Listen to Episode 9.

Interviewer: Grant Stott (GS)
Interviewee: Lara Thomason (LT)

Grant Stott: Hello and welcome back to Tour Guide Tales, brought to you by Vis-itScotland. I'm Grant Stott and each week I'll speak to a different tour guide to hear the eclectic and often incredibly rich history of Scotland through their knowledge sto-ries and experiences.

Today I'll be speaking to Lara Thomason. Lara has lived on Shetland all her life and now takes great pride in taking tourists around the beautiful and rugged islands with a diverse range of things to see and learn about, from the amazing wildlife to the wild nights of the Up Helly Aa Viking fire festival. Let's join Lara for some more Tour Guide Tales.

[Music]

GS: Lara, welcome to Tour Guide Tales. I'm always intrigued, I think it's always very interesting, when we have these chats with people like yourselves, how they - shall we say - came to get the knowledge about the particular area or the part of Scotland that they're familiar with. But for you, Shetland has been your life, hasn't it?

Lara Thomason: Yes, I'm a born and bred Shetlander. My grandparents, great grandparents, mother, father, brothers, sisters - all lived here all our life. Just about every corner of the island - been all over it and all its history and many stories to fol-low.

GS: So, it's something that you've grown up with and you mentioned, you know, you grew up here, your family grew up there as well and you were working for the family business - which was car and bicycle hire - so was that your foot in the door? You thought 'Well, you know what? People are coming to hire cars, hiring bikes, I've got these stories' - was that how it happened?

LT: Yeah, I'd been in the family business for well over 25 years working with tourists every single day and watching how Shetland has progressed with tourism over the years made me more and more interested in showing people around the island and
always telling them, you know, when they hire a car where the best places to go
and visit would be and, you know, give them a good cross-section of the island and that just made me more and more interested in wanting to learn more about the is-land.

So, I did the tour guide and green badge guide in 2016 and it was amazing how much more I did learn from that course and found it very useful and therefore started tour guiding also.

GS: It was interesting you said that, you know, you've seen how Shetland had changed and evolved over 20 years. Give us an overview of that; give us an idea of what it used to be like.

LT: Well, when I first started with the car hires then, it was generally people coming up here for the bird watching and really to get up here it's quite remote, so you've got a one-hour ferry journey or quite an expensive one-hour flight from the mainland of
Scotland. It wasn't really, you know, in the limelight for a place to visit in the world but
as we became more and more prominent on tv and radio and advertising, marketing throughout Shetland, people realized what we had to offer, and many cruises started, and more cruise ships started coming.

So, we've been put more and more on the map each year, bringing more and more people to Shetland and making them aware of what we have to offer. So, I've seen a huge increase in tourism over the years.

GS: And Shetland really does have a lot to offer - you touched on the bird
watching aspect, the wildlife is huge which we will get to, but before we get to that,
Lara give us a kind of a little brief sort of history and geography of Shetland. First of all, give us an idea - if we are looking at the map of Scotland, where would we see Shetland? And also, I think, what's also important about the history of the geography is just how close it is to Norway.

LT: Shetland is the most northerly islands in the British Isles so we're about 200 miles from Aberdeen, the mainland of Scotland, but we're actually nearer Norway. Our main town Lerwick is directly opposite Bergen in Norway and we find this quite
significant because we used to belong to Denmark and Norway up until 1469 and what happened then was King Christian of Norway and Denmark, his
daughter Princess Margaret was to marry James III of Scotland and he didn't have enough money for the wedding, so he gave Shetland and Orkney away as a dowry.

So, we were given away to Scotland way back in 1469 and that's when we became
Scottish but our heritage is very much Viking, very much Norse. Our language, our place names, many things come from the Norse connection that we had. So, we're so far north but slightly nearer Norway as we are Scotland and, therefore, many people here still class themselves as more Norwegian than Scottish.

GS: Yeah, I was going to see what you do what do you class yourself as Lara? Scot-tish, Norwegian or a bit of both?

