Wild & Woolly: Shetland with Kate Humble
- Featuring Kate Humble, co-led by resident naturalist guides
- Seven night full board accommodation spanning eight days
- Meet local farmers, musicians, craft and knitwear designers
- Unique Shetland experience celebrating cultural & natural heritage
Join Kate Humble and the Shetland Nature team for a truly unique Shetland experience. The islands are world famous for their wildlife and their cultural heritage – a heritage borne from the unique circumstances of the islands’ position in some of the richest fishing waters in the northern hemisphere, a place where the traditional Scottish crofting life was changed irrevocably both by the turning of the seasons and the call of the sea.
Life in Shetland evolved over the centuries to become something unique, with breeds of livestock on the croft adapted to the sub-Arctic climate. Shetland’s colourful, hardy sheep shaped the landscape and the lives of those who worked the land when they weren’t at sea. That landscape became a place where wildlife thrived on the crofts and the hills, where otters and seabirds abounded on the coastal fringes and, inland, a rich biodiversity of upland waders, wildfowl and flora was to be found.
Throughout the week Kate is joined by resident Shetlander, crofter and nature writer Jon Dunn, author of ‘Orchid Summer’, who will co-lead the itinerary. Adding a uniquely authentic insight you will meet the crofters who care for the land, the designers, knitters and lace-makers who make the finest garments from Shetland wool, and the wildlife that lives alongside them in the islands – and, of course, the Shetland sheep themselves!
We will sample the delicious local food from land and sea, hear stories of traditional life and folklore, and enjoy the company of the very best folk musicians the islands have to offer. This will be a tour unlike any other – a wild and woolly exploration of Shetland’s heart.
Saturday – meet and greet
Having arrived and settled in we will meet for a pre-dinner drink and enjoy the chance for guests and guides to get acquainted. Over dinner, we enthuse about the exciting week that lies ahead from the places we will visit, walks we will take, people (and animals!) we will meet and, of course, the wildlife we will see.
Overnight: Sumburgh Hotel
Sunday – South Mainland
We begin our week with a gentle coastal walk from the hotel to the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, where we will find a kaleidoscope of breeding seabirds, including the popular and characterful Puffins. From here we will travel north just a few miles to meet local historian and storyteller James Tait for a fascinating insight into our cultural heritage and an introduction to crofting on these wild and windswept islands. On James’ family croft and home he will share his knowledge of how Shetlanders have worked these lands over the centuries to the present day – and, of course, we’ll be meeting our first Shetland lambs of the week! In the afternoon we’ll enjoy a walk out to the picturesque St Ninian’s Isle, joined to the Mainland by a narrow sand spit forming a dramatic geological feature known as a tombolo. It was here that a beautiful horde of Pictish silver was found, many years ago – we may not find Pictish treasure, but in James’ company we will unearth some gems about Shetland’s past! Over dinner in the evening James will give an insight into Shetlands fascinating history and heritage.
Overnight: Sumburgh Hotel
Monday – North Mainland
Leaving Shetland’s southernmost point we journey north to the rugged and remote north western extremity of the Shetland Mainland, Northmavine. To begin exploring this spectacular landscape we start off with a coastal walk from the Eshaness Lighthouse. For the afternoon, safari-style, we will visit some of this area’s lesser known sites where we spend time searching for iconic wildlife and hopefully our first chance of the elusive otter. In the evening we enjoy the hospitality of Andrea Manson, proprietor of the St Magnus Bay Hotel, as she shares her passion for traditional Shetland food.
Overnight: St Magnus Bay Hotel
Tuesday – In search of otters
Island-hopping, we leave Shetland Mainland to take the first of two short ferry crossings; from Mainland to Yell, and then onwards to Unst, the most northerly island in Britain. En route we meet Brydon Thomason to spend the day learning about Shetland’s otters and the fascinating lives they lead. During the day Brydon will share with us some of his favourite otter territories whilst, along the way, learning where and when to find them as well as sharing his 30 years experience and passion for these charismatic and remarkable animals.
Overnight: Saxa Vord, Unst
Wednesday – A day at the top of Britain
In the morning, enjoying a trail walk across the moorland of this National Nature Reserve, we reach the spectacular sea cliffs of Hermaness. Here, at the northern extremity of the British Isles we take in the sights and sounds of some of the most dramatic Gannet colonies in Europe. Following the coast a short distance we will also enjoy views of the iconic Stevenson-built Muckle Flugga lighthouse and surrounding sea stacks. Known at the time as the Impossible Lighthouse, it is said that Robert Louis Stevenson based the characters in Treasure Island upon the people he met in Unst! Walking across the moors we will be serenaded by Skylarks and the calls of Dunlins and Golden Plovers. At the cliffs, soaring effortlessly in the updrafts Fulmar are always a delight whilst on the moorland Great Skuas will be staking breeding territories. This walk allows us to easily see the uplands of Shetland, a place where only the hardiest wildlife and sheep can be found. In the afternoon we visit Unst Heritage Centre where we meet the island’s lace knitters and learn about life on this remote island, both past and present, as well as visiting Viking Unst project.
Overnight: Saxa Vord, Unst
Thursday – Shetland Ponies and working sheepdogs
For those who fancy a pre-breakfast walk, we’ll have an optional visit to the Keen of Hamar, a unique area of serpentine fellfield habitat that boasts a wildflower found on Unst and nowhere else in the world – Edmonston’s Chickweed. While we search for this rare flower, we should also find the first orchids to flower in Shetland every spring, and perhaps a territorial plover or two for good measure.
Before leaving Unst we meet one of the islands’ most famous faces – Shetland ponies. Visiting a stud farm we get to meet the ponies and their breeders, and learn about this world-renowned tough, stocky breed, and their often feisty nature.
Leaving Unst, we are bound for Shetland Mainland again. In the afternoon we visit Andrew Hughson, an esteemed and nationally accomplished sheep dog trainer and trials champion. Andrew will introduce us to his working dogs, and will treat us to a show of them in action. With lambing in full swing, we’ll doubtless get to see more of a new generation of Shetland sheep enjoying the spring sunshine.
Friday – Shetland Knitwear & visit to Shetland’s capital town
From Scalloway, we are island hopping once again but today, on route to Burra we are linked via the small bridges that connect Mainland, Trondra and Burra, making these idyllic little island groups an easily accessible, must-see location. Here we visit Joanna Hunter, founder of local knitwear producer Ninian. This brand is at the very cutting edge of Shetland knitwear today, sourcing their own yarns, making their own products in their studio to create a unique collection of contemporary knits with traditional Fair Isle themes throughout. Close by, we visit neighbouring knitwear craft brand, Burra Bears, who make ‘the original Shetland Teddy Bear’ from recycling Shetland knitwear. If you have an old Fair Isle jumper that needs a new home, perhaps you could commission a Burra Bear all of your own?
For lunch we travel into Shetland’s capital town, Lerwick, where we set aside time for you to browse and enjoy the shops at your leisure before we rendezvous at on Victoria Pier in the town centre- from here we embark on an exhilarating voyage onboard with Shetland Seabird Tours to the spectacular Noss National Nature Reserve. Here the sights and sounds of Shetlands second largest Gannet colony, alongside the many other species of seabirds nesting on the spectacular cliffs of the island are a fitting finale to our outdoor adventures. Returning to Shetland’s South Mainland once again to where our week began, we check in to the Sumburgh Hotel for our final night. But in true Shetland style, we treat you to an evening of Shetland fiddle music with some of the islands’ most renowned folk musicians, Maurice Henderson and Ewan Thompson, who not only entertain us with their tunes but also the stories behind them.
Overnight: Sumburgh Hotel