We arrived in Lerwick at 7:30 am and devised some semblance of a plan. We were just going to head to the west end of the island follow the points of interest and viewpoints on the map. First up: a waterfall.
From there, we set off for Michael’s Wood. We had some trouble finding it, so I asked this lady who was walking three massive beasts. This “baby” was the biggest of the bunch. His name is Odin. He’s two.
The woman pointed us in the right direction, but warned that it wasn’t anything majestic like I had in mind. They were just a bunch of small trees. Not even picture worthy. However, she did suggest checking out Sand and Skeld. And so, we were off yet again.
However, the lady didn’t mention anything in particular to see in Sand, aside from St. Mary’s Chapel, which is apparently where some pirates are buried. Unfortunately, the chapel wasn’t coming up on either the Sat Nav or on Google Maps, so we just punched in Sand.
Once in Sand, we couldn’t find anything, so we asked another local for advice. Meet Ruth, the most hilarious and adorable 68 year old woman I’ve ever met. She had the most Scottish of Scottish accents. I could listen to her read me phone numbers all day. Imagine Willy’s accent from the Simpsons, but not as harsh, and more feminine. She pronounced house “hoose” and about “aboot” for crying out loud!
Ruth was working the land of a farm. She’s retired and does it as a hobby. However, she said that “The manager of the land better have a plan B, because Ruth isn’t going to be around forever!” She’s born and raised in Shetland and lives just two houses over from where her grandparents were born and raised.
Ruth was kind enough to give us some directions and advice for things to check out. She started spouting out a long list of directions on how to get to Walls (pronouced Waas), but she abruptly stopped, cocked her head, and asked, “D’ye have a map?” I replied that I did, and she yelled, “Well let’s go see,” laughing to herself for expecting me to try to remember all of her directions. She suggested we check out Walls because there was an agricultural fair going on, as well as Dale and Sandness. Ruth also reminded us that “Every day is a school day”–meaning that you learn something new every day–because she’s an adorable grandma, and adorable grandmas say stuff like that.
With happiness in our hearts, we headed for Walls. It was just about the most Scottish place in all of Scotland. Shetland ponies, a sheep judging competition, and vikings for some reason. The only way it could’ve been more Scottish is if the ponies were wearing kilts, the sheep were eating haggis, and Groundskeeper Willy himself was jamming on the bagpipes.
At some point, there was apparently also a children’s beauty pageant.
One 80 year old woman was given a cake and flowers in honour of attending her 64th consecutive agricultural show, which is pretty cool.
Apparently some people colour their sheep orange to accentuate particular features of their bodies. Don’t ask me why, I’m just relaying the information.
Oh, and on our drive, we came across this “Honesty Box.” It’s not a confessional in a box sort of thing; it’s an honour-based pay-what-you-want portable convenience store! Inside is water, juice, candy, and baked goodies. There’s also a blue piggy bank and a notebook to jot down what you bought and how much you paid. Pretty nifty, right?
On our drive to Walls, we also made a detour to find the Stanydale Temple, which was a point of interest on our map. It wasn’t mapped out very well, though, and we spent about 15-20 minutes driving around and looking for it. When we finally found it and walked another 10 minutes in the cold rain, it was a tad underwhelming. Though, to be fair, 1600 B.C. is a long ass time ago, so that’s pretty cool.
It’s believed that this may have been a temple because of its size and because its shape apparently resembles the burial chambers and houses being constructed at the time. However, it could have also been a chieftain’s house or a village hall. So basically, it’s anybody’s guess. I’m gonna say it was a pub. Its name was the Roundstone. Final answer.
Our next stop was Dale. It was gorgeous. It looked like the edge of the world was just beyond the horizon. However, because it involved a bit of a climb, Doris suggested we take a nap in the car. This is why I love travelling with her.
After our nap, we made our way to the edge of the world and returned to the car in one piece.
Final stop: Sandness–the most western point on the island. It was frustrating and disappointing–mainly because the map that was posted was a boldfaced liar. There was no hiking trail to speak of anywhere around. We even walked through what may or may not have been somebody’s private property to find said trail, and found nothing but a whole bunch of sheep poop.
