20 September 2009--We are awakened by the sound of hard rain against the windows this morning, but by the time
we look out, there is a glorious early morning rainbow. After breakfast, we head south to St Ninian's Isle, joined to Mainland
by a peculiar formation called a tombolo. This is a slender double-sided beach formed when waves diffract around either end of
the island. We walk the strand in full sunshine, picking over the lovely oval mica-flecked stones that wash up here. I have a
dozen of them in the aquarium at home.
Up on the island are the foundations of a medieval chapel, built on top of the foundations of an even older church. An archeological dig here in 1958 turned up a spectacular hoard of silver jewelry, now residing in the museum in Edinburgh. Over the back side of the island, Ron and I spend an inordinate amount of time taking bad photos of soaring fulmars, an excuse for hanging around in a lovely sunny spot.
After, we visit Quendale Mill [Shetlopedia], an overshot water mill built in 1867. It was one of only three large mills in Shetland, serving a widespread crofting community until it ceased operations in 1948.
Shetland is lousy with brochs, most in deconstructed and unexcavated condition. The one at Clumlie is very unusual, not least for being well away from the coast. The striking aspect of it for me is that it is nestled in amongst the buildings of a much more modern (but abandoned) farmstead. I'd guess that there are many other places where medieval and modern farms supplanted ancient broch sites, with the stone of the broch being pilfered to build farmhouses and walls. It might be that the remnant broch on this site was used as a sheep pen or similar; that's just a guess on my part. It is in any case a very interesting site.
The Shetland Crofthouse Museum [Shetlopedia] illuminates a traditional lifestyle that died out in the mid-20th century. We are amazed to learn that this particular house was occupied until 1962. The furnishings are almost all hand-made from found materials, with the notable exception of a clock made in Connecticut. We're told that an "American clock" was a common luxury item in Shetland homes.
A restored horizontal mill stands nearby. This style of mill would have been very common before the construction of large ones like Quendale.
On a hilltop looking eastward, we get our best look at the broch on Mousa, a mile across the water.
Then we visit Patrick Stewart's extravagant castle in Scalloway. It's not the largest castle I've seen, of course, but it's larger than I remembered, and it was by far the grandest thing ever seen in Shetland at the time. Stewart's grasp far exceeded his means--the castle was built with forced labor, and was one of many things adding to his enormous debts, which in turn fueled his oppression of the locals, ultimately leading to his own demise.
A quiet evening in Lerwick--I'd forgotten how buttoned-up the place is on a Sunday. We have a nice dinner in the Lerwick Hotel, a modern edifice on the edge of town. It's the best meal we've had here so far.