The Shetlands – Once was Viking territory

So now we’re on the Shetland Isles, ironically these are closer to Norway than they are to Scotland – and we certainly passed a surfeit of oil rigs as we sailed across from Bergen – the Norwegian footprint is quite extensive. Of course that’s been the case for far longer than the discovery of North Sea oil – the Norse actually ruled these islands for 500 years until they came part of Scotland in 1468. The Viking influence began with the long boat raids but then permanent occupation by some disaffected Nords escaping the overpopulation of Scandinavia forced their exit to greener pastures – and the Shetlands and Orkneys were closest.

Far from being peaceful pastoralists however the “new” Shetlanders of the 9th century in authentic Viking tradition, conducted “snatch and grab” raids on Scotland and back into Norway. They were so annoying that the Nord rulers sent over a fleet and colonised the isles that their wayward countrymen had escaped to in 875. That was the status quo for next 500 years until the Black Plague whacked Norway and it became subjugated to Danish influence. In 1468 the Danish monarchy had a daughter to be married off to James III of Scotland and the Shetlands and Orkneys were the dowry.

Our short time here has been spent circumnavigating to main islands trying to get a feel for the somewhat barren (as in treeless) landscapes and extensive peatlands that restrict the agricultural activity. Fishing is big though and salmon farms, oyster and mussel lines seem to populate most inlets.

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