LT: I class myself as a bit of both because I wouldn't like to offend anybody. The his-tory is quite different, and it does change quite a lot throughout the years from the
Norwegian connection through to the Scottish connection so both very interesting.

GS: Yeah, that's very much part of Shetland - that strong Viking heritage that you touched on there - and there's a lot of that celebrated throughout the year again. We're going to touch on that, but I also want to just briefly mention how important Shetland was for Norway in World War II.

LT: Yes, Shetland had this clandestine operation between occupied Norway and
Shetland during World War II called the Shetland Bus. And it wasn't a bus as in it has wheels and drives on the road; it was an operation which involved fishing boats taking refugees and specialized equipment back and forth between Norway and Shetland.
It was quite significant in the war effort - it definitely helped the war effort in Norway. It was a very dangerous mission where Norwegian fishermen would travel in the dead of winter - you know, it's a really bad sea, the North Sea - through the darkness trying to avoid enemy fire and enemy boats, come into the huge vast coastline in Norway and collect refugees and put in specialized equipment for them to help fight the cause.

This Shetland bus was located on the west side of Shetland just so that you know you could never really find. It would make more sense for it to be on the east side - it'd be quicker to go over to Norway - but they had it in our old capital called Scalloway on the east side. That village there celebrates the Shetland bus every year - it has a commemorative stone from each village in Norway where people were rescued or lost their lives and all the names of the fishing boats that was lost at sea
and we've had many visits from Queen Sonia here who recognizes how important
we were in the war effort and therefore this has given us really strong connections still with Norway.

Scalloway is very Norwegian looking. It has Norwegian looking buildings and many
of the men who came here ended up marrying Shetlanders so there the link contin-ues. There's so much I can tell about the Shetland bus - it would take about five hours but very interesting stories came out of it.

GS: I bet, yeah, I bet. And as well as the memorial that you touched on annually, there's also a museum I believe in Scalloway?

LT: Yes, we have continued to keep the story alive - we have the wonderful museum
called the Scalloway Museum and it's built right next door to the Scalloway Castle which was built by Earl Patrick Stewart in in the early 1600s but most of the museum is dedicated to the Shetland bus and all its interesting stories - the men who travelled back and forth from Shetland; how many people they saved; what they brought with them. It has all the tools and equipment that they used and as many books as you can buy on the subject.

It just really is one of those stories where it was so secretive that not even anyone knew about it in Britain until after the war was finished so they were all heroes, but they were never celebrated as heroes at the time because it was all such a secret.

GS: And you can find out all about these individuals at the museum?

LT: Yeah, very interesting place to visit and if you come up here, I'll show you around.

GS: I might hold you to that! But there is so much to try and squeeze into a little pod-cast like this we're going to try and do as much as we can over the time that we have together. We should also talk about one of the most significant celebrations that Shet-land is famous for and that's Up Helly Aa. This is huge and has been for many years; give us an overview of this, what does this involve?

LT: Well, Up Helly Aa sort of celebrates the turn of our winter. It's always held in the
Last Tuesday in January and it's only ever been cancelled once - that was for Sir Winston Churchill's funeral, and of course it's going to be cancelled again this year due to the coronavirus, but it's been a celebration has been going on for over 100 years and what we do here is we nominate a geyser Jarl, which is a man who will lead the Up Helly Aa procession and he will invite into his squad of Vikings other guests.

Now what they do is they take all their local resources - leather, metals, woods - and they make their own Viking suits - replica Viking suits. These are take great deal of detail - many skilled men to build them. And each of these men will be carrying an axe and a shield and they will be joined on the last Tuesday in January to march around the streets of Lerwick with a gully boat.

