If Orkney is full of historical mysteries, then surely Shetland is the place for the drama. “Nature” wrote one visitor, “appears in her wildest dress” in these, Britain’s most northerly islands, and it is indeed the wildness and grandeur of the Shetland landscapes and seascapes which inevitably become the visitors most enduring memory.
There are more than 100 islands here, each forged by the roaring surging waves of the North Atlantic. Everywhere one goes, there are dramatic cliffs, perfect deserted contemplative beaches, huge vistas across awe-inspiring voes and inlets, and above, the evocative cry of seabirds. Sunrises and sunsets in Shetland are spectacular.
With amazing landscapes to see; from dramatic coastal scenery to wild hills; as well as free activities to keep the family entertained, Shetland can be a place where you can go on amazing adventures without needing to spend a penny! Here are ten recommendations of things to do in Shetland for free!
When visiting the Shetland Islands we recommend that you sample the unique food that can be found there. Throughout history Shetlanders have relied on the sea to fill their larder. The heathery landscape is also ideal for sheep farming. For your taste-buds' sake, make sure you sample some of our Shetland food suggestions!
We were lucky enough to spend a bit of time in Yell this summer, and from the moment we stepped foot off the ferry we fell in love with the island! Our first impressions of Yell was of an island with dramatic views, a lovely coastline, lots of moorland, many single track roads, some amazing sights of interest and unbeatable welcomes. We've compiled a list of some of our favourite places in Yell.
We had a brilliant few days on the island of Unst and were more than a little surprised by the huge amount of things to see! Unst is the most northerly inhabited island in the UK, and there are amazing castles, Viking houses, a replica longship, standing stones, rare plants, lovely beaches, amazing cliffs and even colourful bus shelters to visit!
We've been told that our previous guides to the less well known, but just as lovely, highlights of Shetland have been helpful for frequent visitors looking for something different to do! So we've written another guide, with ten more brilliant places to go in Shetland that are less well known than Sumburgh Head and St Ninian's Isle.
Shetlanders have always had a close relationship with the sea as a source of food, transport, trade and a way to escape the poverty of the croft. However, one period of history involving Shetlanders and the sea stands out. This was the Haaf fishing, which took place between 1750 and 1900 and involved spending 2-3 days at sea in big, open wooden boats, sailing up to 40 miles out to the fishing grounds!
If you're spending a few days in Shetland then we'd strongly recommend taking the ferry over to the island of Mousa. On this uninhabited island you'll see an amazing Iron Age broch, which is nearly completely intact. We took a picnic over to the island and had a brilliant family day out, seeing birds, seals and archaeological treasures!
For a super day out in Shetland we would recommend a drive up to see the amazing cliff scenery at Eshaness along with a stop at the Tangwick Haa Museum. On our visit we received a warm welcome and thoroughly enjoyed learning about what life was like for folk who lived in the area in the past. Ruby Brown offers us a fascinating insight into this wonderful building!
If you only visit one archaeological site in Shetland, then it has to be Jarlshof. Located on the south tip of Shetland, this site was occupied for 4000 years and contains buildings from many different time periods. We've gathered some fascinating facts about Jarlshof over the ages.
Shetland has a fascinating history and a unique heritage well worth exploring for yourself. The stone-built buildings of the past have stood the test of time, and Islanders have fiercely clung on to their Viking heritage. In 2017, the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we've compiled a list of 12 essential historical places to visit in Shetland!
The first time I visited Culswick Broch was the day after Up Helly Aa. Despite having only three hours sleep the previous night, I made my way to the westside of Shetland, and walked to the broch, which stands on a hillside, with a loch (and causeway) on one side, and the Atlantic on the other.
There is a wealth of fabulous books written about the fascinating heritage and history, the landscape and wildlife, and friendly, unique folk of Shetland. We've compiled a list of 12 books that will make fine holiday-reading and help you gain more insight during a holiday to Shetland.
We love dramatic places and decided to visit the Ness of Burgi on a cold but bright January day. The Ness of Burgi is an Iron Age blockhouse located on a precarious thin stretch of headland at the very south end of Shetland - there's even a chain handrail to get you safely across to this spectacular and fascinating historical site!
