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Things to do in Shetland

Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.com

Shetland is an archipelago of over 100 islands of which only 15 are inhabited. The Shetland Isles lie to the north east of Orkney. Originally populated by the Picts the Shetland Islands were invaded by the Vikings in the late 8th and early 9th century. It becamse a Norwegian colony and remained that way for 600 years.

The Scandinavian influence remains today in many of its place names. Shetland was returned to Scotland in the late 15th century as part of the dowry of Margaret of Norway on her marriage to James III of Scotland.

Up-Helly-Aa - Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.comShetland has a spectacular coastline, open countryside and many important archaeological sites.

Sporting Facilities

The siting of the oil terminal at Sullom Voe has brought prosperity to the islands. Consequently, there are excellent facilities, including superb sports and leisure centres.

Walkers and cyclists can follow cross-country treks while golfers can choose from three courses. There are many lochs where those keen on fishing will find brown trout.

In addition to these pursuits, sailing, scuba diving, surfing and kayaking are all available.

Shetland's most famous annual event, Up-Helly-Aa, is a fire festival. It's held on the last Tuesday in January, in Lerwick. Torch lit processions, fancy dress and the burning of a replica Viking galley is all part of the fun.

Fair Isle

Fair Isle - Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.com Fair Isle is a tiny island just three miles long, lying between Orkney and the Shetlands. Its history can been traced back over 5,000 years. It is known for its distinctive knit wear, unique to Fair Isle.

The Fair Isle Bird Observatory, co founded by George Waterson, carry out scientific research on bird migration and the seabird breeding colonies on the island. The George Waterson Memorial Centre and Museum is housed in the former school.

South Mainland

Sumburgh Head - Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.com The southern peninsula contains fine scenery. There are walks around the coast and across the hills which form the spine of south mainland. North of Quarff - near the Brindister Loch - Shetland Ponies are bred at the nearby farm and can often be seen in the fields.

Shetland's first lighthouse is to be found at Sumburgh Head. It was built by Robert Stevenson, who accompanied Sir Walter Scott on a visit in 1814. This visit inspired his novel 'The Pirate'.

There are puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes to be found at RSPB Sumburgh Head Nature Reserve. Seals, humpback, minke and killer whales are also visitors to the area.

The Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement is to be found Near Sumburgh. It's one of the most important archaeological sites in Britain. There are remains from around 800BC, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Pictish Age as well as the Norse Village. This village grew up between 850 and 1300 while the remains of 'New Hall' date from the early 17th century.

To the north near Boddam, is the Croft House Museum. It illustrates the home of a typical crofting family in the 19th century. Old Scatness, an Iron Age village, can be found near Sumburgh airport. It was buried for almost 2,000 years and is in a remarkable state of preservation today.

The island of Mousa lies off the east coast of South Mainland. You can find Mousa Broch here. It's the finest example of a 2,000 year old Iron Age tower. This uninhabited island is home to many varieties of bird and wildlife which can be seen by taking a boat trip from the mainland.

Central Mainland

Three bridges link central mainland to the islands of East Burra, Trondra and West Burra. Lerwick - Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.comOn Trondra, there is the Shetland Croft Trail where Shetland livestock, boat building and traditional crafts can be seen.

Lerwick, in the East, is Shetland's only town. It has an historic waterfront, continually busy with visiting yachts and fishing boats. The old town is perched on a hillside overlooking the harbour and is rich with interesting old lanes of houses.

Lerwick is the cultural and industrial centre of Shetland, with excellent sporting facilities, a theatre and museum. The Broch of Clickimin is to be found south west of Lerwick. It dates from around 200BC.

Scalloway, in the west, was once the capital of Shetland. Today it's a busy fishing port. The ruins of Scalloway Castle overlook the harbour while Scalloway Museum houses displays and memorabilia of the town and area.

North Mainland

The narrow isthmus at Mavis Grind joins this wild and beautiful area to mainland Shetland. Here, there are wonderful walks, wildlife, plants, rock formations and trout filled lochs. Tangwick Museum is to be found at Eshaness and illustrates life in the area through the years.

West Mainland

The west coast of Shetland is unspoiled. It's still mainly a crofting area with fish and shelfish farms supplying the seafood industry. The coast is ideal for yachting and canoeing with marinas at Aith, Skeld and Walls.

The milder climate of the west has enabled gardens to be created in the area. There are many good walks with views of hills, lochs islands and some of the best beaches in Shetland. Burrastow House, near the village of Walls and The Lea in Tresta is also well worth a visit.


Yell - Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.com The Island of Yell is Shetland's second largest island. Much of the land is covered by peat, those areas providing an important wildlife habitat. Yell is one of the best places in Shetland to see Otters. The Old Ha' museum and heritage centre at Burravoe exhibits the history and folklore of Yell.


The Island of Unst, is Britain's most northerly inhabited island. Surrounded by rocky shores, Hermaness, Unst - Picture courtesy of www.britainonview.comjagged sea stacks and cliffs it makes a dramatic backdrop for the seals and porpoises which are a common sight here.

Inland, there are freshwater lochs, heather covered hills, and farmland. The island is home to a variety of wildlife in addition to many Shetland ponies and sheep. The Hermaness National Nature Reserve covers the Muckle Flugga rocks and Out Stack also the seabird cliffs and moorland of Hermaness.

Unst Boat Haven houses a unique collection of Shetland fishing craft. Unst Heritage Centre's displays include examples of the fine lace knitting unique to Shetland. On the south east tip of Unst is Britain's most northern castle, Muness Castle. This is a tower house built by Lawrence Bruce in 1598.


Days out in Shetland

  • Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement
    This is an extraordinarily important site with a complex of ancient settlements within three acres.
    Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement
  • Mousa Broch
    The Mousa Broch is a historic round tower or broch situated on the small island of Mousa off the north east coast of Scotland. Mousa is one of the archipelago of islands off the coast of Mainland Shetland.
    Mousa Broch
  • Tangwick Museum
    The Haa of Tangwick was built in the late 17th century for the Cheyne family. Different aspects of life in Northmavine through the years are illustrated by using a mixture of photographs and artefacts.
    Tangwick Museum
  • Unst
    This estate at the northern tip of Shetland and Britain extends to 4,707 acres. It comprises ten parcels of land, eight of which are on Unst, and includes a number of houses and agricultural buildings.

Places to Visit in Shetland

  • Lerwick
    Lerwick, capital of the Shetland Islands, lies where the North Sea meets the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and is Britain's most northerly commercial harbour.

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