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Fetlar

Described as the 'Garden of Shetland', the island of Fetlar in the Northern Isles contrasts markedly with the bleak and desolate neighbouring island of Yell. With an area of 4078 ha (10,077 acres), its name is thought to derive from the Old Norse for 'fat' or 'prosperous' land. Over 200 species of wild flower have been identified, including rare sedges and orchids and the island has a rich variety of bird life. Until 1967, Fetlar was the only UK breeding site of the Snowy owl although, despite protection, the last one left in the late 1980s. The island is now noted for 90% of the British breeding population of Red-necked Phalarope. The highest point of the island is Vord Hill which rises to 158m (518 feet). There are many prehistoric remains including the Stone of the Ripples, the Fiddler's Crus stone circles, the Haltadans ring of stones and the Finnigert (or Funzie Girt) Dyke which dates from the Bronze Age and divides the island into two halves. The Giant's Grave is thought to be the site of a Viking boat burial. In 1822 the first large-scale clearances in Shetland took place on the Lamb Hoga peninsula where crofters were evicted by Sir Arthur Nicolson to make way for sheep. The population of the island has fallen from a total of 761 in 1841 to 127 (1961) and 88 (1971). A modest rise to 101 (1981) has been followed by a further decline to 90 (1991), 86 (2001) and only 61 in 2011. Buildings of interest include the Haa of Funzie fishing station; Brough Lodge, built c.1820 for the Nicolson family; Leagarth House, built in 1900 by Sir William Watson Cheyne (1852 - 1932), a Fetlar man who was an assistant to Joseph Lister (1827 - 1912) the pioneer of antiseptic surgery; and Aithbank, the home of the storyteller Jamesie Laurenson. The history of the island is told in the Fetlar Interpretive Centre at Houbie which is the main settlement. There is a school at Houbie and a small church at Tresta. The Society of Our Lady of the Isles is a small religious community at Aith Ness, established in 1988. The island can be reached via an airstrip northwest of Houbie or by car ferry that links Hamarsness with Belmont on Unst and Gutcher on Yell.


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