Clickimin Broch is a must stop on any visit to Lerwick - a true treasure to be found and explored. The young at heart will find plenty of places to hide, jump, run and climb around Clickimin Broch. We found out some amazing facts about this hidden treasure in the heart of Lerwick!
Previously we have written about some of the great places to visit in Shetland that don’t make the front cover of the tourist brochure! Read on for ten more suggestions for brilliant places to visit, that are a bit more unusual and less well known than St Ninian's Isle, Scalloway Castle and Jarlshof!
Did you know that Shetland has the highest density of otters in Europe, possibly the world? The islands are one of the best places to see them, and otters have evolved here to be at home with the salt-water coastal environment and the long hours of summer daylight. That said, otters are very shy animals! We asked Brydon Thomason, who runs Shetland Nature, for some advice on how to spot them!
At NorthLink Ferries, we look forward to midsummer and the sound of motorcycles arriving to travel with us from Aberdeen to Shetland for the Simmer Dim Motorcycle Rally. However, after they leave the ferry, what all these bikers get up to is a mystery to us. Leona Williamson was able to let us know why the Simmer Dim Rally is one of the friendliest Motorcycle Rallies around!
Hidden just north of the village of Tingwall, some 6 miles from Lerwick is the outstanding lochside golf course of Asta. Read on to find out more about Scotland’s most northerly nine hole course, located in one of Shetland's loveliest places!
Shona Lawrance, NorthLink’s newest summer recruit, has never been to Shetland before! NorthLink Ferries sent Shona and her car and camera on a ferry journey - her first from Aberdeen to Shetland. Read on to find out about her experiences as a first-time traveller on the ferry to the most northerly islands in Britain!
One of Shetland's loveliest exports is the Burra Bear which are beautiful hand-crafted teddy bears, typically seen wearing Fair Isle designs! These have been created by Wendy Inkster since 1997 from her workshop in East Burra. NorthLink Ferries were pleased to catch up with her to find out more!
Shetland Museum and Archives opened its doors in the spring of 2007 and is a treasure trove of artefacts relating to Shetland life and culture. The museum is located on Hay’s Dock, one of the last remaining areas of original dock on Lerwick’s waterfront. Ian Tait, Curator of Collections at the Shetland Museum and Archives, talked to us about museum and what visitors can experience.
For many people, mention the word Shetland and they think of ponies! These lovely animals can be found throughout the islands, and the purity and quality of the breed is maintained by the pony breeders of Shetland. Irvine Burgess runs a Shetland Pony Stud and is also the Chairman of both the Shetland Pony Evaluation Scheme and the Pony Breeders of Shetland Association and kindly agreed to answer our questions about Shetland Ponies!
When we published our 'Things to do on a rainy day in Shetland' article in Autumn last year a few folk protested that it never rains in Shetland! With summer fast approaching we've written a companion piece - a list of great things to do in Shetland when the sun has got his hat on!
On the Shetland island of Yell, at the Ness of Queyon, near Otterswick is a solemn sight - a white statue of a lady looking out across the bay, with a Bible held to her chest. The story of the White Wife is a sad one, for she is the reconstructed figurehead of the Bohus, a German sail training vessel which sank at the Ness of Queyon in 1924, with a crew of 39, many of them young cadets, and the loss of 4 lives. Read on to find out more!
Angus and Wendy Nicol offer brilliant Sea Kayak tours around the beautiful Shetland coastline. We were intrigued to hear what seeing Shetland from this new angle was like, and were pleased to catch up with Angus and ask him some questions!
The Shetland Islands are a brilliant place to explore, and taking a caravan, motorhome or tent is a brilliant way to see the best of the islands. We’ve produced a handy introduction to the many great caravan, motorhome and camping sites in Shetland!
