Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Scalloway, on Shetland's atlantic coast: Up Helly Aa !

The Shetland Islands are closely related to Pytheas arctic sailing adventure in quest of the farthest Thule - he probably sailed eastwards to the Scandinavian coast, but he may well have harboured at the Islands.

Twenty centuries later, Walter Scott and Stevenson visited the Shetlands and Scalloway. Then in Victorian times the Shetland Islands were greatly in demand by tourist ships in Thulean wonder. The present days are calmer and better anyway, as life standards have increased and there is a large choice of connections - ferries, flights - with Scotland's mainland.

Lerwick is a vibrant little town, I gave notice of it here on U.T.. Scalloway, on the west coast of Mainland, is the second largest settlement on the islands, a pretty village of about a thousand people with a growing number of visitors. They can find there a Hotel, Guest Houses, Museum, Castle, History, a coloured waterfront, and a lively little port, well known since the Hanseatic era - for Scalloway was at the time a sheltered harbour on a northern route from Hamburg and Bergen.

Scalloway was then called Schaldewage. Ships from Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck sailed to Shetland every summer, bringing seeds, cloth, iron tools, salt, spirits and harder currency.

Coordinates: 60° 08′ N, 1° 16′ W
Population: ~ 1000

Scalloway (Old Norse:Skálavágr ~ "bay with large house") is presently the largest settlement on the North Atlantic coast of Mainland Shetland. Until 1708 it was even the capital of the Shetland Islands.

The Waterfront

A few houses by the water's edge have been restored recently, some with a side or front private pier.

The historic waterfront, with the purple "booth".

After the war Scalloway served as harbour of the Shetland-Orkney ferry service on the Scalloway–Stromness route.

The 'Main street' runs along the shore, with a row of colourful two-storey houses.

Scalloway Castle is located near the quay and the Museum. Built in 1600 by Patrick Stewart, second Earl of Orkney, the old ruins of the Castle are the most notable feature of the village.

In use for only a short time, the castle fell into disrepair since 1615.

But Scalloway is worth a larger stroll around, along Main Street, the pier and side alleys.

The beginning of Main Street.

Gabled stone houses and colorful painted house rows.

New Street. Most buildings were built in the early 19th century.

The Old Haa

The Old Haa, at the end of New Street.

Shetland's Haa are large, substantial houses, with pronounced garrets, rising high and aloof above their surroundings.

The Old Haa ('laird's house') of Scalloway, in New Street opposite to the docks, is a 1750 three storey gabled house, currenrtly under restoration.

Church of Scotland

Built in 1840-41, the small kirk is a square building with a piended roof and a bellcote above the entrance porch. White-painted horseshoe gallery and pews and red carpets make the interior bright and welcoming.

Little charming details elsewhere:

Kirkpark view.

The water edge's 'booth' in spring.

Alley detail.

Modern cast iron railings. Ironwork is also a local tradition.

This house was until recently Yealtaland bookshop and Post Office.

The oldest and grandest hotel.

The docks

For hundreds of years the salt fish trade was in the hands of German merchants of the Hanseatic League. Today, the little port still gets busy when the ships unload.

Fishing industry is, as always, one of the main activities in Scalloway

Scalloway is also the location of the North Atlantic Fisheries College, which offers courses and supports research in fisheries sciences, aquaculture, marine engineering and coastal management.

'Up Helly Haa' festival

Up Helly Aa is an yearly fire festival in Shetland in the middle of winter, to mark the end of the yule season. The festival involves a procession of some hundreds guizers formed into squads who march through the town or village in a variety of themed costumes.

The Scalloway Festival has a procession of torch-bearing guizers, accompanying a Viking longship (or “galley”) through the village from Lovers Lane, singing and cheering all the way down New Street and onto Main Street.

After arriving at the port, they sing the traditional Up Helly Aa songs as the galley is launched into the sea, filled with the flaming torches, where it burns in all its glory.

After the galley has burned, the festival moves to several venues where the party continues well through the night.

This madness only happens at the end of January. Then returns the undisturbed, quiet Scalloway, its almost permanent character.