sea

A stopover in Shetland

So up until now I’ve not really stopped travelling. I left Norway the third week of May and then went straight to Shetland, then onto the mainland, then up to Ullapool, over to the Isle of Lewis where I travelled down through the Isle of Harris, Berneray, North Uist, South Uist back over to Mallaig where I then caught the ferry to Eigg to where I am right now. Talk about going the long way around. I’m going to spend quite a bit of time though on this post showing some of my photographs and travels around Shetland, a place that will forever inspire me, also because I took so many photos whilst there and had such a great adventure.

I spent only a few days in Shetland having explored the Islands quite thoroughly in the past few years and me being me I decided to fly back to the Scottish Mainland via Shetland from Bergen, a good way of connecting the landscapes together. My accommodation for my few days in Shetland was the beautiful homely and well situated Ortolan House B&B, a large Georgian townhouse dating from the 1780’s, well located in the central conservation ‘lanes’ area of Lerwick, less than a minute’s walk from the bustling main street which is home to all amenities. Ortolan has a wonderful well-established walled garden with stunning views overlooking Lerwick’s busy harbour and the tranquil island of Bressay. The property offers two exclusive bedrooms with an emphasis on having a relaxed and comfortable stay and I certainly did have that! Here’s a few images of the accommodation and the places I explored whilst on the Northern Isles.

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Sunday

My first full day began with a trip over to the neighbouring Island of Bressay. A quiet place but home to many wonderful clear coastal routes, I aimed for a few hours there to take in the sights and also view Lerwick from a different perspective. I spent my time wandering around the Island and taking sanctuary in the beaches that surround the west coast of the Island. I then spent the rest of the day wandering around the Mareel and Shetland museum, always a great place for finding new contemporary art that’s inspired from the unique Shetland landscape. It was then onto Burra for a coastal hike with a couple of local artist friends, impressive geology and wild seascapes leading us around the shore.

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Monday

I set off in the morning for an Island I’d never been to before. I’ve been to every single one of the Shetland Islands now apart from Foula and Fair Isle, that is a must for in the autumn of this year! And so Whalsay it was, without a clear plan I headed off for the ferry with just one aim, try and hike around most of the Island and see the unique natural wonders and coastal paths.

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Tuesday

On my last day of my short trip I hiked out to the Knab, one of my favourite coastal walks in Shetland and ideally located so close to Lerwick, such incredible views over to Bressay and down to the south of the mainland. It was then onto a boat trip around Bressay with Shetland Sea Bird Tours, the same lovely couple who ran the accommodation I was staying in. Turns out both Rebecca and Phil not only run their homely Ortolan B&B they also are very knowledgeable and expert guides on bird and sea life. Not only do they stock an enviable natural history library for their guests but with their combined knowledge and expertise they are perfectly placed to advise and even facilitate your time in the field. The trip to Shetland was perfect in gaining some inspiration from a landscape that so richly appeals to me, and leave with a new appreciation for the varied geology there.

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Again another wonderful trip, I’ve realised that my blog is turning a bit into a travel, photography and art blog which I don’t mind one bit. I’ve gone from one project in one country to the next consistently this year and I find it good for myself and reflection through my art to document and write what I’ve been up to in the place. It’s also really fulfilling for me to share it with you all so again thanks for reading this. My next blog is going to be about my further onward travel around the wonderful Scottish Islands where I’ve been recently, it’s good to be back in my home country, a place that inspires me to the highest level and always will do.

Weeks 9, 10 & 11

An overdue update!

A lot has happened in the past 3 weeks since leaving my last residency at Nes in Skagastrond and it’s went in very very quick! I’ve been working as artist in residence with Listhus Art Space with 24 other artists from around the world for just over 2 weeks now!

