While visiting Shetland Islands and getting the Viking vibe, I stayed in a lighthouse keeper’s cottage near Jarlshof, down at the water’s edge about three kilometres away. It’s no doubt pronounced Yarlshof and is the ruins of a Viking settlement from a thousand years ago. Jarl is Norwegian for King. There’s a huge Viking influence in Shetland with many place names still being used. The Vikings built their houses to withstand the raging weather in the northern regions by digging out the ground, then building thick stone walls all round and, finally, covering the roof with turf. You can just imagine Brunhilde sending Olaf the Viking out onto the roof of the house to cut the grass on a fine day. Luckily for Olaf, they hardly ever have any fine days.
Lerwick, the capital, is an Old Norse word meaning Muddy Bay. And when the excellent new museum was opened in Lerwick last year the locals asked the Queen of Norway, not England, to cut the ribbon. I’m surprised her Most Britannic Majesty didn’t send a gunboat and the Royal Marines and drag the whole bunch of miserable back-sliding traitors straight to the Tower of London and strung up a few of them as examples exactly like her ancestors used to do.
At the harbour’s edge where the museum is located, several traditional fishing boats are tied up. These sleek and beautiful boats are called fourareens and sixareens and are dead ringers for Viking Longships, but, sadly, without the dragons’ heads. Many locals have them sitting outside their houses in various states of disrepair, and for the dedicated, there’s a club where the boats are raced. I took one look out to sea to where they hold the boats races and decided that must all be as mad a bunch of Berserkers.