July 4, 2017 – Fourth of July in the Shetland Isles

Happy Fourth of July! Strangely, here in the U.K. they are not celebrating. Maybe because they were the losers?! We don’t mention it deciding to take the higher road. And speaking of who takes the high road and who takes the low and who gets to Scotland before whom, it is we who have arrived in Scotland. The Shetland Isles are part of Scotland but they have not always been. In 1468 the Danish king wanted his daughter, Margaret, to marry King James III of Scotland. But she needed a dowry and the king did not have enough money. He gave the Shetland Isles and Orkney Isles as a dowry to James III. Lots of place names in the islands are still Norse and the people there identify more with Norway (which was a part of Denmark at the time) than with Scotland.

As we approach the main city of Lerwick a little pilot boat draws along side to drop off a pilot for our trip into the harbor.

Pilot boat to direct us into Lerwick harbor

We are lucky it is a beautiful day. So often Shetland is rainy. It is not a very populated place  with a total population of about 70,000 people and almost half of these live in Lerwick. Our first look of the Shetlands is of a treeless landscape. The climate is so harsh, windy, rainy, cold, and full of salt spray, that trees and most plants have a hard time growing.

Our first stop on our panoramic bus tour of the Mainland Island is overlooking Scalloway Bay and the ruins of Scalloway Castle.

Scalloway Bay and the ruins of Scalloway Castle

Next are Shetland ponies! This is what everyone has been waiting for. The Shetland ponies come in mini, medium, and large but none can be over 42 inches at the shoulder. They were bred mainly for working in the coal mines of Scotland and Wales. Their short stature and stocky build made them perfect for hauling coal out of the mine shafts. The owner tells us that now a days it is hard to sell them and they can go for as little as 10 or 20 pounds. Everyone enjoys seeing them.

The little pony is six weeks old

This is a mini size Shetland pony

The black and white ones are all medium sized

This large black one just made it in as a Shetland pony since he is 41.5 inches

After oohing and aching over the ponies we get back on the bus to learn more things about the Shetlands. We pass a rock pillar called the murder stone. It has been dated to around 2 BC. According to a Scottish tourism site, “it is said that at the time that it was made, the Murder Stone was used to issue justice to murderers. If the offender could run from Law Ting Holm to the Murder Stone unscathed despite the efforts of the victim’s family and friends to stop him, he was pardoned of his crimes.”

The Murder Stone

Other photos from our bus tour –

Old Parliament building

The Shetland Isles have way more sheep than people (around 200,000)

A loch

Our bus!

We have been up for a long time since we had to go through Customs and Immigration at 6:30 this morning and our tour left early as well. When we finish with the morning’s activities it only 10:30 and not even time for lunch. We have a little rest and then decide that we will take the shuttle into Lerwick to find a fish and chips shop and lift a pint somewhere.

Grubby fish and chips place

Fried halibut and chips

No beer but we each got a nice mug of tea

Now it is time to find that pint of beer. We come across a hotel, The Queens, that has a bar entrance and settle in at the bar for a pint of Tennant’s and McEwan’s beer. There is even a TV screen and we ask the barman to put on Wimbledon – pretty perfect.

Queens Hotel (and bar)

John in his traditional beer pose

We wander around Lerwick for a bit and look at the distinctive stone buildings.

Lerwick’s distinctive stone architecture

When we get back to the harbor, John tells me all about the oil drilling ocean platforms and their escape pods. These enormous structures are getting ready to be towed out to sea.

Oil drilling platform

We are eating dinner at the Chef’s Table again tonight. It is the same menu as last night but worth eating twice. Before we head down to dinner we watch the pilot boat come along side of us and pick up the pilot before we pick up speed and head for the Orkney Islands.

Pilot boat coming along side of our ship to pick up the pilot

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