Day Two Shetland: A tombolo, a lighthouse and a photography lesson

Today I have learned that two Weetabix is not enough to keep you going from breakfast until dinner. Even the peanuts did not help for much more than an hour…

We set off on a mini-adventure, down to the south of the mainland, in search of kittiwakes, a lighthouse and some treasure.

Jarlshof is fantastic. There is a couple of thousand years’ of history crammed into quite a small area. There is a stone-age hut, iron-age houses and a broch, a wheel house (which Joe has decided he wants to build anew!), Norse long-houses and a Laird’s house overlooking it all.

Wandering the paths between and within the dwellings was fascinating; you get a real sense of the people who once lived and worked and struggled there. And although the weather and terrain can be harsh, the houses – especially the wheel house and broch – were incredibly well protected. Cosy is probably the word; especially when you consider there would have been dozens of people crammed into a small space, with animals wandering by too!

You could almost hear them. Standing within the wheel house, or the broch, with closed eyes and open mind allowed them back in; just for a moment. A half-remembered snatch of sound; something flitting by at the edge of vision. A smell; a feeling.

Jarlshof is an incredibly evocative place. And beautiful – and commanding a stunning view.

Iron-age dwellings at Jarlshof, Shetland.

Mortar and grinding stone from Jarlshof

The zen-like nature of the mortar and grinding stones appealed to me. There were also piles of limpet shells, whelk shells and pebbles. I don’t know whether they were genuinely left from iron-age times, but I like to think they were!

Iron age broch

Hiding in a window at Jarlshof

I was really enjoying wandering around those houses, crawling into all the nooks and crannies…

The lighthouse and kittiwake cliffs

We knew there were cliffs up by the lighthouse, in which kittiwakes nest and soar. So off we went. It was quite windy, and the kittiwakes didn’t disappoint – they were showing off for us; posing, and playing in the swirling eddies, seemingly for the sheer joy of it. There are few things that symbolise freedom better than birds. If ever an animal shouldn’t be caged, birds are they.

They were magnificent, and very obliging…

Kittiwake posing for the papparazzi

And they posed for the profile shot too…

Soaring for the camera

The lighthouse is beautiful. It looks exactly like a lighthouse should, based upon multiple readings of books such as The Famous Five. Sadly, we couldn’t get in there, but there was – just yards away – a tower housing the fog-horn. And that we could climb. So climb it we did. I would imagine that being that close to it when it’s sounded would be an experience…

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse

Aaaand the fog-horn. I bet it’s quite loud.

Big red fog-horn...

Quendale Beach

In quest of treasure, we mooched northwards up to Quendale Beach. I know people think geocaching is a little geeky; and perhaps it is. However, we would never have visited this beach if we hadn’t been after the geocache hidden there… It was beautiful. Deserted, sheltered and dramatic. A storm front came across from the west. It passed us by, going around the outside of the bay – but the light was spectacular.

A storm front rolling in across the bay from Quendale Beach

And in no time, the storm front had passed, and the sun returned. The light was divine:

Just before sunset on Quendale Beach

More perfect light. And an arty shot of some seaweed, just because it looked cool.

Eventide. Magical light.

Arty shot of seaweed. Shame about the tracks... needs cropping!

St Ninian’s Treasure was next on our road trip. There lies the largest tombolo in the UK – a strip of beach connecting mainland to an island. St Ninian’s Isle in this case:

The largest tombolo in the UK

We found the treasure – well, the cache – and placed Owen the Travelling Hedgehog in there. We made friends with a sheepdog, hoped for the clouds to clear for a sunset, and I had a short photography lesson from Emma.

Long exposure and a tripod makes dreamy sea pictures…

Long exposure; sea at St Ninian's Isle.

By this time, the Weetabix had well and truly run out.

I love Shetland. It’s beautiful. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring…

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3 responses to “Day Two Shetland: A tombolo, a lighthouse and a photography lesson

  1. I’ve visited Jarlshof, and imagined that it must have felt like living at the crossroads of the world. Marvellous place.
    Congratulations on your kittiwake photos. They come here (to where I live) in the summer. I’ve often tried to take pictures but with little success.

  2. It looks beautiful (and great pics, too!) – I shall have to add it to my list of Places To Visit – but I shall probably pick a warmer time of year!

  3. It’s really not that cold James – 6C plus, although it can be windy. We’re coming back in summer – this year or next – as it’s pretty much 24-hour daylight. They call the hours of twilight overnight the Simmer Dim. Magic.

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