Shetland highlights, 2 – the sea

Sorry about the delay. Root canal part 2 followed by hefty antibiotics and an asthma flare-up left me feeling a bit crappy. That’s what you get for travelling. Should have stayed at home. Hm. I don’t think so.

This is why: Mousa OK, the view from my house is pretty good and I can see the sea, but not like this, not this sea. The island is Mousa, famous for its Iron Age broch, which can just be seen at the extreme(ish) right. It’s that thing that looks like a cooling tower. The only intact broch, it’s also famous for the Manx Shearwaters who use it as a roost.

(I’m not going to drone on about brochs; the Wikipedia entry is quite good and I can – and do – go on and on and on about what their function might have been. I’ve been broch hunting since I was about 12, a pastime which led to several family rows, lots of falling in interesting bogs, and an early encounter with someone who much later became a very good friend.)


Back to inspiration, particularly colour inspiration. I knew I wanted to knit a Fair Isle, something which I haven’t done for ages and ages and ages. But I’ve done lots of traditional ones and, quite frankly, I think I’m trad-Fair-Isled out, even still. So I wanted to do something a bit different. I decided to let the landscape work on me. And after about a day in Shetland, I began to feel the need to knit something in blues: Shetland 2a Can’t think why, really. That, by the way, is Dore Holm. Well, the island with the arch is; the foreground is part of Eshaness. That’s as far north as we got on this trip; Yell and Unst will have to wait for next time. But we did do a fair bit of exploring.

And as I did more and more, I became more and more convinced that a fundamentally blue Fair Isle would just have to be knitted. Shetland 2b Though perhaps green would have to put in an appearance (the lump is Dore Holm again, from a bit further round at Stenness).

But we had stopped for cake at the wonderful Braewick Cafe, and when I looked at my shots later I began to think about adding silvery greys… Shetland 2c So beautiful, and the pointy things at the right are the Drongs. Oh yes they are. They are spectacular granite stacks – the ‘main Drong’ is 60m high – and they have been climbed. This just confirms my opinion, formed with the help of not a few acquaintances, that almost all climbers are mad (says the woman living in Snowdonia). Heavy weather can cause problems (really?) and they’re surrounded by submerged rocks. Obviously you need to hire a boat as – and I’m quoting here – ‘there’s nothing to tie your kayak to’. Plus the rock is described as ‘quite friable’. They are rated as severe to hard/very severe. Oh, come now, surely not.

Maybe I need a bit more colour, because now I’m feeling slightly ill at the thought of climbing the Drongs. I just know it wouldn’t be so much climbing as hanging off with one fingernail while trying to take scary pictures. Eek. Ok, colour. Colour and knitting possibilities. Maybe I need some licheny yellows in my Fair Isle? Shetland 2d And maybe a hint of lobster pot.

Fairly recently somebody said to me that she couldn’t see the point in travelling. I didn’t quite know how to respond, and I’m afraid I just goggled at her instead of leaping to a passionate defence of broadening your whole outlook on the world and counterattacking narrowness and provinciality. I suppose that’s what happens if you never leave your village and have a lot of first-cousin marriage over many generations (six fingers are also a possibility). Maybe my family – seafarers for generations – are unusual. Doubt it. Really, really doubt it. People have always got up and moved about, going right back to the very few (it could have been as few as seven individuals, some researchers have speculated) who left Africa in the deepest prehistory, and to whom we owe our existence. We’re just fidgety. You’ve got to see what’s over the horizon… er, unless it’s the Drongs and a kayaking lunatic hung about with ropes. If it is, run away. There’s another horizon in the opposite direction, that’s what I say….


12 thoughts on “Shetland highlights, 2 – the sea

  1. nanacathy2

    Definitely some lobster pot, I love a lobster pot. So far then, blue, silver, litchen and lobster pot. There is quite a nice sandy brown in your pictures too. Travel yes, does you good and that getting back home feeling is brilliant.

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve got to get seal in there somewhere!

      Actually, I could have almost any colour I wanted due to the huge ammount of plastic shite that gets thrown into the sea (or finds its way there), and which then gets blown onto beaches by the storms…

  2. ConnieM

    I enjoy your humour and I support the importance of traveling.
    Traveling = the curiosity to find out what will be behind the next corner…
    Traveling + Knitting = satisfying your curiosity and broaden your sense of colour and harmony as well as always having good topics for interesting conversations, thus getting in touch with many friendly and inspiring people!

