Shetland (from Middle Scots Zetland; Scottish Gaelic: Sealtainn) is a subarctic archipelago off the northeast coast of the Scottish mainland. The islands lie 50 mi to the northeast of Orkney and 170 miles southeast of the Faroe Islands. Shetland has 16 inhabited islands and covers 373 square miles,. The archipelago lies between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. In 2009 the population was 22,210. The largest island - called "Mainland" — is Scotland’s third-largest island. Shetland has an oceanic climate, complex geology, rugged coastline and low rolling hills.
The oldest version of the name Shetland is Hetlandensis recorded in 1190, then becoming Hetland in 1431. This Norse name became Hjaltland in the 16th century, and as Norn was gradually replaced by Scots, Hjaltland became Shetland. Most of the islands have Norse names, but the origins of some names may be Pictish or pre-Celtic.
Human habitation dates from the Mesolithic period. The earliest written references to Shetland date from Roman times. The early historic period was dominated by Scandinavian influences, predominantly Norway. The islands were annexed to Scotland in the fifteenth century. In 1707 Shetland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain and fishing continues to be an important aspect of the economy up to the present day. The 1970’s discovery of North Sea oil boomed Shetland’s economy, because of Shetland insisted on controlling its oil revenue and using it for the developmental good of the islands and its people. Shetland’s way of life reflects the joint Norse and Scottish heritage celebrated at the Up Helly Aa fire festival, and in its fiesty traditional Shetland fiddle music. Many of Shetland’s writers of prose and poetry use the local Shetlandic dialect.
The name Lerwick comes from the old Norse Leirvik, leir meaning clay and vik meaning "bay" or "inlet". Old Norse evolved into Norn, spoken in Shetland until the mid-19th century. Human settlements around Lerwick near the Clickimin Broch date back 3000 years. The mainland town of Lerwick was founded in the seventeenth century on the west side of Bressay Sound. Its natural harbour made it a great seaport for trading herring and white fish. But Lerwick was burned to the ground twice - in the 17th century by residents of Scalloway (the capital at that time) who disdained the “immoral and drunken” behavior of its fishermen and sailors, and again in 1702 by the French fleet.
UNST is as far north as you can go in Scotland. You have already travelled on a 15 hour ferry to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. Then taken a ferry from what is called ‘Mainland Shetland’ to the island of Yell. Crossing this you then take another ferry from Gutcher Pier to the Wick of Belmont on Unst – this is the most northerly inhabited island in the Shetlands (and therefore in the UK).
But the ferries are so well organized and coordinated! Each ferry is waiting for the bus, and each bus is waiting for the ferry, so you island hop skip from one to another. This has been created more for the locals than tourists who must use these ferries all year long to get around the archipelago.
I had taken more gear on this trip than I would ever need. When I got to the Youth Hostel I discovered another wonderful kitchen with all the cooking facilities you could ever need. But what they didn’t have—and what I didn’t bring—was groceries! I thought there would be at least a shop nearby, but was horrified to learn that the nearest one was 15 miles away! So having lots and lots of daylight, given the 20+ hours of sunlight, I set off for Haroldswick, and on the way, learned about a Viking Feast to be held that night. I got the very last ticket for the feast, but by the time I arrived, sweaty and exhausted, having cycled 20 miles with an out-of-shape body, there was no time to buy groceries. I arrived at the Viking feast quite starved!
The Shetland pony is a breed of pony originating in the Shetland Isles, ranging in size from 28 inches to 42 inches (10.2 hands, at the withers. (11.2 hands for American Shetlands) Shetland ponies have heavy coats, short legs and are considered quite intelligent. They are a very strong breed of pony, used for riding, driving, and pack purposes.
Small horses have been kept on the Shetland Isles since the Bronze Age.People who lived on the islands probably later crossed the native stock with ponies imported by Norse settlers. Shetland ponies also were probably influenced by the Celtic Pony, brought to the islands by the Celts between 2000 and 1000 BCE.The harsh climate and scarce food developed the ponies into extremely hardy animals.
For its size, the Shetland is the strongest of all horse and pony breeds. It can pull twice its own weight under circumstances where a draft horse can only pull approximately half its own weight, as well as many being able to carry up to 9 stone – 130 pounds (59 kg). Shetland ponies are found worldwide, though mainly in the UK and North America. In general, UK ponies tend to preserve more of the original characteristics of the breed and are often stockier than their American cousins.
Shetland ponies were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat, coal and plowing farmland. As the Industrial Revolution boosted the need for coal in the mid-19th century, thousands of Shetland ponies were sent to mainland Britain to be worked to death as pit ponies, working underground hauling coal. Coal mines in the U.S. imported these cute ponies. The last pony mine in the United States closed in 1971.
The Unst Bus Shelter is near the village of Baltasound on the A968, which runs between Belmont and Haroldswick. One day, after a particularly long wait for a bus, local schoolboy named Bobby Maculay decided to make the shelter a little more homey by decorating it. The local council planned to remove the bus shelter, but Bobby wrote to them explaining that the shelter was where he left his bike while at school. The Shetland Islands Council decided to keep and maintain the bus shelter. Every year the shelter is refurnished and redecorated to reflect what’s going on in Bobby's life. In 2009 it was decorated in pink to honor Bobby’s work for a Breast Cancer charity. Now the Unst bus shelter is the island's most popular tourist attraction - featured in The Daily Mail, BBC Radio Scotland, The Press And Journal as well being voted the best bus shelter in Britain by Buses Magazine. It has quite a panoramic view, of Muckle Hoeg with its chambered cairn, White Haggle to the north and to the east - Haroldswick Bay.