No bother, though. We’d still had a great day, and now we were ready for bed.
Or so we thought.
On our drive to Luxo, our resting spot for the night, we drove by a lively bar that piqued our interest. And when I say lively bar, I mean there were people outside dressed in all sorts of carnival/circus-themed costumes; there was music blaring; there was a huge crowd of animals and clowns posing for a group photo around a fish statue. It was a bizarre scene. We had to check it out.
We were immediately greeted by a fairly drunk 18 year old girl. She was very friendly and fascinated by the fact that we were from Canada. In fact, she was so fascinated by this fact that she kept pulling friends over, saying, “Meet the Canadians!” We hadn’t yet given our names. Once we did, though, this group of hammmmmmered girls just about lost their minds. I’m pretty sure I witnessed one girl’s brain explode in her head. “OH MY GOD! IT’S ARIEL AND DORY! YOU’RE ARIEL AND DORY FROM FINDING NEMO! OH MY GOD!” This was repeated over and over again. She then asked where we were from, despite the fact that we had just told them all we were from Canada, and her face melted off when we told her again. We hadn’t even stepped foot in the bar, and Doris and I were already pissing ourselves laughing.
The group of girls then had us say random expressions so they could hear our hilarious Canadian accents. I’m not sure who was laughing more, though–them at our accents, or us at how gut bustingly funny they thought everything sounded. They were beyond drunk.
The girls went inside, and we were left talking to a fine gentleman by the name of Aiden who was clearly drunk, but could still carry a normal conversation. At least, until I took off my hat, that is. “OH MY GOD! YOU HAVE AMAZING HAIR!”
When we told this dude that we were brother and sister even though we don’t look anything alike, he laughed and said, “Of course! You guys have the same smile!” and proceeded to stretch his smile with his fingers. Doris then turned to me with bulging eyes and said, “I TOLD YOU!” Drunken Aiden proved her right.
The drunken girls were beckoning us into the bar’s dance hall to dance on the tables to terrible music. You want to feel old? Try standing in a room full of drunken 18 year olds in ridiculous costumes running amok in a bar. Thankfully, I have the coolest 17 year old sister in the world, and she wanted to get the hell out of there just as badly as I did. Thank God my sister is normal.
We moved over to the bar side of the establishment and ordered us some grub. While we were eating, the party posse left and headed for a club in Lerwick. Shortly after, another group arrived and took over the dance hall. They were all dressed like they just came off the set of Grease 3. It was mostly girls wearing Pink Ladies jackets. Sure enough, songs from Grease started playing. Doris and I were almost at the car when the music started playing, and Doris just couldn’t resist; we had to go back.
It turns out, every weekend in Shetland, somebody rents a tour bus, fills it with all of their friends, organizes a themed birthday party, and goes bonkers in the dance hall. Every Saturday.
We quickly befriended the birthday girl’s mother, as well as the birthday girl herself, an American-Scottish lass by the name of Sophie, and Maria Rosie through the magical wonders of a Grease. All the ladies were dancing and singing along to their favourite tunes. Doris was in Heaven.
The birthday girl was celebrating her 21st year on this planet, meaning that she and her friend were less crazy than the teens that came before them. They weren’t there very long before heading to a nearby bar. They invited us to tag along, and we couldn’t say no.
The birthday girl’s mom owned the bar. The DJ was having the time of his life and dancing harder than anybody on the dance floor. There was a guy who looked about as miserable as somebody who gets called in to work their crappy job on a Saturday they had booked off to go see their favourite band perform. The entire bar erupted in a sing along of the Proclaimers’ “500 Miles.” Basically, it was loads of fun.
Towards the end of the night, we befriended Duncan, who was kind enough to let us crash at his parent’s place. This was yet another offer we could not turn down.
It meant a half hour walk in the rain at the end of the night, but it was well worth it. Their house had a breathtaking view of a lake, there were sheep everywhere, and Duncan’s parents were kind-hearted souls. Shetland is just overflowing with kindness. Except for that one depressed dude at the bar. Somebody needs to give that man a hug.