The location of my current residency is a town right on the North tip of Iceland called Ólafsfjörður, the town is home to around 800 people and has the largest mountains that I have ever seen which surround the whole town. It is right on a fjord which opens up to the arctic sea and I regularly take a walk to the beach where you can look out to the ocean and know that there is no other land until the north pole. It is here where I realise how impressive and truly wild this place really is. To add to this, I have also never seen so much snow in my life, it snows constantly here leaving even more breathtaking views, and even some of the houses around here have started to disappear under the mounds of it!

My time here in Ólafsfjörður started off with some of the worst weather Iceland has ever witnessed. High storms, avalanches and hurricanes, in fact I was told the hurricane that hit us at the start of December was the worst one to hit Iceland in 25 years. I arrived here on the 3rd of December at night and spent the first two days stuck indoors because of the harsh weather, there was an epic white out and I had no idea how magnificent the surroundings of this place were until 3 days into my residency! Wild, raw, powerful, elemental, all of these things which truly heighten an experience and what make Iceland so amazingly beautiful yet terrifying sometimes!

It was a few days in right among these infamous Icelandic storms where I had possibly the best surprise of my life. A large number of my family showed up on my doorstep, in one of the northernmost towns of Iceland, all the way from Scotland. They had been planning the surprise visit soon after I left Scotland back in October and it was a complete pleasure to spend the first week of my time here in Ólafsfjörður with them especially since the residency had only begun and I was still getting to know the place myself! We spent the few days in the amazingly located Brimnes Cabins which are in the town, taking shelter from the storms and even playing cards by candlelight when all of the electricity in the town went out for a few hours on the eve of the hurricane! I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my time anywhere else with anyone else!

Later that week we witnessed some of the most impressive northern lights that I have been lucky enough to see since arriving in Iceland, it was even more special being able to watch them with my family who had never seen them before! I’ve included a few of my photographs from that evening further down in this blog! One of the most incredible experiences to happen to me on that particular evening was bumping into the guys at Arctic Surf who were staying in a cabin close to us. Arctic Surf are a group of professional photographers and surfers who instead of surfing in the expected warm climates of our world, choose to document their surfing experiences and travel in the cold, northern and remote parts of our earth. Getting to meet my favourite photographer Chris Burkard whose photographs you should really check out was a particular highlight! They invited me to join them that evening to document the northern lights so we drove down in their jeep to the remote black sand beach in our town where we spent a good while under the aurora in the impressive fjord inlet! I would urge you all to check out what Chris and the team at Arctic Surf are doing as the photographs and ideas they are producing are truly unique!

The rest of my time here has involved welcoming my amazing friends from Scotland who travelled up to Iceland for my birthday, spending a few days in Akureyri which is the city of the North and getting to know the other 24 artists who I am working with on this Listhus Residency for the Skammdegi Festival. Here is a list of the participating artists in this unique and remote residency! http://www.listhus.com/listhus-skammdegi-air-award.html

The past two weeks here have also allowed me to get to know the place, adjust to my new surroundings, spend as much time as possible outside when the weather and light allow it, and document the beauty and overwhelming environment of the mountains right on the edge of the arctic sea.  There have been a few days here where the temperature has plummeted to minus 20 degrees and on average we are losing about 7/8 minutes of light per day. The sunrise this morning was at 11:51am and then set at 2:33pm, there is no sunlight as the mountains which surround this town are high above the suns peak. Yet the drama and impressive elements of this place make up for all of it and whenever there is on average of 3 hours of blue light per day I try and get outside to walk in it to take in the surroundings of the arctic winter.

The rest of my time here leading up to my third week has involved meeting with the local Junior College to discuss future workshops in January to coincide with the Listhus Skammdegi Festival, spending a lot of time in the local outdoor swimming pool which is geothermal heated by the surrounding mountains and thinking about my projects here and starting to produce new work in my studio in Listhus!

I’ll be updating more often now with my current practise in my residency and with photos here and there of this epic place! It is now Winter Solstice in our northern hemisphere so the days will start to get lighter from this day on. I’m sure this residency and location will bring with it some fierce and temperamental wild weather but the views and location of this magical place here in the north sure do make up for it!

