A trip to Hoswick Visitor Centre
Hoswick is a jewel to visit, with the Visitor Centre nestled at the heart of the community, just a mile from the village of Sandwick in Shetland’s South Mainland. Boasting a cafe serving hot and cold food, local displays about weaving and fishing, a gift shop full of locally-made Shetland produce and an area where you can dress up as a real Viking it is an unmissable experience in your Shetland adventure.
Hoswick Visitor Centre boasts a cafe serving hot and cold food, (including their world-famous tiffin!) local displays about weaving and fishing, a gift shop full of locally-made Shetland produce and an area where you can dress up as a real Viking!
The Centre underwent a major refurbishment in 2019, extending the cafe and gift shop and revamping all the displays. The result is a welcoming, airy and versatile space that can adapt to suit a variety of community needs from local events, family lunches, Wool Week classes to busy cruise liner days which bring over 8,000 passengers through its doors. During the season, eight people work on a part-time basis in the kitchen, providing much valued jobs in the area.
Hoswick tiffin is a moreish sweet tray bake which is hugely popular with local people and visitors alike in the Centre. Rosemary Inkster who manages the busy Visitor Centre, kindly agreed to share Hoswick’s world-famous Tiffin recipe!
Hoswick is a fantastic place to spend a day. A path to the beach leads from the car park where you can search for pretty stones, shells and sea glass.
The beach here was the site of a famous whale caa (hunt) in 1888 when 380 whales were driven ashore. This was an important part of the subsistence way of life here until the early 1900s, with every part of the whale used or sold. In this famous case, the landlord attempted to take the community to court for a share of the profits and the people, very famously, challenged him. Eventually, the trial was brought to the High Court in Edinburgh, and the people won. The Centre has in-depth displays and information about this pivotal moment in Shetland’s history.
Or you can explore the Hoswick Burn, a relaxing and meditative ¼ of a mile walk along the banks of the burn which is teeming with little fish – so remember to bring a pond net if you have little people in tow!
Why not explore a little further? Walk through the village and discover the ‘Hoswick Dam’; a water dam at the top of the village, connected to a series of stone-lined drains that run through the community – passing the Visitor Centre. Constructed in 1908 the system was designed to keep the village clean with the reservoir at the top being opened by a small valve that allowed water to wash out the drains that may be full of fish waste and other smellies!
Perhaps it’s retail therapy you’re after? After you’ve exhausted the displays at the Visitor Centre why not head across the road to the two knitwear designers that line the narrow street into the village. Laurence J Smith Knitwear factory, now Laurence Odie, is just across from the Centre and sells an array of traditional Shetland knitwear, including the ever-popular Fair Isle. Are you interested in Viking heritage? Why not buy one of their Viking-inspired scarves to keep the chill off as you explore the village.
Almost next door to Laurence Odie is Neilanell, an alternative, contemporary knitwear designer with vibrant, fun and colourful designs – the only problem you’ll have here is choosing one from her many unique designs!
After you’ve done all this, you’ll be sure to need a hot coffee and a piece of delicious tiffin back at the Centre!
Hoswick Visitor Centre is open throughout the year from 10:00 to 17:00 (with reduced winter openings).
Hoswick Visitor Centre photos © Ross Stopper and Scott Goudie
Born and raised in Shetland, Laurie loves the unique history and culture there so much that she started her own tour company offering visitors the chance to see the isles through the eyes of an islander. Find out more at www.shetlandwithlaurie.com