As a working tour guide for over 15 years I’m not in the least surprised that Shetland is the only place in the UK to make it onto Lonely Planet’s list of Top Ten Best Travel Destinations in Europe (Isles among Europe’s top ten for travellers, SN; 21/05/19).
Accolades like this don’t happen by accident. True, Shetland’s unique scenery and wildlife can often speak for themselves, but word has to get out of just how fantastic a visitor destination Shetland is. TV programmes and other promotion initiatives play a part, but by far the best advert for Shetland is ‘word of mouth’ when the visitors get back home to destinations all over the world.
Most of the credit for visitors’ tales of positive experiences should go to our hospitality industry. Feedback I’ve had from the visitors on Shetland’s tour guides, hotels, B&Bs, cafes, heritage centres, museums and local crafts always rate these very highly; often the best the visitor has ever experienced. We should all give ourselves a pat on the back.
Lonely Planet says ‘Nature rules this stirring setting, which features towering cliffs, rolling hills, sky-blue lochs and spectacular birdlife.’ Also, ‘Travellers will be captivated by the island’s rugged beauty…’
Shame it isn’t going to last. Thanks to Shetland Islands Council/Shetland Charitable Trust/SSE and their wind farming pals we will soon have a completely industrialised landscape. What will visitors think then of our ‘rolling hills’ criss-crossed and scarred by over a hundred miles of wide bulldozed tracks, punctuated by dozens of Scord sized quarries and topped by hundreds of 500 foot tall turbines? Will they love our ‘naked glens flanked by steep hills’ when they are filled by vast converter station buildings and lined with pylons and power lines? Will they still be able to fish in our ‘twinkling sky-blue lochs’ when they are polluted by concrete run-off and diesel spill?
Reading the press today I’m sickened by the hypocritical statements from the leader of Shetland Islands Council who fully back the industrialisation of the Shetland landscape. The landscape that Coutts calls “a beautiful environment, all of which makes Shetland an excellent place to live, work, study and visit” will be soon be anything but.