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Published: 29 April 2017

By Andy Ross

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A magical place - Fair Isle

The island of Fair Isle, halfway between Orkney and Shetland, is a place of myth and magic for many. 

To get to Fair Isle there are two routes, by sea or air. Travelling over the sea, while always fun, takes a long time and, loving the small 'plane which trundles its way across the expanse of ocean which separates Shetland from Fair Isle, I always opt for flying. This week, on a two day trip, our flight across the sea dodged showers of rain. As we had snow on Tuesday this week in quantity, rain was preferable! The light was fantastic for taking pictures and the flight is always too short, 25 minutes or so.

Fair Isle is not a big island but it is a favourite. I stayed in the Bird Observatory near to the harbour where the Good Shepherd is hauled up on dry land after traversing the crossing to Shetland (the Fair Isle name for the land northwards), and enjoyed walks to the beach nearby, the hills across the way, and to the Fair Isle School where I was working. 

It is almost like a holiday, going to the island. Fair Isle is peaceful and calm. It is beautiful, whatever the weather, with dramatic scenery, lots of history, sheep (and lambs at this time of year), friendly people,.. And the best thing is that it is small and easily walkable. In half an hour or so you can get from "The Obs" to the settled part of Fair Isle in the South, or North to the second of the lighthouses with its own spectacular views and landscape. At this time of year, be prepared to dodge bonxies (the Great Skua) which will dive bomb as you walk past their nesting sites, and to sidle past sheep, with their tiny lambs which totter about the lanes and fields, unsteady on their newly found legs.

My first visit to the island was way back in 2002 when I took part in a community music event. That special time has forever etched the people and the island onto my memory and into my heart, and I love going back. Fair Isle has changed a little since then but it retains its unique character and charm. Next year I am planning a return trip with a small group of five or six to explore the island and do some textile workshops in this magical place. If you would like to join me and fancy a trip on a small 'plane to experience this wonderful part of the world, send an email so I can pass on information when it is ready.