NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Shetland's 'bucket-list' island Parkrun

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Media captionOn the UK's most northern Parkrun

The Parkrun on the island of Bressay in Shetland lays claim to some rather unique features.

It is the most northerly in the UK, you need a ferry to get to it, and the run itself doesn't take place in a park, but on a road.

In its 12 months of existence, these factors have given it a certain cachet, making it attractive to visitors from outside the UK, and even outside Europe. It has become what organiser Kate Wills calls a "bucket-list" run.

And the organisers are using it to show off what Bressay has to offer.

Image copyright Daniel Bennett/BBC
Image caption Bressay is a five minute ferry trip from Lerwick

'Bressay had some knocks'

The island of Bressay has a population of just under 400 - a figure that has remained relatively stable in the past two decades.

In spite of this, a number of services have been closed on Bressay in recent years.

"Our primary school got closed, our pub was shut for a while, and [before it was closed] we had the most northerly spa in the UK," Kate explains.

"I wanted to show people in Shetland, and also outwith Shetland, that there's still a lot on offer in Bressay."

Image copyright Daniel Bennett/BBC
Image caption Kate Wills is the organiser of the Shetland Parkrun

The route of the Parkrun passes many of Bressay's services. Kate explains that the hope is to attract people to come to Bressay by showing off what the island still has to offer.

"We have the heritage centre, the pub and hotel, the shop, the playpark, the football pitch," she says.

"We also have a shipwrecks and rescues tour, given there have been quite a few wreckages around Bressay."

The shipwrecks tour is one of the island's hidden attractions, not flagged on the ferry from Lerwick to Bressay.

'Added another dimension'

One vital ingredient to any thriving community is of course a cafe. In the case of Bressay this is the Speldiburn cafe, which offers food and drink at the end of the Parkrun.

It is one of the amenities keen to impress on visitors to take part in the Parkrun experience.

"The cafe is the focal point of the community hub here on Bressay," explains Noel Kelly from the cafe.

Image copyright Daniel Bennett/BBC
Image caption The map in the Speldiburn Cafe shows where runners have come from

Noel says there is a real drive to get people involved in the work they do, extending to cafe staff and volunteers driving to provide meals to people who can't come to the cafe themselves.

"The Parkrun has added another dimension to that," he explains. With a weekly average of 40 runners, and occasionally into the 60s or 70s, it provides welcome business.

"It brings in a nice income for the cafe" which in turns allows Noel to get "locally-sourced ingredients" from Bressay, stimulating some local economy.

"Oh, the bacon and egg rolls? 'The best in Shetland' some people say. Well, I'll leave that up to them!" Noel concedes with a grin.

'Expecting more visitors'

"We tick a lot of boxes," explains Kate, who says hopes are building for more success in the Parkrun's second year.

"We have already received messages from people who are intending on coming from quite far away," says Kate.

In the Bressay Parkrun's first year they've had runners from all over Europe, and from Australia, New Zealand, India and South America.

"It is like a bucket-list Parkrun," says Kate. "People try and do all the Scottish Parkruns, or all the island Parkruns, or they do an alphabet Parkrun. We'd obviously be 'B'.

"We're expecting a lot more visitors to Bressay and we're looking forward to welcoming them all."

Image copyright Daniel Bennett/BBC
Image caption Runners have come from all around the world for the Bressay Parkrun

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