NorthLink Ferries’ Guide to BBC’s Shetland Series

Tuesday 12th January 2016

The popular BBC series Shetland, which brings Ann Cleeves’ successful crime novels to life, has attracted attention from as far as Australia and continues to bring a glimpse of the Northern Isles to people across the globe.

With the third series due to air on Friday 15th January, NorthLink Ferries, which sails daily between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland, has selected its top five Shetland locations and attractions featured in the programme for visitors inspired to travel to the most northern part of the British isles.

Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa

The first series of Shetland focused on Up Helly Aa, Europe’s largest fire festival.

This Viking-themed annual event attracts thousands of visitors to the island, with the largest event of its kind held in Lerwick, Shetland’s capital.

Up Helly Aa takes place on the last Tuesday of every January and sees Jarl’s Squad marches, traditional music and a torch-lit procession before the culmination of the burning of a Viking long boat, known as the Galley.

The Guizer Jarl and his squad begin preparations in February with long hours spent designing and producing outfits. Much time is also spent constructing the Galley, with every detail under lock and key until the final unveiling on the day.

Guizer Jarl and his squad

In early September, the Guizers of the 45 squads organise their first meetings and make final preparations. Characters that they wish to portray are determined as well as performances practised.

At the event itself, ticketed halls across Shetland open from 8:30pm. However for those that can’t make it along, NorthLink Ferries provides real-time updates and images on its social media channels to give a feel of the event as it unfolds. To tune in visit the Up Helly Aa webcam.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory

Fair Isle

Series two of the programme saw Detective Inspector Perez travel to a bird observatory (pictured above) on Fair Isle following the death of a local scientist.

Lying midway between Sumburgh in Shetland and North Ronaldsay in Orkney, this small yet beautiful island is full of character and is best known for its intricate knitwear, which can be found on the catwalks of London, New York and Paris Fashion Weeks.

Fair Isle Sheep

The stranded unique style of knitting which features bands of geometric patterns originated on Fair Isle many years ago and is now incorporated into designs created by leading brands such as Alexander Wang and Ralph Lauren.

As well as its crafts and cultural heritage, the island, which becomes covered in heather and wildflowers in the summer, is a bird-watchers dream. It is one of Shetland’s best places to spot birds and is home to its own sub-species of wren and field mouse. The Fair Isle Bird Observatory is a great spot to seek out and learn more about a range of birds and mammals that live on or close to the island.

Boddam Crofthouse Museum

Crofthouse Museum

The Shetland Crofthouse Museum acted as the fictional Crofting Museum in the second series of the programme.

Free to enter, this unique site outside Boddam on the mainland allows visitors to step back in time. The typical thatched 19th century Crofthouse has been restored to its appearance in the 1870s with box beds, a peat fire and garden path leading to a repaired watermill.

Lived in until the 1960s, this quirky building was home to a typical family unit of grandparents, parents and children who likely worked as fisherman, seamen or whalers as well as working on the land.

Thought to have evolved over many centuries, the house provided shelter to Shetland’s extreme weather conditions with a home, barn and byre all accessible under one roof.

St Ninian's Isle at sunset

St Ninian’s Isle

The UK’s largest active sand tombolo, St Ninian’s Isle was inspiration to Ann Cleeves’ Dead Water novel and the location for much of the second series of Shetland.

This natural sand causeway on the west coast of Shetland links the South Mainland with the Isle and is easily accessible from the town of Bigton.

Often featured in promotional materials and photographs due to its picturesque landscape, this 500 metre sandy beach was voted as one of the ‘best places to swim’ alongside those in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Australia by leading magazine Travel in 2013.

The chapel on St Ninian’s Isle is famous for the treasure of 28 Pictish silver objects and the jaw bone of a porpoise which were buried under a cross-marked slab close to the altar.

Thought to be the belongings of a family, the collection, which includes bowls, weaponry and jewellery, was discovered in 1958 by a local Shetland schoolboy and is now housed in the National Museum of Scotland. Replicas of the collection can also be viewed in the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick.

NorthLink ship arriving in Shetland

NorthLink Ferries

Called the ‘North Boats’ by locals, the overnight NorthLink Ferries service between Aberdeen and Shetland is a popular means to arrive on the islands, especially if travelling by car or bike. The service features in the forthcoming series of the BBC’s Shetland series.

Visitors who travel on board can enjoy great selection of local produce, the latest films screened in the on board cinema, a range of accommodation options and an arrival into Lerwick first thing allowing plenty of time to experience the true beauty of the island.