The Shetland Islands are located to the northeast of Scotland and the Orkney Islands and are the dividing point between the Norwegian and North Seas. Of the more than a hundred islands in the archipelago, only 15 are inhabited.
Although the Shetland Islands are officially part of Scotland and therefore the United Kingdom, they still appear to be a separate world. An interesting fact is that territorially the islands are located closer to the Norwegian Bergen than to the Scottish Edinburgh and began to belong to Scotland only from 1472, when the Danish king Christian I pledged the Shetland and Orkney Islands to the Scots in order to provide his daughter with a dowry, and all subsequent attempts to return the lands turned out to be fruitless.
The main island is Mainland, with its capital in Lerwick. Other large inhabited islands are Barra, Trondra, Bressay, Vayla, Ell, Macle Rho, Papa Stour, Welsey, Fetlar and Fula. Check jibin123 for customs regulations and visa requirements of United Kingdom.
Lerwick Tourist Information Center is located on Market Cross in Lerwick. Opening hours: from April to October from 08:00 to 18:00, on weekends from 08:00 to 16:00; from November to March from 09:00 to 17:00 except weekends.
Sumburgh Airport Tourist Information operates at Sumburgh Airport. Opening hours: daily from 07:45 to 19:45, on Saturdays from 09:00 to 17:00, on Sunday from 10:00 to 19:30.
How to get to Shetland
Northlink Ferries operates a ferry service between Lerwick and Kirkwall, as well as between Lerwick and Aberdeen (passenger fare will be from 17.40 GBP to 41 GBP, transport – from 70 GBP to 160 GBP, travel time 12-14 hours).
Shetland Islands Airport is located 38 km south of Lerwick, in a place called Sumburgh. There are 3-5 flights per day to the airport from Aberdeen, as well as flights from the Orkney Islands, from London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.
Renting a car is much cheaper in Lerwick itself than at the airport. At the Bolts Car Hire rental office, located on 26 North Rd, car rental will cost from 35 GBP per day if you rent a car for a week, or from 43 GBP if you rent for 2-3 days.
Another Star Rent-a-Car, located at 22 Commercial Rd, offers car delivery to/from the airport and ferry piers throughout the Shetland Islands.
Bicycles can be rented from Grantfield Garage on North Rd for GBP 12.50 per day or GBP 50 per week. However, keep in mind that in Lerwick it is always very windy weather and there are only a few places where you can stop.
The islands of Mainland, Barra and Trondra are connected to each other by means of bridges.
Weather in Shetland
The climate on the islands is maritime subarctic, temperate, influenced by the warm waters of the Atlantic. Summers are usually cool, with temperatures rarely exceeding +21°C. The weather is cloudy, humid and with precipitation for 200 days a year. Snowfall is possible at any time, although snow does not lie for long. Often the formation of fog due to the cooling of the sea by southerly winds.
A large shopping center is only in Lerwick – this is the Toll Clock Shopping Center, located on 26 North Road. Authentic souvenirs, Shetland sweaters, folk music, books and more can be found at Just Shetland at 113B Commercial Street.
The Shetland Islands are famous for their cuisine, and local products ranging from lamb to seafood are considered by many to be the benchmark for quality. The most famous national dish is Reestit mutton, a salty dried meat often served with Bannock bread or as part of potato soup.
It is worth trying the local beer, which is produced at the Valhalla brewery on Unst and distributed throughout the Shetland Islands.
A good meal in Lerwick can be found in hotels, although there are other places, such as The Peerie Shop Cafe, located on the Esplanade.
Entertainment and attractions of the Shetland Islands
Two ancient Norse settlements dating back to the Bronze Age have survived in the Shetland Islands – Jarlshof Prehistoric & Norse Settlement in Sumburgh, and Tafts of Bayanne. Also noteworthy is Fort Charlotte in Lerwick, built in 1665 and rebuilt in 1781.
Around 16,000 pairs of gannets and 10,000 puffins nest on the mesmerizing sea cliffs. And the local swamps are home to the third largest colony of great skuas in the world.
On the island of Mainland, art lovers will find themselves in art galleries. One of them, Bonhoga Gallery, is located in Weisdale Bay in the central Mainland, and the second, Hoohevd Studio Gallery, is in Eshaness, in the northern Mainland. Another museum, the Shetland Museum & Archives, is located in Lerwick and houses archives and collections reflecting all aspects of life on the island. Open to visitors from 10:00 to 17:00, on Thursdays until 19:00.
In the center of Lerwick is also the Clickimin Broch, a dry-stone fortification unique to Scotland. The word itself in translation from the Old Norse language means “fortress”.
Fair Isle, halfway between Shetland and Orkney, is famous for its knitwear. In addition, it is an ideal place for bird watching and studying wild flowers. The birdwatching observatory is open from May 1st to October 30th and the island is open to visitors all year round.
Of interest is the Hermaness Visitor Center National Nature Reserve, which is a refuge for more than 100 thousand species of birds. Around 16,000 pairs of gannets and 10,000 puffins nest on the mesmerizing sea cliffs. And the local swamps are home to the world’s third largest colony of great skuas. The reserve is located on the island of Unst.
In addition, Muness Castle, built in 1598, is located on the island, and in the settlement of Haroldswick there is a museum dedicated to boats. Unst is also known for being the northernmost point in the UK – Muckle Flugga.
4 things to do in Shetland
- Buy a warm jersey blouse on the Fair Isle and don’t part with it until the end of the trip. Suddenly freeze!
- Catch the gannets or puffins nesting on the cliffs in the camera lens, after chasing them all over the reserve.
- Be sure to look at the gerbil, because this plant is not found anywhere else in the world! The main thing is not to trample on the most valuable specimen!
- Get some smart costume and take part in the traditional procession in honor of the winter solstice. The main thing is that the costume fits the theme!
The bare scree of the Keen of Hamar preserves a unique collection of plants. And the star of the reserve is the gerbil “Edmondston’s chickweed”, which is found nowhere else in the world. The reserve is located in the settlement of Boltasound, all on the same island of Unst. Noss Island is home to the Noss National Nature Reserve, home to thousands of seabirds and guaranteed spectacular scenery. Noss Island is separated from Bressay Island by a narrow channel.
Unforgettable photos are guaranteed by a trip to the ruins of St Ninian’s Chapel dating back to the 12th century, which are located on the St Ninian’s Isle of the same name.
In the middle of winter, Lerwick hosts the annual Up Helly Aa festival, a medieval winter solstice celebration that has its roots in the Germanic peoples. The holiday is accompanied by a folk procession through the city in national themed costumes.
In May, the Shetland Islands host the annual Shetland Folk Festival.