RSPB Bird SanctuaryFetlar’s importance as a home for bird life is recognised by the statutory bird sanctuary set up in the north of the isle, at Vord Hill. Though the sanctuary itself is closed from 1 May to 11 August to protect breeding birds, the huge range of species that live within it can be seen elsewhere on Fetlar. Britain’s only breeding pair of snowy owls left in 1995 after 28 years.
The Loch of FunzieOne of Britain’s rarest breeding birds has attracted many to Fetlar. The red-necked phalarope can be seen at close quarters at the Loch of Funzie where it feeds along the shore. While its numbers have drastically declined elsewhere in Britain, the island’s population has started to recover with 30-40 pairs – 90 per cent of the UK population – now breeding here.
Fetlar Interpretive CentreFor all aspects of visitor information, the Interpretive Centre at the Beach of Houbie is open from May to the end of September. The museum at the Interpretive Centre offers displays and interactive multi-media on the island’s cultural history, folklore, archaeology, wildlife and geology. Visitors can listen to recordings of Fetlar stories and see film of the island dating back to the 1930s. A visit to the Centre is well worthwhile for its award-winning exhibition on Sir William Watson Cheyne and the history of Antiseptic Surgery. Information at the Interpretive Centre is available in French, German and Italian.
Finnigert DykeFetlar is full of history, much of it clouded in mystery. The oldest surviving structure is Finnigert Dyke, probably dating back at least as far as the Bronze Age. Running south from Muckle Funziegord Geo north of Vord Hill, “The Finn’s Dyke” used to divide the island in two almost equal sections. A good place to pick up the trail of this remarkable ruin is at Whilsa Pund.
HaltadansShetland has no large standing stone circles like Orkney or Lewis. The nearest equivalent in these islands is the ancient ring of stones on Fetlar, called Haltadans. Legend has it that a fiddler and his wife were playing music in the middle of a group of trows dancing in a circle. When the sun came up the entire gathering was turned to stone. The circle is hard to find – none of the stones rise more than two feet off the ground - but it’s worth the effort. Not far from here another three even more obscure stone circles can be found at Fiddlers’ Crus.
Note: Both Finnigert Dyke and Haltadans are inside the Statutory Bird Sanctuary which is closed between May and August. Please ask the RSPB warden or the staff at Fetlar Interpretive Centre for advice.
Giant’s GraveMore easily accessible is the Giant’s Grave, just off the main road at Aith. It is the site of a Viking boat burial which was the subject of excavations by the television programme Time Team in 2002, along with a Norse house site at Gord. The sites were covered over after the excavations, but information on the digs can be found at Fetlar Interpretive Centre.
Stone of the Ripples/Leagarth House
Fetlar’s largest standing stone – the Stone of the Ripples – stands in the grounds of Leagarth House, at Houbie, one of several impressive buildings on the isle. The house was constructed in 1900 by Sir William Watson Cheyne, a Fetlar man who became Lord Lister’s assistant in his pioneering work on antiseptic surgery in the late 19th century. He later became a prominent surgeon in his own right, President of the Royal College of Surgeons as well as MP and Lord Lieutenant for Shetland.
Brough LodgeClose to the ferry terminal at Oddsta stands Brough Lodge, built in 1820 for the Nicolson family who were once prominent on the island. Close to the house, sitting prominently on the site of an Iron Age broch, is a rare Shetland example of a Georgian folly.The tower, built for Sir Arthur Nicolson, was used at one time as an astronomical observatory.