It's a boat built good enough to sail in the sea that takes a year to build, this Viking longship, and they take this Viking longship around the town and visit many schools and care homes and hospitals and what have you and then in the night-time is when the celebrations really start. There is the biggest fire festival in Europe, so these Vi-kings are then joined by about 60 geysers and these guys are squads of men
all dressed up in topical outfits. They'll all carry a burning torch and at seven o'clock the light up begins. All the lights are put out in Lerwick and they march through all the streets in the main town watched by thousands and thousands of spectators.

It's really become a big tourist attraction also and they pull this Viking longship or
gully bot into the centre of the town into a local play park and the torches then get thrown into the galley and it's burnt to the ground. It's very difficult to explain it be-cause there's so many smells involved and noise and roaring and wind and there's
fire burning everywhere and the smell of paraffin coming off the torches.

So, after the procession that's when the celebrations truly begin - all the women and children and the music and the drams will be in each venue around Lerwick. There's about 14 venues and each of these squads will travel from venue to venue throughout the night from about nine o'clock in the evening until nine o'clock in the morning and where they will do a little act in front of the audience and then have a dance
and this will go on for well basically all night and then it's to bed for a couple of hours and then it's up again for hop day and the whole of Shetland has a big holiday for Up Helly Aa.

GS: Because I was going to ask how many days does it last?

LT: Well, the Up Helly Aa season starts in January and finishes in March so because we have, we have smaller ones outlying in other villages and islands but the Lerwick one itself starts Tuesday morning first thing and it'll not finish until Thursday, but you have to remember all these the making of Up Helly Aa are - especially the Viking squad which is the geyser Jarl - is selected 15 years in advance.

GS: So, he has years preparation before he becomes the geyser Jarl and receives the key to the town? He's elected years before he actually gets the role and that years is spent preparing, building, making?

LT: Yeah, and then they have this one condensed year where all the suits and every-thing has to come together so its excellent for keeping people together through the wintertime. It's a very good community - big community involvement, you know - they're having to meet every week to discuss what they're making and get together in many workshops and make things so it's really good to get you through those
Dark winter nights that we have up here. At the moment it's pitch black dark and it's only 15:30!

GS: Yeah, I can imagine I can imagine. And it's interesting you say it's obviously very important for the community but are visitors welcome to join in?

LT: Yes, visitors are very welcome, and we have many people who arrive from all over the world to come to the to the Viking fire festival. If you're lucky enough to get
accepted into one of the venues, we do have our tourist office here there is tickets
that's put there specifically for tourists to come along and try to get into the night-time event also, but the daytime event does last 14 hours so there's plenty to see and do
throughout the Tuesday.

It's a wonderful event. I can't really explain it very well on a podcast, but I think you'll just have to come and see it for yourself!

GS: Absolutely, it sounds incredible. I was just trying to think what would, you know, some of the foreign visitors - what do they make of it? You know, I can imagine their faces would be a picture - especially with all this fire that's going on in the images that we see in the in the ship.

LT: It's just like watching Game of Thrones or something; it is just fire, wind, water - it is just quite crazy, and I don't think I've ever witnessed anything anywhere else in the world and when the visitors arrive, they're just buzzing it's just excitement going through the town right from the very early hours they start - we start about seven o'clock in the morning - so there's just an excitement the whole day.

GS: Many people say in Scotland that many people say in Scotland that Hogmanay is much bigger an event than Christmas and in normal times perhaps that is the case
but how would you say Up Helly Aa fares up there in Shetland? Is that bigger than
the New Year, bigger than Christmas?


LT: Up Helly Aa is truly a more celebrated event up here in the island. New Year, I think, is more for Scottish people.

[Laughter]

The Viking celebration we have is really where our roots lie, and I think that's why there is so much enthusiasm for it.

GS: Well, I'm absolutely sold and as soon as these restrictions ease then I'm certain-ly got this on my to-do list. I like a long party, so I do, so that sounds like perfect for me.

LT: Yeah, it's almost like an endurance test if you're a lady and to dance every single dance. Your feet…

GS: I'll make sure I've got the blister plasters and the party feet with me; I'll be ready. Right, Up Helly Aa is one huge aspect of Shetland but let's also talk about St Ninian's Isle. This is fascinating because this takes us back to a team of archaeologists came and they came to uncover a famous chapel site and then… Well, I'll let you
pick up the story.

