyone who has not yet been…

My first short focus is on the lovely Crofthouse Museum near Boddam, just off the main road between Lerwick and Sumburgh. (Nice link, but it does repeat the ‘no trees’ myth.)

crofthouse museum

(The ropes are coir, and we were told that it’s getting very difficult to find the real McCoy when they need replacing, as they do.)

I’ve been before, and knew what to expect: a feel for past life in Shetland – albeit a comparatively well-off life, by mid-nineteenth-century-in-Shetland standards.

crofthouse museum1

It is so evocative, from the box beds to the scent of the peat fire, from the mousetrap (ouch) to the deep windows and the earth floor in the ben end – the sleeping part. One of the box beds was away in an exhibition of taatit rugs at the Museum in Lerwick (what’s a taatit rug? watch this space). This gave an almost sculptural prominence to a wheel:

croft house museum 3I’m not quite sure it was ready for action; I tried it tentatively, but…

Spinning and knitting, of course, were a vital part of the economy (check out this post on knitting to ‘pay’ for basic commodities from my last visit), and there is a hap shawl on a stretcher in the but end (the main room) to emphasise the point.


There are baskets (kishies and others) on top of the box beds and rivlins (sealskin or hide wrap-over home-made shoes) hang from the ceiling. There’s a big black kettle and a cruisie lamp. And there’s usually someone on duty who can enlighten you about the mousetrap, talk to you about peat cutting, and bring the reality of the past to life (and reveal, to our mutual surprise, common links to a small village in Sutherland).

Outside, quite apart from being very cold, it was blowing a hooley. As a result we didn’t walk down to the little mill or explore the stone-built shed with a roof formed from a boat’s hull, but we couldn’t escape the fish drying outside. Almost ready, apparently.


Personally, I think I’ll stick to the Fjara version. What softies we are now!

6 thoughts on “Shetland highlights, 1 – The Crofthouse Museum

  1. Lydia

    I am eating my tea and toast over here on a stormy day not far from the Indian Ocean, but, now after reading your post I am Over There in Shetland… gazing through that wonderful little window with the deep windowsill… and wishing that I had a suitcase bulging with little woolly surprises! Have the best of fun and I am enjoying your trip enormously. Bye for now. Lydia

    1. kate Post author

      I now feel as though I’m eating toast close to the Indian Ocean, that’s an evocative image in itself!

      (Isn’t t’internet amazing? We take it for granted somewhat, but every so often I get that thrill again which I felt in the early days, watching the coffee pot fill up, gazing in awe at live footage from one of the first UK webcams… I feel old!)

  2. Elaine spinningsheepfeathers

    I would also like to be in the room with the deep window and have a bulging wooly suitcase!! There is a Cotswold Cottage at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, that I have visited many times and it reminds me so much of this lovely cottage.
    Thanks so much for sharing these lovely pictures!! That Seal is the same color as the rock!!

    1. kate Post author

      The seals are so perfectly camouflaged – well, some of them are – that I found myself staring at a rock for several minutes before I realised it was a rock. Dur…


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