I’m heading back to my homeland of Scotland tomorrow for a week to spend some time with my family and friends over the holiday and then will be back up in Iceland from the 29th of December so lots of updates then, until then here are some of my photos of the surrounding landscape here at Listhus!

 

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Week 6 & epic Ring Road Trip!

What an amazing past couple of weeks it has been and this blog post is going to be crammed full with recent images of my adventures around Iceland!

The start of the week 6 began with clear days and hiking once again! I started off the week with a big walk to the northern beach of the town here, black sands, an epic view over to the Westfjords and a scavenging of some interesting materials to draw back in the studio. It’s pretty compulsory here that if the weather is clear and there is not much wind, it is a must to go on a walk. I’ve found it really important especially in such a remote place to get outside as much as possible to clear my head and find more and more inspiration for my visual work and writing. The light is getting less and less here in the north, there is on average about 7 minutes less of sunlight every single day so when it is light outside it’s pretty important to go on a walk especially if I’m going to be in Iceland right through the dark winter period!

Anyway, I spent the rest of the week finishing up some drawings in the studio before my road trip commenced and spent more and more time recording the environment around us here in Skagastrond. I’ve been cycling a lot here recently too, i got a surprise one day when I cycled along to the southern beach here and found a massive pack of wild horses in the water, it’s occurrences like this that make me realise how truly epic it is to be so connected to the nature and wildlife here in Iceland.

I left my temporary little home town of Skagastrond on Thursday the 12th to head down to the big city of Reykjavik that is. The reason being? I was meeting up with my boyfriend who flew up from Scotland and who i was really looking forward to seeing also for us to spend a busy time together travelling around the whole ring road of Iceland: challenge accepted!

I was told on numerous occasions before setting off on my trip around the coast that it was better to go on the trip sooner than later as the weather can change very quickly and dramatically here in Iceland so i was anxious to set off. Also another reason for my excitement was that I had been living in Iceland for 6 weeks and still had not got to view the amazing wonders of the south of Iceland and the many many natural wonders around the rest of this rocky outpost in the middle of the ocean.

We stayed over in Kex Hostel in Reykjavik on the Thursday eve which was a lovely pit stop (and in my opinion the best hostel in the city) and then set off early on the Friday morning desperate to see as much as possible! We aimed for the South Road ring road 1: the weather was clear, the landscape was completely white and I was desperate to see some of the sights I had been told of with my own eyes!

Day 1: The first two stops we made were at the mighty Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. Both of them blew me away, we were incredibly lucky and even got to walk right up behind the Seljalandsfoss falls and conquer the Skogafoss by climbing right up to the top of it with such an inspiring view from the top. We even managed to catch a clear sight of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands in the distance. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to catch the ferry over to these islands but I’ll definitely be back there and spend a longer period of time in that area! We drove further along the coast and had to stop the car and just get out and walk to appreciate the beauty every 10 minutes or so. I realised that no matter how many photographs I have seen of Iceland or how many stories I have been told of how truly epic these roads and sights are, I still had to see it for my own eyes and get blown away at the same time. We spent the rest of the day seeing more and more of the South and then caught the sunset at Dyrhólaey overlooking the black sand beaches of the south and the many sea stacks including Reynisdrangar and rocky formations that are so unique to the area. We spent our first night in the south at the Vik Hostel which again I would highly recommend. It’s based just on the outskirts of the beautiful town and overlooking the cliffs and black sand beach that holds Vik as one of the most well known areas in Iceland.