LT: Yeah, St Ninian's Isle - I'll have to explain it. It's a beautiful island that's joined by
a sand tombola - the largest in the UK - so it's a beautiful white strip of sand that joins you on to St Ninian's Isle and on this island was the 12th century chapel that was built there by Saint Ninian and this team of archaeologists came to Shetland to try to uncover this chapel and see what treasures they could find.

A schoolboy called Douglas Coats asked if he could help, he was only 10 years old, and he was at the school and he asked if he could help the archaeologists join the dig. And they stuffed him in a corner and said, 'just dig over there out of the way' and
within one hour he uncovered this wooden box and one of the greatest finds in histo-ry.

It was pieces of silver - one of the greatest treasure finds in history. It was so valua-ble and so important that it's actually found in the Edinburgh museum now and we only have replicas up here. But these pieces of silver dated back to the Pictish era and we think what happened was when the Vikings started raiding the islands about 1200 years ago, we think that the Pictish people must have buried this to hide it from the Vikings.

And, of course, as time goes on and sand and soil move, and things get robbed and other things built then when St Ninian came along, he would have just built on the cor-rect spot where they happened to be digging on that archaeological dig. So, St Nin-ian's treasure is a really beautiful set of brooches and pins and things like that and if you go along the Edinburgh museum, you'll be able to have a look and see what they are for real.

GS: And I must ask - how is Douglas Coats given that he was 10 years old at the time? Is he still around now; is he a bit of a local hero?

LT: Douglas is a very humble, quiet man. He's always cycling through the town
on his push bike, he never really made a big fuss about what he found. He just was interested in archaeology and he did know his find was of great significance, but he was very happy to donate it to the museum. He's done many interviews and tv pro-grams since, but he doesn't feel like he did anything amazing; he just feels he hap-pened to be a young boy digging at the correct time.

GS: So, you know, you hear the tales of people finding buried treasure and then you know sell it and you know make a fortune and become rich, but this has not been the case for Douglas?

LT: He's lived in Shetland all his life; he's only interested in what Shetland has to offer and the wildlife and the history and archaeology. He's quite happy to let Edinburgh look after it.

GS: Well, that's wonderful. Before we leave St Ninian's Isle, Lara, I have to ask - Hal-loween is quite significant in that part of Shetland because the local children get
sent across the beach to try and find a bone? Give us more.

LT: Yeah, well in a long time ago, the children would run across from the mainland and you'd get dared to run across and find a bone on St Ninian's Isle because there were many people buried there in the olden days, you know when there was no Chris-tian burials and yeah you might come back with a bone but you really don't know if it was maybe a cow or sheep or a human bone!

[Laughter]

GS: Lara what about Lerwick? That's, you know, the only town in the whole
island as well. How big a population do you have?

LT: It is, yes, it's our only town on the island and it's about 9,000 people and it's situ-ated on the east side of the mainland of Shetland. The old capital used to be Scallo-way on the east side but what happened was the Dutch Hanseatic herring trade era came here and because we have this island harbour - a very natural deep harbour - that seems to be the logical place for boats to start trading and sheltering and things like that, so the town really started building up on the herring trade so that got it to the state as it is now.

GT: So, built on the herring trade as you say but then its status grew even more be-cause of a certain book and TV series?

LT: Yeah, we have these famous Lodberries - a Lodberry is actually a trading booth. So, what was originally built in Lerwick was these trading booths or these piers which were built into the sea where the boats would bring their goods ashore. These piers were then turned into these trading booths called Lodberries. So, we have many houses in Lerwick built into the sea.

