20 places to visit if you love the Shetland TV Series
It’s no secret that many of our passengers are drawn to Shetland after watching the hit TV crime drama Shetland, which has been gracing our screens – and hearts – since it was first aired in 2013.
The South Mainland’s beaches are arguably some of the best in Shetland, and it’s no surprise they feature prominently in all seasons. We’ve seen drugs wash ashore and parties held at St Ninian’s Isle, bodies falling from cliffs at Maywick, people washing ashore as Scousburgh and Jimmy’s legendary advice doled out at Peerie Spiggie.
Shetland is a televised crime drama series based on books by Ann Cleeves. The show, mainly shot in Shetland, has become a worldwide hit, with folk visiting the islands from far and wide to see the landscapes that inspired the drama.
Following on from the latest season – 7 – we asked travel writer Laurie Goodlad to share some of her favourite filming locations.
Shetland’s landscape is arguably the main character in Shetland. Here are 20 filming locations that you can explore on your visit:
The Lodberrie and Bain’s Beach
The home of Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez is perhaps the most iconic and photographed house in Shetland. The Lodberrie, straddling the foreshore of South Commercial Street, with its foundations built into the sea, is where Jimmy Perez lives in the fictional drama. Please be aware that this is a private residence.
Next door to the house is Bain’s Beach, where Jimmy is famously seen drinking whisky with Duncan and offering Cass some fatherly advice.
Police Station and County Buildings (Hillhead area)
Every good police drama needs a police station, and Lerwick Police Station and court buildings were used for all the external filming. The area is instantly recognisable as a meeting place for detectives and those who turn up with information on the many murders that don’t actually happen in Shetland – I thought I’d best clear that up from the outset. The Hillhead area, where the station is based, was also used for filming the famous Up Helly Aa scenes in series one.
Market Cross and Commercial Street
The Market Cross – where the Tourist Office stands – was most recently featured in series seven when a bomb scare rattled the town. Throughout each season, Lerwick’s main street has been used as a location for various scenes and dramas.
The Lounge and Lerwick Lanes
Mounthooly Street’s Lounge Bar makes several appearances throughout the series and is also a great place to catch live music on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Series six shows locations throughout Hangcliff Lane, Law Lane, and Bank Lane. Lerwick’s Lanes are beautiful to explore, and most will be recognisable from the show.
Bressay Ferry, Old Fishmarket and Malakoff area
Cast your minds back to series one, where the murders of Mima Wilson and Hattie, a young archaeologist on an archaeological dig, shook the community. Perez was filmed doing a lot of head-scratching as he made his way back and forth across Bressay Sound on the ferry. Again, in the most recent series (seven), we saw Jimmy take to the ferry once more as he struggled to solve the disappearance of young Connor. The area close to the ferry terminal, including the old fish market and the Malakoff engineering and fabrication contractors, has also featured heavily throughout various seasons.
Shetland Museum & Archives
Shetland Museum & Archives was a crucial location in season six when election hustings were interrupted by a gunman who had gained entry to the building. Hay’s Dock, the waterfront area where the museum sits, has also been used for various episodes.
NorthLink Ferry Terminal
Yes! NorthLink feature, too – the terminal has featured in the show, most notably in series three, when a young man disappears on the ferry between Aberdeen and Shetland. The boat crops up time and time again as detectives fear that the murderer may have escaped Shetland, and their clutches, by hopping on the overnight ferry.
In the South Mainland:
The picturesque community of Fladdabister was the scene of a season three murder when a body turned up in one of the old lime kilns, shocking the community. An access path leads down to these historic kilns, an integral part of the traditional crofting landscape of the 19th century.
Sandsayre, close to Sandwick, has most recently been used in series seven as the location where Jimmy Perez intercepted the wildlife photographer’s camera memory card following a trip to Mousa. The Mousa Boat was used, which ferries visitors back and forth to the uninhabited island and broch throughout the summer.
Beaches (Maywick, St Ninian’s Isle, Scousburgh and Peerie Spiggie)
The South Mainland’s beaches are arguably some of the best in Shetland, and it’s no surprise they feature prominently in all seasons.
