Travels in Scotland Post 8: Shetland

Welcome to my series of blog posts Travels in Scotland. Whether you're planning a trip, reliving a memory, or relaxing into some armchair traveling...thank you for joining me! Here I will show you images & share stories of my one month travels through Scotland. I'll cover this beautiful country of mountains, rivers, glens, islands, history, and, of course, fiber and textiles.

landing on shetland

I am forever spoiled.  The sun shined on the day we spent on Shetland (the main island) revealing the most beautiful headlands and beaches I have ever seen.  This is as far North as I will go on this trip to Scotland.  Shetland is 110 miles north of mainland Scotland and 140 miles west of Norway.  Fishing, the oil industry and agriculture (sheep!) are the primary industries. For me, the natural beauty and remoteness held me completely captive. It is a wondrous, wild place of the North. Oh, Shetland.

lerwick and the famous Shetland wool yarn manufacturers

There are 23,000 inhabitants in all of the hundred Shetland Islands and 30% of Shetlanders live in capitol of Lerwick. Lerwick is a beautiful port city with a smuggler's past. The weatherbeaten stone gives a sense of its history and that not all days are like this sunny summer one. 

There are two major producers of Shetland wool yarn on the island: Jamieson's and Jamieson & Smith. Both make yarn from the distinct breed of Shetland sheep and both have the surname Jamieson in their name.  Jamieson & Smith (founded in 1951 by John Jamieson and James Smith) began in Lerwick as wool graders sorting coarse from fine wool fleeces, are now handling 80% of the Shetland wool clip collected from 700+ crofters (Davies & Barr, 2016) and producing yarns, knitwear, blankets and carpets.  Jamieson's Mill and Manufacturing is an outgrowth of a five generation family business begun in the 1890s in Sandness on the far west coast of Shetland, dealing in wool and buying and selling finished knitwear from the local crofters and farmers.  Now Jamieson's produces and dyes yarn, knitwear and woven cloth all from the Shetland sheep's wool.  


Both businesses add to the vitality of Shetland's wool production completely sourced and produced on the islands and sustain Shetland's important knitting heritage.

Blog tip: Click on any photo to enlarge and read caption

The day we spent on Shetland made me feel that one day was far too few.  I could not get enough of the scenery and there were so many more fiber things to see and do, including seeing more Shetland sheep.


A bucket list festival: Every Fall, the Shetland Wool Week festival is held and wool knitters, lace knitters, and spinners from around the world fly into Shetland to take classes in various locations across the islands of Shetland, including Fair Isle (home of the famous Fair Isle knitted sweater patterns in a specific to the island form of stranded color work.) Participants listen to programs, and experience the love of fiber with the people of Shetland.  A patron from the isles is chosen each year to design a color work hat and preside at festival events and there is a glorious moment each year when all the festival attendees are photographed in each of their own handmade hats, each in their own color interpretations.  Yes, we get excited about things like this.  You can catch up on previous virtual events from Shetland Wool Week here to really get a sense of the amazing people on Shetland preserving their craft heritage. And that Shetland Wool Week invites people from around the world, means that you can be part of this experience.

confessions of a bbc murder mystery Superfan

Yes, I dragged my tour friends to a gps point on my phone, to see where the BBC mystery series "Shetland" is filmed.  But it was so worth it! This amazing historic part of Lerwick with it's boating dock and "Bain's Beach" with stairs leading down to a sandy area (we saw some local young swimmers there) was beautiful, but it did look cold!

Detective Jimmy Perez' house on the BBC TV Series "Shetland"
Detective Jimmy Perez' house on the BBC TV Series "Shetland"

Jarlshof prehistoric and norse settlement

And where would we be if I didn't include a little archeology...


The Shetland Islands have been inhabited for 5-6,000 years. Just consider for a moment that a chain of 100 tiny islands in the North Sea, have supported people living there for 6 millennia. A wonder in itself: no trees and yet the resources to sustain people for human history.


What makes the archeological excavation site at Jarlshof so unique is that scientists have revealed Mesolithic, Bronze and Iron age, 8th century Viking and 16th century Laird dwellings for the guided visitor to compare in one place.


Click here for an article in Archeology Magazine: to see their aerial view of the Jarlshof site and read more.


Kate Davies is a yarn and knitwear designer.  Together with her professional photographer husband, Tom Barr, Kate has published 20 books through their company KDD&Co about Shetland and KNITWEAR available on their KDD&Co website.  


"Shetland Oo" is filled with photos of the real people of the island who are shepherd's, mill workers, knitters, spinners, designers - the people who work directly with the oo (wool).


If you subscribe to Kate Davies' email updates, you will be as lucky as me to see stunning photos of Shetland each week in your email inbox and get the occasional recipe - this past holiday season, I made her husband's Scottish Mincemeat recipe (no meat involved! only apples, dried fruit, spices and booze) and ooooh, let me tell you...it's good on oatmeal, too.

My watercolor travel journal
My watercolor travel journal


Shetland Oo: Wool Textiles Work (2016) Kate Davies & Tom Barr, KDD&Co. Publishers

Shetland Wool Week

Jamieson's Knitwear

Jamiesons & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers

Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, Sumburgh, Shetland Mainland

Wild Fibers Magazine and Tours with Linda Cortright

independent SHETLAND knitting designers for you to investigate

Nielanell contemporary knitwear with a shop on the way to Jarlshof

R.A.M. Knitwear producer with a shop in the heart of Lerwick's high street

Kate Davies KDD&Co

Elizabeth Johnston, Spinner and Knitwear Designer

Donna Smith Designs

Ninian Shetland knitwear designs with a shop in the heart of Lerwick's high street

Shetland Woollen Co. knitwear producer with a shop on the way to Jarlshof

Gudrun Johnston & Mary Jane Mucklestone, knitwear designers published through Laine

Blog tip: Click on any photo to enlarge and read caption

All website and blog photos (c) Amy Mundinger, 2024


And here is where the sailing part of my adventure ends as our next stop is the mainland.  After 2 1/2 weeks on my own, I'll meet up with my partner Paul as we begin our summer holiday together in the Scottish Highlands. Join us in the next post.

COMING UP IN TRAVELS IN SCOTLAND POST 9: The Highlands - farms, castles & glencoe

Thank you for reading my blog post. Travels in Scotland is a 12 part blog series filled with photos and stories of a fiber artist's journey through a beautiful country, encountering a land with a deep textile history, stunning landscapes, and of course sheep!


You can read all of the Travels in Scotland blog posts on my website.  I invite you to travel along with me, along the coast and through the mainland hills seeing, experiencing and learning about this place called Scotland. Turas math dhuibh! (Good journey to you!)  Amy

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