They're quite special actually and one of them it's called The Lodberry which
actually, belonged to my auntie Muriel and my uncle Tommy and their house was used in the BBC series Shetland and they've done about five series now. It's a really famous program being aired all over the world which has made our tourism go com-pletely crazy in the last couple of years and they use the famous house library as
Jimmy Perez's house.

This house has been famous for many other reasons before that but now it's
certainly, on the map. It's probably the most photographed house in the world at
the moment.

GS: What other reasons for being famous are there for this house?

LT: Well, this house, being so old and being built in the sea, it has the original lode-stone along with its own private beach. It's right next to the house and the Viking name for that is fladberg. You can see the original Viking pier there when you look over the wall and also the boats that came in with their goods, they had many tunnels
that ran under the main roads there so they would smuggle the brandy and the tobac-co underneath and put the proper goods up over the top.

There's many smugglers' tunnels around there because it's so unusual to have your house built into the North Sea where the sea is crashing over the roof. It's been visit-ed by many people all over the world - dignitaries from all over - and my auntie
Muriel used to keep a logbook of everyone who visited and there were some very fa-mous people that's been in there.

GS: Well, we like name dropping on Tour Guide Tales! Can you drop a couple of names who've visited?

LT: You've just caught me off guard there! The house is quite interesting because it has these windows in the top gavel where the wind will blow through - that's where you would hang your fish to dry, and it has a derrick coming down over the front where the goods would have been winched up. When you're actually living in the house you can go right down under where the sea is into the workshops below. It's just so interesting to live there. Very difficult place to live because you've got to try and keep it dry and secure the whole time but great fun jumping out the front window into the sea and swimming around in the summertime!

GS: It is fascinating that it's being utilized and then being enjoyed again in such a public way through the books and the TV series Shetland as you say but some peo-ple might think that that could be a bit intrusive when a big TV and film crew come to town because they do kind of take over. How has that been for the locals there?

LT: I think the Shetland series has been wonderful. They've never taken over any-thing; they've been very polite in everything they've done. They ask the right people
at the right times and they've if they've had to film them on a road and they've closed the road it's at times it suits the locals. They've included the locals in every single
series. You'll find just about everyone in Shetland has been in one of the series
as an extra so it's quite exciting when they arrive in town and the whole production team and the director's all very nice.

GS: So far, we're just talking about places to visit and things to go and look at on
Shetland but we should also touch on something that you mentioned that Shetland was famous for - the wildlife and the bird watching. Let's talk about the Shetland po-nies which are famous the world over but give us an idea of how many you can see and how important they are to the local community?

LT: Yes, the wildlife in Shetland is just unbelievable. We've had orcas swimming right past the front of the main town here. Shetland Ponies are everywhere on the island. We have quite high numbers of them, so we now protect our breed of Shetland pony, so they don't get too large. They have to be between 28 inches and 42 inches; any-thing bigger is that it's not a Shetland pony. So, the Shetland pony has obviously been here as our main form of transport for hundreds of years and they would be
being used on crofts - a good Scottish word for farm - around Shetland in the olden days to carry all the goods to market and plough the fields and things like that.

The Shetland pony is so useful because it is very strong. It has quite short legs and a sturdy body, but it can pull twice its body weight and carry as much so that's why they've been so useful, and they were first found three thousand years ago, and we claimed them as our own because we've never really heard of them anywhere else in the world.

GS: Yeah, because they are totally unique to Shetland?

LT: Yeah, they're unique in lots of ways too - they're very hardy so they can weather
out all year round. They have the special guard on their coats which keeps them warm in the winter. They have really thick manes and tails that go nearly to the ground and this again protects them from the elements up here. You often find them
sheltered in a little pig bank, you know with their bum to the wind.

We have beautiful ponies around the island. They're all they're made from beautiful
Colours, all different colours and they're quite bad-tempered, though, sometimes! They would give you a good nip if you came too near them, so you have to be careful!

GS: And, as you say, quite hardy. England took a lot of them for coal mines?

