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Community / Video series gives people virtual tours around Fair Isle during pandemic

Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

A CROFTER in Fair Isle has been bringing the remote island to people across the world through video tours while it remains off limits to visitors.

Rachel Challoner has so far uploaded 14 Fair Isle Through A Lens videos to YouTube, which take viewers a virtual tour around one of Britain’s most remote inhabited islands.

They have amassed thousands of views as folk from across the globe watch in to catch a glimpse at the landscape and amenities on offer in Fair Isle.

Challoner said the inspiration came when one of her other employers, Shetland Nature, cancelled tours as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We received lots of correspondence from guests who were saying how disappointed they were at not being able to visit Shetland and that some of them had been due to visit Fair Isle too,” she explained.

“Also through correspondence with creative folk from across the world who had booked residencies at Fair Isle Studio this year and had been looking forward for many months to staying here and would now be unable to.

“I just thought that if people couldn’t come to Fair Isle then maybe bits of Fair Isle could come to them through the medium of video. I thought it might also inspire people to think about visiting Fair Isle as part of their Shetland holidays next year too.”

Challoner said she has been “absolutely amazed” that her YouTube account has racked up more than 600 subscribers so far.

She said generally in Fair Isle, like most crofting communities, residents tend to have multiple jobs so Covid-19 has not had a massive impact economically.

The Internet has also allowed some craft makers to continue selling goods in the absence of visits from tourists.

“People that run the B&Bs have probably been the hardest hit in terms of loss of income but they do have alternative sources of income such as selling artwork or textiles,” Challoner said.

“Each year hundreds of cruise ship visitors and other tourists would normally visit and buy traditional knitwear from ‘Fair Isle Made in Fair Isle’ and ‘Exclusively Fair Isle’, but both businesses have been able to offer online sales which means they’re still able to trade.

“The isle, like other places, might be in a bit of a trough right now but a peak will soon follow – construction work is due to start on the new Bird Obs before too long, plus the construction work at the water works will recommence, so the B&Bs will all be full to capacity with contractors on long-term occupancies, meaning more people will be buying from the shop, more people buying gifts and souvenirs and putting into the local economy.”