Friday, March 3, 2023

Fair Isle

Leaving Shetland we sailed south, back toward Scotland, and stopped midway at Fair Isle, nearly 100 miles from Shetland.  Fair Isle is another isolated island, with a population of only about 50, though it does have a school, with 3 pupils at the moment.  Crofting and knitting provide the main income, the island being famous (among knitters) for the 'Fair Isle technique' of knitting multi-coloured jumpers.  The island also has a famous (among birders) bird observatory.

As usual we were ferried in to the tiny harbour in small groups to go exploring.  Some were headed for the small outlet to look at the knitting, while others were going bird watching.  Our ship is anchored just around the headland out of sight.

The Good ?shepherd IV was docked in the harbour, the local ferry that provides the cheapest ride back to Shetland.  It will carry one car but is mainly a passenger ferry.  The island also has a small airstrip.

Around any of the shoreline the scenery was spectacular, with cliffs dropping down into the North Sea.

Like I think all the other places we've visited outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh, sheep are ubiquitous, free to graze just about anywhere.  This one had some pretty fancy horns!

And bird watching was fun, with Puffins the main target for the serious photographers.  This one was serious enough to tell me off as I crept too close, trying to get a photo with my own rather ordinary camera lens.

Never-the-less, I did get my own photographs, a few of the Atlantic Puffins resting on the edge of the cliff.

The bird observatory was certainly a serious one, with overnight accommodation and a small cafeteria and bar.  This is a major migration point for north Atlantic birds, with a number of rarities seen every year.  The island is known as one of the best places in Europe to see rare birds.

Sadly, this building burned down in March 2019, though the birding observations were all digitized so were not lost.  A major campaign is now underway to rebuild it, led by Ann Cleeves, a well known British mystery writer, author of the books upon which  the TV series Shetland is based..  I just read one of her books actually,  Currently prefab modules are being brought over by barge, when weather permits, starting to recreate an actual building.  They hope to re-open in Fall 2023.

The island is known for its knitting, so well known in fact that there is a technique known as the 'Fair Isle technique'.  Mrs. F.G. picked up a touque; she couldn't afford a sweater!


  1. How beautiful it is. Love the touque!

  2. The cliffs are indeed spectacular. Mrs. F.G."s headgear certainly looks very nice.

  3. That is a beautiful hat. I will need to look up that Fair Isle technique. :-)

  4. Incredible place to visit - the puffins are downright adorable and I envy those who manage fair isle knitting.

  5. I think that bird sanctuary possibly was used in in one of the Shetland book. Fairly sure.

  6. It's been on my wish list for many years, but I doubt I'll ever make it over there!

  7. This is the trip on my bucket list. Two we have booked over this next it will have to wait.

  8. So enjoying all this! I have read all Ann Cleve's books ( she writes the Vera ones too) and we are watching the Shetland series on TV. Love Mrs. FG's hat. C

  9. I do like Mrs. F.G.'s toque.

    All the best Jan

  10. I am a puffin fan. I have only seen them in zoos.