Day 2: Saturday, we awoke early and took a massive walk along the infamous black sand beach in Vik. The tide came in quick and I realised how powerful the sea around Iceland is, this place is truly wild! We drove further along the South Road passing numerous wonderful sights. The day was calm again, we were told how lucky we were considering in Iceland by this time in the year there is normally snow storms! We headed towards the infamous Vatnajokull Glacier which is the largest glacier in the whole of Europe. The landscape rose and changed dramatically along this ride, revealing smaller hidden but just as incredible waterfalls, unreal rock formations that made me feel as though I was on another planet. We made another pit stop at Skaftafell and Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður National Park which was another overwhelming experience! Lastly for the day we finally caught sight of the Vatnajokull Glacier in the distance which spreads out completely over an insane amount of landscape and mountains! It was here where we made one of our last stops for the day: a place that I have been dreaming about for as long as I can remember, a place that I know will inspire me and my artwork significantly for years to come and a place I finally got to experience: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. I can’t even begin to sum up how I felt seeing these magnificent shapes of ice float from the glacier right out into the sea and then washing up as giant crystals on the black sand unspoiled beach. I’ll leave it up to you to experience it with your own eyes as I still can’t get over how special it truly was. I have to say this part of the ring road from Vik to Jokusarlon Glacier Lagoon has to be my favourite part of the road in Iceland, the sights and the quick changes of the dramatic landscape absolutely captivated me! We made our last stop in Vagnsstaðir Hostel which was brilliantly located right on the ring road and not far from the lagoon. That evening I didn’t want to just stay inside after experiencing some of the most breathtaking landscapes that Iceland had to offer so we drove further along to Hoffell where there is remote and natural geothermal hot pots situated not far from Hofn. We bathed in the pools right under the stars and I felt completely lucky to be in Iceland.

Day 3: Left our hostel and headed straight for the town on the coast, Höfn. By this time the snow had blown immensely over night so there was no more sunshine for us on the trip! I find Iceland in the snow and storm blown lands much more atmospheric though, it gives it a true heightened sense of intensity and rawness! We then headed up the Eastern Fjords past some of the most impressive landscapes and volcanic rock formations. There was jagged mountains all the way up covered in snow and sitting side by side some beautiful wind swept lakes. We arrived into the town of Egilsstaðir in the east after a very long drive and went further on to our accommodation for the night in a remote little cabin right off the ring road. I found it on air bnb and would highly recommend! It’s called Egilsstaðir Stóri-Bakki and was exactly what we needed, a quiet retreat in the middle of a lovely secluded landscape! The cabin had everything we needed and more, and even got a wonderful showing of the northern lights to top the night off!

Week 7

Day 4: Monday, left from our cabin and drove further up the North East, the snow was really bad with whiteouts in some areas, never ending roads through windy lands, it felt like I was truly in the real Icelandic winter! We stopped over in Myvatn and went to the Myvatn Nature Baths along the North and then a while exploring the geothermal active areas of the North and mighty blue colour of the lagoons. We then had an epic drive to Akureyri passing frozen over lakes, minus temperatures which were rapidly plummeting and white misty mountains. The weather rapidly got worse on the road out of Akureyri but I still tried to appreciate the beauty of the landscape! We made it all the way back to where I am currently staying in Skagaströnd after the longest day driving on the ring road!

Day 5: The last day, we drove all the way back down to Reykjavik just in time for Ally to make his flight and then I came back up to my tiny town in the North. It was a very intense and jam packed journey around the ring road that I would definitely recommend to everyone to spend more time doing but in the short amount of time we had before the winter set in I believe we made the most out of it and experienced some of the most amazing parts of the journey. I’ll definitely make more time in the future to experience the Westfjords and some more of the remote hidden gem towns that are situated all around this beautiful country! The 1 road takes you through sights that change drastically, from mossy landscapes, to lava fields, to desert lands and then to glaciers that surround you, it truly is a road trip that will not only stay with me in my mind as being the best I’ve done yet but also will continue to inspire me for years to come!

I’m back in the North now and the end of this week has brought blizzards and a massive snow storm with it! I’m focusing the rest of my 2 weeks here as artist in residence with Nes by finishing off my paintings and drawings, getting out and appreciating the beauty around me as much as I can (wind permitting) and spending time with the lovely group of artists that I share this residency with!

Here’s some photos of my trip around the ring road, will be updating lots more soon, I just have to get round to actually sorting through the thousands of them…

 

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