You can probably tell from this picture already why I fell in love with the island of Fair Isle after being lucky enough to spend two whole weeks there in August 2017. Ever since then, all I've wanted to do is go back. I tried to write a post about last year's trip several times, but could never quite find the words to describe the experience I had (and I'm not sure I still can) but I finally made it back there a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to share some of my love for Fair Isle with you.
It is a truly magical place. Only 3 miles long by one and a half miles wide, it's located between Orkney and the Shetland mainland, and is home to around 60 people. Since 1954 it has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and it was through the organisation's working holidays that I ended up on the island in 2017. I'll do a separate post about them, and the fact I have been going on these holidays for the past decade, as there is so much to say.
The images above are from last year, one of which you may recognise as the background of this site. We were lucky enough to spend a fortnight there, which really gave us a chance to meet most of the community, work on the crofts and get a small taster of island life - albeit in the summer when the days are long and the weather is kinder. I've never seen sunsets like it in my life, and some of my most memorable moments involved spending time with my new friends sitting on the cliffs, soaking in the views and sharing a dram. It really is life's simple pleasures that make me most happy.
So, to fast forward to this year's trip again, and the reason for returning was to visit a friend who is working at the Bird Observatory this season. Getting on and off of this remote island can be challenging due to weather conditions at any time of the year, and instead of getting the boat from the Shetland mainland as planned, the only option was to fly over in a 7 seater as it was too windy for the boat (but in an ok direction for flying apparently!) Those who know me know that I'm pretty scared of flying, so the thought of getting in the tiny plane was nerve wracking, and something I probably wouldn't have done a year or two ago, but in the spirit of getting out of my comfort zone this year I tried to see it as exciting and so worth it to get there on the dates planned. The views from flying so low over Shetland were also pretty scenic, and it only took 25 minutes to get across.
One of the many great things about going back this year was getting to finally meet Tommy Hyndman, from The Auld Haa Guest House. Tommy was off island when I was there last year, but we've been chatting on Instagram for a while, sharing our appreciation of the island. We went beachcombing together, drank wine and he introduced us to a 'Fair Isle breeze' cocktail (which was delicious!) Tommy was so welcoming and a great storyteller, and I was especially intrigued to hear all about his extensive Fair Isle knitwear collection :) It's so nice finally meeting people from social media in person, and them being exactly as you imagine, although maybe that's because Tommy's also been on several TV programmes so maybe it felt like I'd already met him!
I also bought some more of my own knitwear, which the island is renowned for, including a lovely handknitted hat (as above and below) which was meant to be for a child but I'm lucky I have a fairly small head! I also got some really beautiful and cosy handwarmers, also knitted by one of the islanders. There really are so many talented and creative people living there and keeping the traditions alive.
I spent a fair bit of time walking around the island, but there are still parts of it I've not made it to - which is another reason to go back again I suppose. The September weather was also fairly changeable, but it made for some interesting skies, and the waterproofs were on and off repeatedly!
The kirk is a really beautiful building, although I haven't made it inside yet. You can also see the new wind turbines behind it in this photo, which are part of a renewable energy project to give the islanders power 24-hours-a-day. You can read more about that here, but I am particularly interested in sustainable development, and this project is likely to have a significant impact on the community.
Sheep rock is such a distinctive shape, and pretty breath-taking to sit and look at from the cliffs as the sun goes down on another evening of my favourite pink skies. Being so far north and only surrounded by sea, the light and expanse of the sky were so noticeable, and something I could (and did) look at for hours.
I'm sometimes hesitant to go back to places I've enjoyed visiting so much, which may sound odd, but I worry they won't live up to the memories. This trip was different to the first of course, and was only for five days, but it was also amazing in its own way. I'm so glad I went back, to see Fair Isle in a different light and remember all the good elements from the first time, as well as experiencing new aspects, and meeting new people.
I still find it hard to put it all into words, and to express how these trips there have had an impact on me. I've only shared a tiny bit of what makes this place so special, and have hardly even touched on what I did while I was there, but I hope at least sharing some of my photos will help you appreciate the island's beauty and unique landscape. You can also find out more about it on the community web page - http://www.fairisle.org.uk/ .
My favourite way to travel... by boat. Enjoying a bit of slow travel, which is all part of the journey, with Northlink Ferries - back home to Aberdeen. I'm sure (well, hopeful) that it won't be too long before I head back north again.
I'm Kelly. A thirty-something year old adventurer from Aberdeenshire. Read more about me in the ABOUT ME section.