We’ve seen drugs wash ashore and parties held at St Ninian’s Isle, bodies falling from cliffs at Maywick, people washing ashore as Scousburgh and Jimmy’s legendary advice doled out at Peerie Spiggie.
The ruined crofthouse at Clavel, Rerwick, was a key location for filming in series three, used as one of the sites of a shooting. This area has featured heavily in the imagery accompanying the show, and Clavel, in many respects, is typical of the buildings you will see ‘abandoned’ in Shetland.
Sumburgh Hotel and Sumburgh Head
Sumburgh Hotel was the location for the care home in series three, and, a mile or so up the hill, the imposing Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and associated buildings were the locations of a fictional hotel. From here, it’s possible to see the island of Fair Isle on a clear day. Fair Isle is where Jimmy Perez is said to have come from and was used as a location for filming in the early Blue Lightning episodes.
In the Central Mainland:
Perhaps one of my favourite locations, this beautiful corner of Shetland, is sometimes forgotten as people race north. Gletness in Nesting was most recently used in series seven as the site of the Noss View Guest House. This area of outstanding beauty inspired the traditional tune, Isles o’ Gletness; a lovely waltz played on the accordion.
The island of Trondra, linked by a road bridge from the mainland, has been used several times for filming. It’s home to the beached wreck of a boat that we see in the opening trailers and, just over the bridge, a large wooden house built by the sea with boat shed and pier has also been used as a filming location. This house is a private residence. Heading through Trondra, Burland Croft is another famous location, used as one of the central filming locations in series two. The croft was the fictional home of Evie Henderson and her husband, John. As in the Shetland show, the adjoining workshop is used today as a boatbuilding shed to construct traditional wooden boats.
This stunning sandy beach has been used extensively throughout seasons six and seven. A short walk from the car park, this is a great place to start the Hamnavoe circular walk.
Papil and Minn Beach
Papil was the scene of some dramatic scenes in series two and five. In series two, it is featured in the wedding of John and Evie and during Evie’s hen party. It was also used as the scene of a devastating house fire in series five, where hostage Zezi was held for a time. At the end of the road, Minn beach is a beautiful tombolo (double-sided beach) – sandy on one side and stony on the other. The beach is a 350-yard walk from the car park and was used extensively as a location in series six.
In the North Mainland:
Sandwater House – known locally as the Halfway House – sits close to the junction leading to Kergord and Weisdale and was one of the filming locations during series three of the show. You may remember it as where the peculiar artist had a stash of dead animals in his freezer! Please note that this is a private residence on the main road, so be aware of traffic and park responsibly for photos.
The picturesque village of Voe has featured in several seasons of the show. The Sail Loft in Lower Voe, now a self-catering camping booth, was used as a filming location in series one. This building was where student archaeologist Hattie lived – before she was murdered. Voe is also featured in series three.
Busta House Hotel
Busta is a three-star hotel placed in an idyllic rural location in one of Shetland’s most beautiful historic houses. The hotel was used as the famous Skellwick Hotel in series two and is a fantastic place to make a pit stop for lunch before heading north.
Shetland’s northwest corner has featured extensively due to its rugged allure and showstopping scenery. The impressive cliffs at Eshaness have been used a lot – notably as the fictional Pit of Biddista from the books; bodies have been found, suicides prevented, and many scenic shots filmed in and around the area. Most recently, this is where Connor’s moped turned up, resulting in a search of the area for his body.
On the way to Eshaness, look out for the house of Hillend, overlooking the Ness of Hillswick, where Magnus Bain lived, overlooking the stony beach below where the body of schoolgirl Catherine Ross was washed up in the first series.
Drive into Heylor and Ronas Voe (close to Urafirth, before the turn towards Eshaness) – this is where much of the series seven drama unfolded, and the famous cake fridge from series six was placed.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of locations, and wherever you travel in Shetland, you’ll see places that inspired the show and were used for filming. We’d love to see your favourite location highlights. Remember to tag @northlinkferries and @shetlandwithlaurie to share your location discoveries.
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