A quick bounce down the coast saw us moored up in Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands, on Friday morning. We grabbed a quick breakfast, donned boots and waterproofs and set off to explore.
The weather wasn’t particularly kind – pouring with rain and blowing what I believe is known as a ‘hoolie’ north of the border. Amusingly, when we popped into a café to dry out and wrap ourselves round a coffee, a friendly local told us that “at least it wasn’t windy”. Well, if that’s flat calm, I’d hate to see the place in a gale! Damp feet and inside-out brollies notwithstanding, we had a really good mooch round the town, discovering some old fishing cottages and warehouses, the Napoleonic fort (later used during both World Wars), and the dry and fascinating haven of the town’s museum.
This was an absolute revelation – quite possibly the best small museum we’ve ever been in. It told the story of Shetland from its geological beginnings, through early man, and into the modern age of fishing and, eventually, the discovery of oil. Laid out in a series of rooms with things to look at, listen to, and prod, it was a fascinating journey both literally and figuratively, with some memorable exhibits: the reconstructed face of a Stone Age woman which looked startlingly modern; another reconstruction of an 18th or 19th century crofter’s house which didn’t seem to have changed much from the days of Skara Brae on Orkney. And after a nice lunch (in the next-door arts centre, since the museum restaurant was bursting at the seams) we returned to explore the boat sheds, where experts are currently conserving one of the lifeboats from HMS Oceanic, one of the White Star line ships (think Titanic).
All in all Lerwick seems like a lovely little town and we really enjoyed poking about, and would love to come back some day for a slightly longer call. Of course, the minute our ship set sail the rain stopped, the clouds rolled away, and the sun came out – but at least that gave us a taste of what the place could look like on a decent day.