The primary motivation for this entire trip was to visit the island archipelagoes of Scotland. Mrs Bear has two sisters, and we have now made two trips to islands as a sixsome (the first being to Iceland). We met up in Aberdeen and took the overnight car ferry to the Shetland Islands. The Shetlands are a group of 100 islands, about 110 miles north of the Scottish coast. Thirteen are inhabited. They kind of separate the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. One would think that the climate would be cold, wet, and windy…and you would be mostly correct. The winds have blown at near-constant 30mph, and it has been cloudy throughout. But the jet stream runs from the south, so the temps stay more moderate in the winter. Nevertheless, this is not a tropical paradise despite the absence of true darkness this time of year.
The Shetlands have been inhabited for over 6000 years, and they have been influenced by both Scottish and Scandinavian settlements. The Vikings settled here in the 13th century, but the islands were eventually ceded to Scotland as part of a dowry for a royal wedding.
A couple of interesting facts about the Shetlands to finish Part One: Did you know that Shetland Ponies actually come from these islands??? I never associated the two…But this breed of small horse has adapted to the conditions here. And there are riding and jumping competitions just for them…Even their own Shetland Pony Museum.
The second story is a not well known part of WWII. Norway is about 200 miles east of the Shetlands. It was a neutral country, but was ambushed by Hitler early in the War. The Nazi occupation began an operation known as “The Shetland Bus.” Ship captains and crews sailed from the Shetlands to the Norwegian Coast. They brought weapons and spies in to help the Resistance… They then loaded up with civilians escaping the Nazis for the sailing back home. The ships had to avoid German U Boats, which was difficult and dangerous. The best captains made over 50 runs. The picture above shows the coastlines and the water that had to be navigated. The pic below is from the Memorial to the sailors who didn’t make it back.