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Clickimin Broch, Shetland

Scotland: Shetland - Lerwick, Scalloway
June 2021

Lerwick Clickimin Broch Scalloway & Burra
Lerwick

The Lodberries in Lerwick and Clickimin Broch, colourful houses and the "Shetland Bus" in Scalloway.

Shetland pages:
Sumburgh Head, Ness of Burgi, Jarlshof

Old Scatness, St Ninian's Isle, Mousa
Lerwick, Scalloway
Eshaness, Stanydale Temple

Lerwick

Lerwick

 

Lerwick, on the east side of Mainland, has for centuries been a fishing port due to natural harbour and abundance of fish in the seas surrounding the island. Fishing became established here as a trade as early as Viking times in the tenth century and Dutch fisherman were trading with Shetlanders in the twelfth century. Later Hanseatic merchants set up booths to trade a variety of goods including fishing gear, salt, alcohol and tobacco in exchange for local produce such as fish, butter and knitwear.

The excellent harbour also meant that Lerwick was involved in many conflicts and a fort was built around 1652 during the First Anglo-Dutch war. A more substantial fort replaced it in 1665 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, this one burned down by the Dutch in1673.

Lerwick
Fort Charlotte
Lerwick
Replica 18 pounder cannon on the battlements overlooking Bressay Sound.
Lerwick
LerwickMemorial to the return of the Whaler Diana which had been trapped for over six months in the Arctic ice, 1866-67.1
Lerwick
One of the steep lanes in Lerwick.

 

Lerwick
Lerwick
The Market Cross.

The current fort was built in 1782 and named after the wife of George III and called Fort Charlotte.

Fort Charlotte stands on the north side of Lerwick overlooking Bressay Sound. The town itself spreads inland from the harbour area with steep narrow lanes running up from Commercial Street, the hub of the town.

One curious aspect of the town is the number of streets that have been renamed. According to the assistant in the Tourist Info this happened in the 19th century for no apparent reason! So Lochend's Closs became Chromate Lane, Betty Mann's Closs was changed to Crooked Lane, Baker's Closs to Mounthooly Street, Steep Closs to Hangcliff Lane.

Lerwick
The rather beautiful memorial to the Diana; originally it was a working drinking fountain, replaced with this sculpture.

 

 

Lerwick
This 18th century building, the Tollbooth,was originally used for the collection of taxes; now it is the RNLI Lifeboat Station.

The buildings are rather grey, not too bad in sunshine but rather grim in bad weather. Of which there is probably rather a lot. We were extremely lucky to catch days that were at least partly sunny, but it was still rather cool for my liking.

Lerwick
Queen's Hotel on Bain's Beach was once three lodberries.
Lerwick
North side of the Lodberrie on Bain's Beach.

The south side of the town is more picturesque, especially as here the only lodberries survive. These are working buildings, built over the sea, where boats could be loaded and unloaded directly via an opening in a wall on the seaward side. They included stores and houses on the landward side with perhaps a small private pier and a shop. Underneath are reputed to be tunnels to smuggle illicit goods from the boats.

Lerwick

 

 

The Lodberrie is the most famous of these, as the fictional home of Detective Jimmy Perez in the Shetland series of books by Anne Cleeves.

Lerwick
Direct access from a walled courtyard to a boat on the sea.
Lerwick
The Lodberrie

 

Lerwick is famous for its winter fire festival, Up Helly Aa, which takes place on the last Tuesday of January each year. Though Shetland's biggest, there are other fire festivals held elsewhere in Shetland.

Lerwick

In Lerwick the festival has grown hugely and now involves hundreds of participants in elaborate costumes. The main event is an evening march to the harbour, the participants holding burning torches aloft, where a lovingly created replica Galley is burned.

 

Clickimin Broch

 

Clickimin Broch

 

Clickimin Broch stands at the tip of a tongue of land extending into Clickimin Loch. Iron Age Brochs can be found all over Shetland, stone-built double-walled towers which are thought to have been at least partly used as watch towers.

Clickimin Broch
Clickimin Broch

Clickimin was built around 100 BC and originally occupied an island in the loch, later reached by a causeway.

Clickimin Broch
Remains of the causeway leading to the broch.
Clickimin Broch
The entrance to the broch is very low, perhaps a security measure?

