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Most settlement on Bressay lies along its western side. A little to the north of the ferry terminal is Gardie House, dating back to 1724 and one of Shetland's finest lairds' houses. Even closer is Maryfield House, now the island's only hotel and a good option for lunch (though booking in advance is recommended). Meanwhile the large ferry car park is overlooked by the This is well worth a visit for those wanting a better understanding of the history of this fascinating island.
But the main part of that island is too well defended, our narrator tells us, and Zichmni assails seven islands on its east side instead: Talas, Broas, Iscant, Trans, Mimant, Damberc and Bres.
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But the king of Norway sends his fleet to defend Shetland, and Antonio retreats to an uninhabited island called Grislanda, off the south coast of Iceland.
Estlanda is clearly meant to be Shetland, as is obvious from its place-names: Brystund, for instance, an old form of Bressay Sound; Sumburgh Head; Scalloway (the latter wrongly depicted on the east side of the main island).
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The irony is that Bressay developed long before Lerwick. The crews of the Viking longships which arrived in Shetland in the 700s and 800s preferred to land in sheltered inlets where the water was shallow. The shore of the Lerwick side of Bressay Sound has very limited landing opportunities. But on Bressay the mouth of Leira Voe, which translates as was large enough and sheltered enough to allow many longships to overwinter here.
It seems likely that Bressay is named after the Norse nobleman Earl Brusi: translates from Old Norse as "Brusi's Island". Earl Brusi might be less happy if he knew that a rock on the approach to Leira Voe is known as perhaps remembering a navigational mishap the Earl would have preferred to have been forgotten.
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Over time, the annual shanty town that became each Summer achieved a degree of permanence. Over still more time it displaced as Shetland's capital, and came to attract by far the bulk of development along the shores of Bressay Sound. Today the Mainland side of the sound is continuously developed, leaving Bressay to feel remote and rural in comparison.
Statoil sets timeline for Bressay in North Sea - Offshore Mag
It may not always remain so. The fish meal factory at Heogan, in the north west of Bressay, already reflects the industry just opposite on the Lerwick side of the Sound. And it has not escaped the planners' attention that at this end of the sound, Bressay and Mainland come as close as 800ft from one another. The result is a proposal for a bridge linking the two. This would inevitably change Bressay significantly. But for the better or worse? Opinions on the island differ sharply.
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Five hundred years later, in the 1400s, it was the Dutch who turned to Bressay for their main harbour in Bressay Sound. They operated large twin masted fishing boats called busses, usually accompanied by Dutch naval vessels. Each June up to 2,000 busses would descend on Bressay Sound for the herring fishery: it was said that at times you could cross from Bressay to Mainland by stepping from boat to boat. The herring caught was preserved before being exported throughout Europe.
Newhall cottage is located on the Island of
Half a mile south of the ferry terminal is the older focus of the island, at Mail. Here you find and the Mail Shop. Nearby is Bressay Marina. On one side of this is the pier from which the small ferry to Mainland ran in the days before car ferries: as recently as 1975.
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The southern end of Bressay is dominated by the 226m high Ward of Bressay, which with its TV masts can be seen from a surprisingly large part of Shetland. The road in the south of the island here runs along the west coast, and ends at the Bressay Lighthouse. This was built by David and Thomas Stevenson in 1858 and has been a landmark for generations of travellers arriving in Lerwick by sea.
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