Guide to Shetland

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.

Shetland Fudge Company: Delicious treats from the islands

Shetland Fudge Company: Delicious treats from the islands

The Shetland Fudge Company is a premium bespoke chocolate company with a huge range of confectionery including fudge, truffles, tablet, Puffin Poo, preserves and gourmet mallow which has been made entirely by hand. From having 3 employees and one ‘peerie’ kitchen when they started this venture, they now have two premises within Lerwick town centre and employ 13 staff members. We caught up with Nicola and Magnus to find out more about the business!

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary in Shetland

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary in Shetland

The waters around Shetland are well known for attracting a rich variety of marine mammals, but sometimes these animals can find themselves in trouble. Since 1987 Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary have cared for sick, injured and abandoned seals, otters and cetaceans with a focus on releasing them back into the wild. NorthLink caught up with Jan Bevington, founder of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, to discuss how it all started and how you can get involved.

Island in Focus – Fetlar

Island in Focus – Fetlar

The island of Fetlar makes up one of Shetland's three North Isles, along with Yell and Unst. Fetlar is 7 miles wide and sits to the east of those islands. It is known as The Garden of Shetland because during the summer it is carpeted with wild flowers. Fetlar is also well known for the ancient dyke that divides the island and the Red Necked Phalarope that call the island their home.

Orca watching in Shetland with Hugh Harrop

Orca watching in Shetland with Hugh Harrop

Hugh Harrop set up Shetland Wildlife in 1993 as a wildlife and photography holiday business. Since then Hugh and his team have given his customers some unforgettable experiences with Shetland’s wildlife and now, via social media, Hugh’s spectacular pictures and footage of orca are available for all to see. Hugh very kindly answered NorthLink’s questions about orca in Shetland.

Hufsie Cake Recipe

Hufsie Cake Recipe

Hufsie cake is a delicious light spiced fruit cake which originates from the Shetland island of Whalsay. Rachel A Davis, blogger and photographer from www.vagabondbaker.com kindly shared her recipe with NorthLink Ferries!

30 birds to see in Shetland

30 birds to see in Shetland

Did you know that over 1 million seabirds arrive and nest in the vast seabird colonies on Shetland's cliffs? The croft land, voes, lochs and sandy beaches of Shetland are also very attractive to a large variety of birds. We hope you enjoy our beginner's guide to 30 birds to see in Shetland, and where to find them. Can you see them all during your holiday in Shetland?

Stormy Petrels in Mousa Broch

Stormy Petrels in Mousa Broch

Laurie Goodlad, a tour guide from 'Shetland with Laurie' has written about the midnight trip to Mousa. During the trip you can see the Storm Petrels return to their nests within the walls of the Iron Age building, Mousa Broch. Read on if you love amazing adventures and bucket-list experiences!

A walk to the Stones of Stofast

A walk to the Stones of Stofast

Laurie Goodlad, a tour guide from 'Shetland with Laurie' has written about a fabulous walk in Lunna Ness on the east side of Shetland, which she has kindly shared with NorthLink Ferries. The walk to the Stones of Stofast takes you across a scenic hillside to massive house-sized boulders. Read on if you love amazing adventures and gob-smacking sights!

25 stunning pictures of Shetland

25 stunning pictures of Shetland

Visiting Shetland is a real treat for photographers; make sure you don't forget your camera when visiting! We hope you enjoy our 25 stunning pictures of Shetland's dramatic landscape, birds, ponies, Vikings, ancient monuments, cliffs and beaches!

The Place Names of Shetland

The Place Names of Shetland

Shetland and Orkney have been populated for over 6000 years, and through the course of these Islands' history the languages spoken there have changed many times. However it is Old Norse that has had the greatest influence on modern place names. Read our guide to find out what the island, area and house names of Shetland mean!

Mirrie Dancers Chocolates – an interview with Dave Williams

Mirrie Dancers Chocolates – an interview with Dave Williams

Many of us have a soft spot for chocolate but Shetlander Dave Williams turned his love for the sweet into a thriving business. Read on to find out how Dave's small chocolatey idea led to a change in career and the introduction of one of the Northern Isles’ favourite sweet companies – Mirrie Dancers.

Five reasons why Shetland is great!

Five reasons why Shetland is great!

To celebrate the Year of Young People 2018 NorthLink Ferries ran a writing competition for P6 and P7 pupils in Shetland. We asked them to tell us five reasons why they think the Shetland Islands are a great place to visit. The winning article, written by Ailee Burgess, aged 11, from Tingwall Primary School, is a brilliant insider’s guide to Shetland!

How to take photos of Shetland Fire Festivals

How to take photos of Shetland Fire Festivals

Shetland Fire Festivals can be particularly difficult subjects to take good photos of as they take place during the winter on dark nights and feature lots of movement, as Jarl Squads march quickly with bright flaming torches. However we have some camera tips that may help you!

How to take photos of the Northern Lights

How to take photos of the Northern Lights

Visitors to Shetland in autumn and winter will hope to see the Northern Lights, known locally as the Mirrie Dancers. Those who get to see them will be enchanted by the curtains of green, yellow, blue and red light swaying and shifting in the night sky. If you’d like to take good photos of the Northern Lights, you may find that it is easier than you might think!

