Situated at the crossroads of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the so-called 'islands of opportunity' which make up Shetland are a dynamic and community-spirited archipelago where Viking roots run deep. Expect vast skies, spectacular birdlife and awe-inspiring coastal scenery in the land where you are never further than three miles from the sea.
Map of Shetland
Getting there & Getting around
Getting to Shetland
Whether you chose to journey by land or sea, the remote Shetland isles are surprisingly accessible. Fly direct from the Scottish mainland, with connections available from a wider range of UK airports including Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham. Take in the views of dramatic sea cliffs and white sandy beaches as you approach Shetland’s Sumburgh Airport. Alternatively, taste the salty sea air on your lips and make an adventure out of an overnight ferry journey from Aberdeen to Shetland's charming harbour at Lerwick.
Hire a car to embrace the freedom of exploring this beautiful archipelago on your own time. The good, sturdy road infrastructure means it is possible for visitors to explore the Shetland Isles on their own itinerary whilst enjoying a scenic drive.
Experiences on the Shetland Isles
Visit Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement
Delve into 4,000 years of history at this prehistoric archaeological site, situated on a headland with spectacular views over the West Voe of Sumburgh. Marvel at a Bronze Age house, Iron Age wheelhouses, Norse long houses, a medieval farmstead and a rich collection of artefacts displayed in the visitor centre.
Walk to St Ninian's Isle
A sparkling gem in Shetland's crown, the beautiful emerald-topped St. Ninians Isle is connected to the mainland by the UK's largest active sand tombolo. Walk across the crisp white sands to the island, where you’ll discover the ruins of the 12th-century chapel famous for the Pictish treasure found there.
Sea Kayaking Adventures
Embark on a guided kayaking tour to explore Shetland's rugged and beautiful coastline from the water. Kayak through sea canons and caves looking out for otters, puffins and seals.
Visit Scalloway Castle
Discover the ruins of one of Scotland's most prestigious buildings in Scotland at the time. Once home to Patrick Stewart, known for his oppression of the Shetland people, the ruins of Scalloway Castle stand as an impressive example of late 1500s tower house architecture.
Spend a day in Lerwick
The quirky streets of Lerwick, Shetland's capital, are well worth exploring. Made famous in the BBC series Shetland, this charming harbour town is full of independent shops selling local crafts and authentic knitwear with a vibrant cultural scene.
Spot birdlife at Spiggie Loch
The Loch of Spiggie is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) for wildlife conservation. Attracting vast numbers of bird species throughout the year, from oystercatchers, lapwing and redshanks in summer to wildfowl and whooper swans in autumn, the loch is the perfect habitat for local wildlife and a haven for birdwatchers.
Boat Trip to Mousa
Discover Shetland's enchanting Broch of Mousa, an Iron Age round tower on the enchanting island of Mousa. Whilst on the island, follow the circular coastal and moorland trail around the RSPB reserve, the preferred nesting site of nocturnal storm petrels.
Walk up Ronas Hill
Shetland's highest peak, Ronas Hill, is a manageable climb to 450m and topped with a prehistoric chambered burial cairn. Wild and windswept with spectacular panoramic views across the Fair Isle, the summit has a sub-Arctic climate. Take a moment to discover the native flora and fauna and the few species endemic to Shetland found here.
Take Part in the Up Helly Aa Festival
Between January and March every year, the special Up Helly Aa fire festival takes place across communities in Shetland. A celebration of the islands' history, the spectacle involves traditional Viking dress, dancing, seeing old friends and processions through the streets.
Highlights of Shetland
Clifftop twitching on a remote reserve
Overlooking Muckle Flugga – at Britain’s most northerly tip – the vertical headland of Hermaness Nature Reserve is a spectacular seabird city. More than 50,000 nesting pairs gather here in spring when the clifftops are carpeted with colourful wildflowers. Gannets, shags and fulmars dive dramatically into the white water below. Puffins waddle clumsily between their grassy burrows. The remote reserve is accessed via a one-hour boardwalk over fragile peatland bog, home in summer to one of Shetland's most iconic birds: the bonxie (great skua).
Lighthouse stays at the edge of the world
Jagged cliffs, crashing waves and 360-degree coastal views… what could be more romantic than staying in a Scottish lighthouse? Looking out across the North Atlantic, these scenically situated historical buildings are now fully automated, and three of the keeper cottages have been converted into cosy self-catering hideaways. From the precipitous cliffs of Sumburgh and Eshaenss to the rocky outcrop of Bressay, each tower continues to protect ships from Shetland’s treacherous coast and is a unique part of the islands’ cultural heritage.
As you travel these windswept and wild isles, look out for the resident Shetland ponies who have lived on the islands for over 4,000 years.
Get creative during Shetland Wool Week
Thought to have been introduced by Viking settlers over 1000 years ago, Shetland sheep are known for their hardy disposition and their dense but lightweight fleece. The multi-coloured wool is highly coveted for Fair Isle knitwear, tweed and knitted lace shawls (so fine they will pass through a wedding ring). Shetland Wool Week is a celebration of the crofters, designers and knitters who have gained respect worldwide. Visitors can try their hand at weaving, spinning and dyeing at events across the islands.