LT: Yeah, especially the black breed. They were taken from Shetland because they were so handy at going into the small entrances and mines in England and they
could pull and carry lots of coal so we lost a lot of ponies in the 50s and therefore
that's where we decided we'd have to protect our breed up here and we have a hun-dred studs in the island now and they all have to have their own passports.

GS: You know you mentioned there are hundreds of them to be seen across the is-lands. Is it something that many people have they have their own ponies?

LT: Yes, they have their own Shetland ponies. Oh, my goodness, every young girl in
the world wants a Shetland pony; it's the first thing you learn to ride when you're younger. The most difficult things to learn on, too, so if you can ride a Shetland pony you could probably ride a thoroughbred in the Grand National!

So, yes, everybody has a pony - well, not everybody but anyone who has a bit of land usually you'd find a pony somewhere. Or, you know, if they have a young daughter, they'll definitely have a Shetland pony. I once bought 12 at the pony sales with my pocket money.

My father wasn't very pleased when I came home with them all tied together. I had to put of 10 of them back…

GS: I hope you had a lot of land!

LT: Oh, no - I lived in Lerwick with a tiny front garden so he was really quite annoyed at me.

GS: Can you remember how much you paid for them?

LT: I think I paid 50p each. I remember saving up for a long time to buy them and I couldn't decide which one I liked so I just kept buying them one after the other.

GS: I can just imagine your father's face! 'Dad, see what I've come home with - 12
Shetland ponies on a rope!'

LT: They're a bit more expensive now; we wouldn't be able to pay for 12 now!

GS: Lara, it's very fitting that we're talking to you in Shetland as we're embracing the Year of Coasts and Waters and perhaps this is a great example of what this celebra-tion is all about given what you can see in Shetland around the coasts and in the wa-ters. We touched on what you can see with the orcas down by the coast but also you can see whales, basking sharks, dolphins.

LT: We've been very lucky with the whales particularly this year. I think it's because they have their own Facebook page now - you can follow them a lot easier.

GS: It's definitely the typing skills, yeah!

LT: They always tell you where they are in Shetland now, but we've been very lucky.  I've actually managed myself to see three humpback whales around Shetland. They're just so majestic to watch; you can't believe the size of them until you're
you're quite up close to them. Dolphins going through the harbour here; the orcas specifically we have a pod and they've been going around the island pretty much the whole year now and people are getting to know them quite well so they're coming right into the beaches. You can see them really up close - nearly within a few feet of them if you're standing on the shore - so it really is quite amazing to watch the orcas.

GS: So why your part of the world, then? What attracts the whales?

LT: We have the gulf stream that runs past us which comes over from America which keeps our water that slightly bit warmer, and this is which brings the mackerel, the herring, past our island. That's why fish is so abundant up here and this brings many big whales to come and eat the mackerel and the herring. We also have a big seal population in Shetland, so the orcas come to feed on the seals.

GS: Are there boat trips that you can go on when you come to visit Shetland to get a
closer look?

LT: Yeah, it's really potluck but we have quite a lot of sea boats down here in the harbour - sea cruises that'll take you around the island of Bressay which is just next door to the main town here in Lerwick. They take you right around the back of these
huge sea cliffs where there's the big bird colonies are the gannets or the puffins - sea birds everywhere.

The famous puffin - we call them the taminori - nests in the very tops of the cliffs and they're here from May till about August and if you're lucky when you're out seeing all that you might be in the presence of some whales also - and that does make the ulti-mate tourist trip out!

GS: You mentioned the puffins there and you know this takes us right back to the start of our chat - it's a haven for bird watchers?

LT: There's a great range of species of birds as well - the sea birds are in huge abundance up here, from the very bottom of the cliff nests right up to
the very top. You can go to the south end of the island and be standing within a few feet at the top of the cliffs down there and you're just so near the beautiful colours
of the puffins. You can see their behaviours, you can see them going in and out their nests, see them feeding and then we also have the birds who migrate from the arctic
circle and they may come here to rest on their way to warmer climes.