10 Great walks with your dog in Shetland

10 Great walks with your dog in Shetland

With dramatic scenery in spades, miles of heathery moorland and lovely sandy beaches, the Shetland Islands are a fantastic place to take your dog, and there are many fine Shetland dog walks to be had! We asked Sara from the Lerwick Terminal about her dog Dougal's favourite walks. We hope that you and your dog enjoy visiting these wild and beautiful places!

Where in Shetland do you find…

Where in Shetland do you find…

Looking for ponies, puffins, otters, orcas, geology or Vikings in Shetland? We've written a handy guide to the Shetland islands which should answer your questions and point you in the right direction!

Reestit Mutton Soup Recipe

Reestit Mutton Soup Recipe

Learn how to make Reestit Mutton Soup with this easy recipe from the Shetland Islands. Reestit Mutton is a traditional Shetland way of preserving mutton with salt for consumption during the winter months. This delicious soup is the most common way you'll encounter Reestit Mutton when you visit Shetland; it could very likely be called Shetland’s national dish!

How to cross Up Helly Aa from your bucket list!

How to cross Up Helly Aa from your bucket list!

For many people, visiting Shetland to see the Viking-themed fire festival Up Helly Aa is firmly on their bucket list. It’s a spectacular event which culminates with the burning of a Viking galley. If seeing Up Helly Aa seems like a difficult thing to achieve then we’re pleased to let you know that it is easier than you think!

Ten things to do in Shetland without spending a penny!

Ten things to do in Shetland without spending a penny!

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!

Food from the Shetland Islands that you must try!

Food from the Shetland Islands that you must try!

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!

Great places to go in Yell

Great places to go in Yell

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.

Our trip to Unst, the UK’s Most Northerly Island!

Our trip to Unst, the UK’s Most Northerly Island!

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!

An extra ten hidden gems of Shetland

An extra ten hidden gems of Shetland

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.

Haaf fishing in Shetland

Haaf fishing in Shetland

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!

Our day on Mousa

Our day on Mousa

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!

A super day out at Tangwick Haa Museum

A super day out at Tangwick Haa Museum

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!

Fascinating facts about Jarlshof you may not know!

Fascinating facts about Jarlshof you may not know!

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.

Twelve essential historical places to visit in Shetland

Twelve essential historical places to visit in Shetland

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. We've compiled a list of 12 essential historical places to visit in Shetland!

A walk to Culswick Broch in Shetland

A walk to Culswick Broch 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.

12 essential Shetland books

12 essential Shetland books

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.

My visit to the Ness of Burgi

My visit to the Ness of Burgi

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 – a hidden treasure in the heart of Lerwick

Clickimin Broch – a hidden treasure in the heart of Lerwick

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!

Ten more hidden gems of Shetland

Ten more hidden gems of Shetland

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!

Otters in Shetland – an interview with Brydon Thomason

Otters in Shetland – an interview with Brydon Thomason

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!

All about the Simmer Dim Motorcycle Rally

All about the Simmer Dim Motorcycle Rally

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!

America may have Augusta but Shetland has Asta

America may have Augusta but Shetland has Asta

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!

The first of many firsts – my journey to Shetland

The first of many firsts – my journey to Shetland

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!

Making Burra Bears – an interview with Wendy Inkster

Making Burra Bears – an interview with Wendy Inkster

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 – an Interview with Ian Tait

Shetland Museum – an Interview with Ian Tait

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.

All about Shetland Ponies – an interview with Irvine Burgess

All about Shetland Ponies – an interview with Irvine Burgess

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!

Things to do on a sunny day in Shetland

Things to do on a sunny day in Shetland

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!

The Story of the White Wife of Otterswick

The Story of the White Wife of Otterswick

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!

Fantastic places to Camp and Caravan in Shetland

Fantastic places to Camp and Caravan in Shetland

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!

Amazing things to see Above and Under Water in Shetland

Amazing things to see Above and Under Water 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!

Being the Guizer Jarl – an interview with Neil Robertson

Being the Guizer Jarl – an interview with Neil Robertson

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 Junior Inter-County competition between Shetland and Orkney

The Junior Inter-County competition between Shetland and Orkney

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.

Great Museums to visit in Shetland

Great Museums to visit in Shetland

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!

The Essence of Shetland

The Essence of Shetland

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!

Britain’s Best Chippie!

Britain’s Best Chippie!

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!

A Visitor’s Guide to Up Helly Aa

A Visitor’s Guide to Up Helly Aa

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!

All about Scalloway Museum – an interview with Wilma Irvine

All about Scalloway Museum – an interview with Wilma Irvine

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!

Things to do on a rainy day in Shetland

Things to do on a rainy day in Shetland

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!

A trip to see the Gannets of Noss

A trip to see the Gannets of Noss

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!

Shetland’s finest beaches

Shetland’s finest beaches

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!

Ten hidden gems of Shetland

Ten hidden gems of 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!

Interview with Ann Cleeves

Interview with Ann Cleeves

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!

Only have one day in Shetland?

Only have one day in Shetland?

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!

Island in Focus – Foula

Island in Focus – Foula

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!

All about Up Helly Aa

All about Up Helly Aa

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!

Share this page
Print this Page