It seems the topic of female involvement in the parade rarely comes up at the Galley Shed, and the quip “Why rock the boat when you can burn it?” was well received by the stocky Vikings manning the fort.
AFTER admiring Viking archaeology, costumes and history, a more handson experience is available on the Dim Riv, a replica
Viking longboat offering hour-long trips around Lerwick harbour throughout the summer. Or visitors can dip down to the breathtaking St Ninian’s Isle with its idyllic tombolo of pure white sand.
A hoard of silver, apparently hidden from Viking invaders, was uncovered on St Ninian’s in 1958. Buried under the church, the treasure includes chunky jewellery, bowls and fragments of swords.
It was found on udal land and this was cited as a reason to keep the hoard in Shetland, but the originals left the islands for Edinburgh. Replicas are on display in the Shetland Museum in Lerwick, while the silverware can be admired in the National Museum of Scotland.
The Vikings were invaders, farmers and rulers, but ultimately they were explorers. Don’t rest easy on Shetland’s mainland, but follow in Viking footsteps and explore the remoter islands. Unst is reached by sailing from Lerwick to Yell, then from Yell onto Unst. The island is only 12 miles long by five miles wide, and offers some of the richest Viking pickings in Europe. The island is an archaeological treasure trove of around 60 longhouses, and it is said to have the highest density of rural Viking sites anywhere, including Scandinavia.
Haroldswick is a key stopping point, being the home of a Viking longhouse reconstruction and the Skidbladner, a replica Viking longship.
Here you can discover how Vikings invented the sun compass and how their state-of-the-art longships incorporated cutting-edge keels and rudders. Such technological nautical advancements enabled them to conquer vast seas and capture valuable islands.
Unst Boat Haven and Unst Heritage Centre give further insight into the island’s past. Alternatively grab the Unst trail pack at shetlandamenity.org and leave the reconstructions behind to visit an archaeological Viking hill farm at Belmont and an impressive longhouse at Hamar.
Ultimately visitors to Shetland discover that its Viking past is very much part of its present. The islands mix Viking facts with fun, fashion, festivals and fire, giving them a fearsome Scottish-Norse identity.