AboveWater/UnderWater Shetland is a wildlife tour business based in Lerwick. Alan Longmuir and Robbi ShoafEnge pilot a boat, the m.v. Galathea, from Lerwick harbour and show passengers the amazing coastal wildlife and underwater marine life of Shetland with an infectious enthusiasm! Here they answer some questions about Shetland's wildlife and what they do!
Neil Robertson was the Up Helly Aa 2015 Guizer Jarl, or Chief Guizer, leader of the Jarl Squad. The Jarl's Squad are Vikings for the day at Up Helly Aa, Lerwick's annual fire festival. Now that the dust has settled after the big day, Neil very kindly agreed to answer some questions about the experience!
The two archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland, it would seem, are naturally drawn to one another in terms of friendships and rivalries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the annual Junior Inter-county sports competition! Read on to find out more about the yearly competition, how it was set up, and how this amazing sporting performance has changed over the years.
There are a great many cracking museums to visit in Shetland, but we particularly recommend the Shetland Museum, Scalloway Museum, tangwick Haa Museum and Sumburgh Head Lighthouse Visitor’s Centre – read on to find out some fascinating facts about each!
If we were asked to tell someone planning to visit for the first time what makes Shetland so special it would be hard to name just one thing! There are many different facets that make up the essence of Shetland. To help explain, we've compiled a list of ten reasons why Shetland is a great place to visit!
Frankie’s Fish and Chip Shop in Brae, Shetland, is not only Britain's most northerly chippie – it’s also the best! Voted No.1 Fish & Chip Shop in the UK in the National Fish & Chip Awards 2015, Frankie's is a family run takeaway and café. We were pleased to catch owner Valerie Johnson and quiz her about what makes Frankie’s so special!
Up Helly Aa is a spectacular fire festival that takes place throughout Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January. The event culminates with flaming torches being thrown into a Viking Galley! As well as the main event there is a smaller Junior version of Up Helly Aa that takes place on the same day. If you’ve never been before; read our visitor’s guide to the day so that you don’t miss a thing!
Scalloway is home to the amazing Scalloway Castle, and the inspiring Shetland Bus story. Scalloway now has a brilliant new museum too and we were delighted when Wilma Irvine, Secretary of the Shetland Bus Friendship Society agreed to answer our questions about the museum and the history of this lovely village!
Most visitors to Shetland will fall in love with the amazing scenery found in the islands - there's much to see and explore in Shetland! However, what do you do when it's a rainy day in Shetland? We've compiled a helpful list of things to do and places to go so that you can make the most of your time in Shetland without getting soggy!
I've always been keen to visit Noss National Nature Reserve in Shetland, but the idea of taking my children to seabird cliffs has always filled me with terror. On a recent trip to Shetland we took Dr Jonathan Wills' Seabirds and Seals boat tour and got closer to 150,000 seabirds than we could have ever imagined!
One of the first impressions a visitor to Shetland will have is of the striking coastal scenery! As we've been enjoying stunning warm weather this summer, we thought we'd display a list of the ten best - most beautiful, peaceful, atmospheric, and fun - beaches to visit in Shetland!
When people come to visit Shetland they usually visit St Ninian's Isle, Jarlshof and Scalloway Castle. We have ten hidden gems of Shetland for you to visit - places that don't make the front cover of the tourist brochure!
In Shetland there’s a rich musical heritage, amazing scenery, superb wildlife and even Vikings! Shetland is a great place to take children and here are a few reasons why!
We were delighted to be able to ask author Ann Cleeves about her Shetland mystery novels, Detective Jimmy Perez, 24 Islands in 24 Hours and the forthcoming Shetland novel 'Thin Air', which will be released in September!
We'd always recommend visiting Shetland for a few days to get a full flavour of the isles. However, if one day in Shetland is all you have, here's what we'd recommend you do with it!
We think that Foula is a lovely island - dramatic and remote (lying 20 miles to the west of the Shetland Mainland) Find out how remoteness has affected the nature and traditions of the island!
In January, one of the darkest months of winter in Shetland, fires are lit to celebrate the islands heritage. Up Helly Aa is the biggest event in Shetland, and is one of the most compelling reasons to visit. Find out the history of the event and what happens on the day here!