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June 14th 1998

Jarlshof Hi everybody! Guess where we are... In Shetland, the northernmost Scottish islands (60 degrees of latitude, much more than Moscow)! Well, the islands are Scottish, but Shetlanders don't feel very Scottish. And as a matter of fact, Lerwick, their main town, is the same distance from London as Milan in Italy is.

Up to the North, we thought, means very cold. So last Friday we packed all our warmest clothes, left our brave Twingo at the Aberdeen airport car park, took a small propeller plane and in an hour flight we arrived here, in gorgeous Shetland. Megasurprise! A beautiful, warm, fantastic sunshine welcomed us! First of all we went to Jarlshof, a magnificent site cared for by Historic Scotland. In the same place there are the remains of a prehistoric house, a Bronze Age smithy, an Iron Age village, a broch and its courtyard, a wheelhouse, a Norse settlement and a Medieval farmhouse. You can go around, walk in the houses, even crawl inside the two souterrrains under the Iron Age village (John, the nice custodian of the site have both keys and a torch to borrow you).

Ness of BurgiThen we walked to Scatness promontory to Ness of Burgi, a fort beautifully situated on the high cliffs of the southermost tip of Mainland Shetland. There, we could also find out that these islands are a wildlife heaven: with our binoculars we looked at fat seals lying in the sun, many different species of gulls, arctic terns, and of course, the omnipresent sheep.

After this sunny, splendid taste of prehistoric Shetland we found a telephone box and looked for a B&B. We called a dozen of them before finding a twin room available: Shetland are full of birdwatchers, because this is the breeding period for birds. Anyway, we managed to find a room in a friendly, comfortable and unexpensive B&B not too far from Lerwick (we warmly reccomend it: Mrs Stove, Virdafjell, Shurton-Brae, Gulberwick, tel. 01595-694336). Next morning, Mrs Stove's breakfast was a tasty surprise: no eggs and bacon, but a wide choice of cereals, breads, honeys, yogurts, fruits and other delicious food.

Clickimin The same morning we visited Clickimin, a very interesting broch and settlement on the outskirts of Lerwick and spent some time in the local museum, where there are some beautiful prehistoric findings (among them some extraordinary Shetland stone knives).

Mousa In our short visit to Shetland (we have to leave very early on Monday morning) we couldn't miss a superb site: Mousa broch. At 2 p.m. we took the little boat that sails to Mousa island once a day (weather permitting) and so we could spend a couple of hours at the site. It is the best preserved broch in the whole of Scotland, a wonderful 13m high building that stands sentinel on the sound between Mousa and Mainland Shetland. You can also climb on it, going up the narrow and slippery stairs hidden between its walls. We spent three wonderful hours on the island: the boat trip is definetely worth the expense (£5 each). By the way: this time we didn't have to escape from nervous bulls (there's no cattle on the island, only sheep), but from an angry pair of arctic skuas that tried to attack us! During the crossing, we managed also to see some gannets, two puffins, seals, fulmars and the back of a harbour porpoise (the dolphin-lover Paola was so excited about that!).


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