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Published: 18 May 2019

By Andy Ross

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The little settlement of Collafirth lies in a secluded valley, closed at one end by hills and open to the sea at the other. And it hides a rather lovely secret.

Collafirth was once a thriving 'toon', the Shetland word for such a township. There was a school, and homes, and families, and weaving. Now largely forgotten, the weavers of Collafirth were part of the tweed traditions of Shetland and so, one misty evening, I decided to take a drive down the long, winding road to see where cloth, and history, was once made. 

To get to Collafirth, one turns right just after Voe on the upper road out of the toon. The road curves up and up and over a steep-sided hill, gouged out by glacial action aeons ago. At the top of the hill, the descent is rather steep and suddenly the landscape opens out in a widening valley with small houses dotted across it, some in ruins, and, far off in the distance, the road winding on and on. Another right turn along the descent, past some ruins, over a bridge and this is Collafirth. 

There is not much here now. A few houses, sheep, ruins and the beautiful views into the sea with a boat on it. I know that people used to weave here, and go to school, and work. Now it seems a little asleep, just waiting for something to happen which will waken it up again. 

I know about Collafirth because, as part of the tweed research, I met a woman who used to live and work there. I learned that Collafirth weaving was a small industry, but important, and that life back in the day was looked on fondly. What a lovely place to visit. Go if you can.