    1. kate Post author

      You are so right!!

      Surely life could be very boring wothour sprinkling some travel into the mix. Admittedly there are aspects to it I would prefer to avoid (airports, mostly, and some tour parties you encounter en route, and dodgy reheated rice and being really stupid and losing your boarding pass in Moscow, that was interesting), but nothing’s perfect!

  3. Spade & Dagger

    Hope you are feeling better now.
    I want that roofless croft in the bay (at Stenness) – even though it probably has no roof because of its’ exposed location – as to walk out of that door, into that watery scenery each day would be wonderful (assuming it is possible to walk in the winds there !).

    1. kate Post author

      I think it would probably have been a bit windy and exposed, though maybe not as bad as it looks – there was a hill above it which would have given some protection from the northerlies… ahhhhhh…..

  4. Thread Forward

    Beautiful inspiration photos! The colours will make a beautiful and meaningful sweater. I don’t think travel is ever a waste of time, even if only a few hours from your home, staying somewhere new and having an adventure is so rewarding.

    1. kate Post author

      Absolutely – can’t imagine why someone would NOT want to travel/ Most odd.

      Reminds me of a friend of mine (now, sadly, no more). When he announced to his mother that he was intending to do some travelling – instead of being a good boy and settling down – his mother said ‘the trouble is, X, that travelling doesn’t get you anywhere.’ I gather that the argument then fell apart in mutual hysterics…

  5. croftgarden

    The photographs say it all – the quality of the light, the colours, the skies, the space and always a horizon to contemplate, such is the magic of Scotlands northern islands.
    Totally agree about the bad habits of some of our fellow H. sapiens, I spend too much time clearing everyone’s plastic detritus from our beaches!
    As a young nomad I was warned about the long-term affects of “Arctic Fever” – obviously never managed a full recovery as I’m living on a northern outpost (not quite beyond the arctic circle).
    I don’t think you have the full blown syndrome, just a mild case of northern isles-itis, but it can be a chronic condition! Thank you for sparing the dentistry details – do hope you’re feeling better.

    1. kate Post author

      Stunning, stunning, stunning. I come back and go straight onto Rightmove – I have my eye on Burra, and specifically Hamnavoe – but my dreams always come down to earth when I look at the sheer logistics of getting off Shetland quickly and economically if I needed to, whether for work or family. Plastic is, however, the downside. We get a lot of it here, but not quite so much; we’re probably protected from some of the Atlantic rubbish by Ireland. And not quite so many dead seabirds, though we do have masses of jellyfish at the mo.

      I am so much happier in t’north, whether that’s North Yorkshire or Sutherland (in both of which I grew up), or now in North Wales. One of my friends recently said to me that I was House Stark which rings utterly true but only makes sense if you’re into Game of Thrones. I think I’ve got sub-Arctic fever. Hot places? Nah… and what possessed me to spend so long in London puzzles me now.

    1. kate Post author

      Neither can I!

      That link is absolutely fascinating, and I’m not in the least bit surprised. Thank you so much! Our family clearly have this tendency / genetic bias, and then we go on to marry people who also must have it which just makes it more emphatic, plus – and whether it’s connected or not, I don’t know but it probably is – there’s the sea as a constant factor as far back as we can trace. I have first cousins in South Africa and Canada as well as closer to home; my second cousins are even more widely spread and take in Brazil, for instance. And there aren’t that many of us – it’s not as though we’re a huge family. Really interesting (though the dates are out – not surprising; these are always being pushed back as new discoveries are made).

      Also interesting that the cultures whose ‘ancestors migrated out of Africa furthest/earliest’ seem to be those where the gene was expressed most clearly. This would fit in with the (here wildly over-simplified by me) ‘seven daughters of Eve’ thing – the basic European “families”. The other thing that is crystal clear in my family, on both sides, is what – for want of a better name – I’ll call being a Celt, whether that’s Irish, Scottish, Breton heritage. The old people of the west. The ones whose track seems to lead, historically, around the shores of the Med and Atlantic. One of the earlier of the seven mitochondrial inheritances. Oh dear, you’ve sparked something off. Work? What work?

      Now I’ve the perfect excuse to take off. I can’t help it!


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