We have some very unusual, rare birds which land here throughout the year which brings a lot of interest too. We've just had a famous warbler up that had a big, huge
influx to watch it recently.

GS: It's been fascinating talking to you, Lara, and there's clearly so much to take in and I hope those listening to the podcast will get a tiny flavour of what is on offer in Shetland but if I was to either take the car on a ferry or a flight to join you when,
obviously, restrictions ease, what would you say would be the best amount of time to allow you to really get a sort of flavour of Shetland; to get a good feeling for every-thing that's there?

LT: I think you need about 20 years!

[Laughter]

GS: Oh, I'm putting in for my holidays now!

LT: No, you would want to come for, I know people nowadays have such busy
Lifestyles, but I definitely think you need to spend at least seven days in Shetland to have get a good cross-section of the whole island because the north is so different from the south. The north is very volcanic - the geology up there is just beautiful; it's very red, lots of granite. And then you have the south with the sandy white beaches
and all the birds and then you have the west with the outlying islands around the mainland and you can see them all for miles.

And then we have the very tip the island of Unst where we have the most northerly lighthouse in Britain and just full of Viking settlements and history and the whole is-land is amazing.

GS: And in your time as a tour guide and all the interesting people that have come to Shetland to hear your tour guide tales, is there a moment that really stands out for you or an individual or a visitor that came to visit Shetland and does something spe-cial, something unique?

LT: Yeah well, I've had quite a few of those actually, because you never know what's
going to happen today in Shetland. I did have a couple of really nice ladies who were not very able on their feet and I took them over to island of Mousa which is where there's a meter high Iron Age broch - it's one of the highest ones standing in the world - and we took them around there and I was walking them around the island
and they weren't really very able for the for the whole trip, so they were just delighted when these two huge orcas came right beside the island right alongside the rocks.

I managed to get them onto a rock, and we sat for a whole hour and just watched these whales and they thanked me for not having to walk any further and for putting on a really nice show. But, oh, there's so many things that happened.

GS: But I guess something like that would take your breath away?

LT: Yeah, I just find my job just the best job in the world when things like that happen and everything goes smoothly. It's very difficult when someone says 'let's go and see orcas' and you can't predict where they're going to be or if you're going to see them but when it all comes together it's excellent. If someone's only got a limited time and you can actually fill in what they actually want to see and you've actually managed to achieve that, it's quite satisfying

GS: And I guess Shetland would offer different things to enjoy at different times of the year, given the hours of daylight that you have in the winter but it's the sort of place you could probably visit at any time that there would be something to take in no mat-ter what?

LT: Yeah, I feel Up Helly Aa is a huge pull because that is a winter activity but the best times to come is when it's pretty much daylight all day - May into July is when you can explore so much more of the island. When it's a bright daylight, that is the
most popular months of the year and of course it's a little bit warmer - it might even get up to about 16 degrees!


GS: It's almost tropical!

LT: Yeah, this last summer we've had it pretty good. It was 21 degrees one day: it's
like being in Majorca!

GS: Well, there you are - Shetland twinned with Majorca. I can see that happening! Lara it's been absolutely wonderful, fascinating talking to you, and I have been up to Lerwick; it's a place I have visited, and it is absolutely stunning up there. I didn't spend anywhere near enough time but definitely something to make time for me and my diary. I think Up Helly Aa is something that I need to experience.

LT: Yes, you'd be very welcome to get in touch with me and I'll show you around.

GS: I'll hold you to that, Lara. Thanks for your time and thanks for joining us on
Tour Guide Tales.

[Music]

There you go - another fascinating episode with Shetland tour guide Lara Thomason. If you haven't already, please have a listen back to the other fascinating episodes within this series and tune in for our next episode where I'll be speaking to another
of Scotland's brilliant tour guides. If you like the show, please subscribe and leave a review wherever you're listening

I'm Grant Stott and you've been listening to another Tour Guide Tales, brought to you by VisitScotland.