Published: 23 August 2016

Whalsay visit

Whalsay Heritage Centre is one of the places I try to visit at least once every summer. Getting to Whalsay means a short drive then a trip on the roll-on roll-off ferry. As I was going just to visit the Heritage Centre I crossed as a foot passenger and walked to the Centre. I was glad I didn't need to take the car as one of the ferries was out of order which meant just one ferry for all the traffic. Symbister House dominates the skyline as you walk away from the ferry and it's not too far up the hill.  Symbister House (now Whalsay school) dominates the skyline Symbister House (now Whalsay school) dominates the skyline

The Heritage Centre has permanent exhibitions featuring fishing and information about Symbister House, as well as family history information, and photos to look at. Seasonal exhibitions change each year and this year there is a display of fair isle knitwear from the 1920s to the present day.

There is some information about every piece of knitwear as well as notebooks and transcripts of interviews of knitters. I knew about 'cairdin nights', which used to happen all over Shetland, where the young women would gather at a house to card wool together, until they were joined by the young men for some alternative entertainment! But here I read of similar 'makkin nights' where lots of fair isle borders for jumpers were knitted in readiness for the visitors who would do the plain knitting. I forget if they were later joined by young men.

The knitwear is either owned by the Centre or on loan for the exhibition. It is heartening to see so many folk have chosen to donate precious knitwear to the Centre. 

I spent a good two hours looking at knitwear and photos and, this time, I didn't get to the fishing end of the centre. What a great place to visit!

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About Shetland


Shetland is the most northerly group of Scottish islands. Apart from mainland Scotland, the other near neighbours are Norway to the east and the Faroe Islands to the north west.