Shetland boasts literary connections to a number of writers and poets. Visit the islands and towns and villages which sparked their creative imaginations and which some of them called home.
Hugh MacDiarmid, one of the foremost Scottish poets of the 20th century, lived on the island of Whalsay with his wife and son from 1933 till 1942. Visitors can stay in his former home which has since been converted into a hostel, the Grieves Bod, and take in the hauntingly beautiful land and seascapes which inspired some of the best poetry of his career.
The township of Sandness was the home of the poet and novelist Robert Alan Jamieson and its close-knit community the inspiration poetry collection Nort Atlantik Drift.
Mavis Grind, a narrow isthmus framed by the Atlantic on one side and the North Sea on the other, is the subject of William J. Tait’s poem A Day Atween Waddirs while Sumburgh Head with its dramatic coastal scenery appears in Sir Walter Scott’s ripping yarn The Pirate.
It’s not just Shetland’s natural beauty which has inspired writers. The Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness is a carefully restored 19th century dwelling and serves as the setting of Stella Sutherland’s poem At da Croft Museum.
Muckle Flugga Lighthouse on North Unst was constructed by the master lighthouse builders Thomas and David Stevenson in 1854. Years later Thomas’s son Robert Louis Stevenson paid a visit to the island which is thought to have influenced the map of his classic adventure tale Treasure Island.
One of the islands’ most surprising literary connections is the oil terminal at Sullom Voe which features in Robert Alan Jamieson’s Thin Wealth and Ian Rankin’s Rebus mystery Black and Blue.
Fellow British crime writer Ann Cleeves has chosen Shetland as the setting her quartet of gripping novels Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones and Blue Lightning.
Red Bones has been adapted by the BBC into a two-part drama entitlted Shetland which debuted earlier this year starring Douglas Henshall as Detective Jimmy Perez . A second series of Shetland based on Cleeves' books has recently been commissioned.
Shetland’s striking landscape, strong storytelling tradition and fascinating history have all contributed to its impressive literary heritage, and its islands continue to inspire writers to this day.