Brian Cheung


Thoughts, photos and anecdotes from my travels through Norway, Scotland and Finland.

Slightly Southbound

Greetings from Sumburgh Head! I was up nice and early this morning to pack up the last of my things and attempt to leave without a trace. I had enough time to kill in Lerwick between ferry and bus for an early lunch and to buy a warm woollen Shetland jumper. They’re similar to the Icelandic lopapeysa though maybe a little less scratchy, and more flattering on me without the traditional circular motifs that wrap around the neck hole of a lopapeysa.  

Tony picked me up at the airport, which sits about a mile off from the jagged windswept spur of rock on which the lighthouse sits. Sumburgh is the southernmost point of Shetland, other than lonely Fair Isle, and the spur rises up from sea level to about 100m. This means that the site gets a proper beating by winds racing in from all directions. The sea cliffs all around the lighthouse are teeming with sea birds, and during their nesting season is the site of a huge puffin colony as well. The surrounding waters are also great for spotting whales and dolphins, so I’ll need to keep a lookout for something other than waves.

The site is a lot more built up compared to Bressay. There is a visitor centre, cafe, museum, RSPB offices (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), and accommodation set aside for tourists and artists. As we’ve now entered the low season, everything will be closed until next year when the coaches and cruise liners start appearing again with the longer summer days. Daylights saving wrapped up on Sunday, and though I’m no expert when it comes to the how and the why, it means that the sun now starts setting at around 3. If past experiences are anything to go by then the extended darkness shouldn’t affect my work too significantly.

There’s a designated workspace in my flat (the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage) which rudely doesn’t have a window that faces anything decent. Thankfully with everything being shut, I can set up my studio in the unoccupied cafe. Unlike the cottage, the cafe sits in a semicircular room with the curved side giving a panoramic 180 degree view of the ocean and back towards mainland Shetland. I should be able to work here uninterrupted for the most part, though I was warned by Nicky and Tony that there could be functions and RSPB meetings rocking up unannounced. Until that time comes I’ll happily plant my feet in the room with the best view. Honestly, if I can’t make it work here then something’s definitely wrong with me. 

shetland, scotlandBrian Cheung