Inside there were several wooden floors, reached by a staircase between the double outer walls, so that quite a few people could have lived here.

Clickimin Broch
Staircase in the cavity of the double walls.
Clickimin Broch
Entrance to the upper level from the staircase within the walls.
Clickimin Broch
This was the only broch we visited that allowed access to an upper level.
Clickimin Broch
A hearth in one of the domestic buildings around the broch.

 

Surrounding the broch, within the enclosing wall, are the remains of a number of domestic buildings - it was quite common for these Iron Age brochs to have dwellings clustered beneath their walls.

Lerwick
A hearty bowl of chowder at Fjara, not far from Clickimin Broch.

 

Scalloway & Burra

Scalloway

Scalloway is a rather nice town on the west side of Mainland Shetland. The Vikings colonised Shetland around 800AD and named the settlement "Skalavagr" meaning "Bay of the Hall, suggesting there may have been a Viking Chieftain's Hall here.

Scalloway was once the capital before Lerwick took over this role. It has a ruined castle, built towards the end of the 16th century, closed at the time we were there due to Covid restrictions.

Scalloway
Scalloway Castle
Scalloway
Scalloway
New Street

 

 

 

The colourful houses of New Street date from the mid 1700s, though most are late 19th/early 20th century.

Scalloway
Cottage with William Johnson's inscriptions concerning "earth tides".

At the end of New Street is a tiny 19th century cottage with a curious set of inscriptions - local stonemason and amateur scientist William Johnson's ideas on "earth tides". The inscription is rather worn but sufficiently readable to determine that Johnson completely disagreed with the theory that these were due to the pull of the moon, describing it as "impossible".

Scalloway
Johnson obviously had very little time for German scientists: "German Theories Controverted. Germans are not the Favoured of Heaven"!

Scalloway's fortunes were very much dependent on the fishing industry and the Blackness headland, stretching south on the east side of Scalloway, has long been a centre for fishing and trade.

When the Dutch herring fishery in Lerwick expanded in the 17th century, leading to phenomenal growth there, it caused a corresponding decline in Scalloway. This was reversed somewhat with the growth of cod fishing from Scalloway in the 19th century. Midway through the century a haddock fishery was established there too. At the end of the century herring again came to the fore, the boom times lasting until 1930.

Today fishing is still very important to Scalloway, with a salmon and mussel farming industry too. Its port also provides services for oil supply vessels operating west of Shetland.

 

Scalloway
Cutch Kettels on Blackness.
The iron vessels were heated by fires below.

 

Drift nets used by the fishermen were traditionally made from hemp, but in 1880 this was replaced by cotton, which requires considerable maintenance. Down on Blackness two cutch kettles can still be seen, cutch being part of a maintenance process which began in India by boiling the bark of the acacia tree in water. The resulting thickened mass was poured into moulds, drying into hard brown blocks. These were transported and dissolved in hot water in the cutch kettles. The nets were "barked" in the solution at the start of the herring season and regularly during it too.

Scalloway
Memorial to the "Shetland Bus".

There is a lovely memorial to the "Shetland Bus" by the sea on Main Street. It commemorates those lost in the clandestine missions launched from Scalloway between 1942 and 1945, carrying men, munitions and equipment to Norway, returning with refugees. Previously the operations had departed from Lunna on the east side of mainland.

Scalloway
Shetland Bus Memorial
Scalloway
Burra
West Voe between Burra and Mainland.
Burra
Fugla Ness lighthouse, in the distance the dramatic island of Foula rises from the Atlantic.

A bridge connects the island of Trondra with Mainland just south of Scalloway, a further bridge connecting Trondra to Burra Isle. Our guide book said that the village of Hamnavoe on West Burra "is something of a photographer's or artist's paradise". So we headed there and were somewhat disappointed. It has a small marina, and we spotted a rather twee shell-encrusted cottage, but otherwise we couldn't see what might be so special about the place. The cottages are not especially attractive - perhaps it looks better on a brighter day.

 

Burra
The small marina at Hamnavoe.

 

Burra
Easthouse restored croft house.

We continued south, all the way to Duncansclett, to see Easthouse, a restored 19th century croft, but it was closed, and looking through the windows it was just being used to store things.

Burra
Former barn, byre and pigsty at Easthouse.