shetland scotland

The Shetland Islands, nestled in the North Atlantic Ocean, represent a captivating tapestry of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes.

Situated northeast of mainland Scotland, this archipelago comprises approximately 100 islands, each offering its own distinct charm and allure.

Renowned for its rugged coastlines, rich Viking heritage, and abundant wildlife, the Shetland Islands beckon travelers from around the globe to immerse themselves in its timeless beauty.

The Shetland Islands hold a strategic location between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, making them an integral part of Scotland’s maritime history.

With a total land area spanning over 1,400 square kilometers, the archipelago boasts a diverse topography, ranging from sweeping cliffs and pristine beaches to rolling hills and heather-clad moorlands.

Despite its remote location, the Shetland Islands have played a pivotal role in trade, fishing, and maritime exploration for centuries.

Today, they continue to captivate visitors with their unspoiled landscapes and rich cultural heritage.

The cultural tapestry of the Shetland Islands is woven from a rich blend of influences, including Norse, Scottish, and Pictish heritage.

Evidence of the islands’ Viking past can be seen in its place names, folklore, and archaeological sites, offering a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era.

From ancient stone circles and Iron Age brochs to picturesque fishing villages and historic lighthouses, the Shetland Islands are steeped in history and folklore.

Visitors can explore ruins dating back thousands of years and uncover the stories of generations past, immersing themselves in the island’s intriguing past.

In addition to its rich history, the Shetland Islands boast unparalleled natural beauty.

Dramatic cliffs rise majestically from the sea, while crystal-clear waters teem with diverse marine life.

Visitors can witness spectacular seabird colonies, including puffins, guillemots, and gannets, or embark on scenic hikes along rugged coastal trails.

Whether exploring ancient archaeological sites, sampling local delicacies, or simply soaking in the tranquil beauty of the landscape, the Shetland Islands offer a truly unforgettable experience for travelers seeking adventure, culture, and natural wonders.

Main Islands in the Shetland Islands Group

shetland islands

The Shetland Islands comprise a diverse archipelago, each island offering its own unique character and attractions. Here’s an overview of some of the main islands that constitute this captivating destination:

A. Mainland

  1. Lerwick: Serving as the capital and largest town of the Shetland Islands, Lerwick is a vibrant hub of culture, commerce, and history. Visitors can explore its charming waterfront, historic buildings, and bustling markets, including the renowned Lerwick Fish Market.
  2. Scalloway: Located on the west coast of Mainland, Scalloway is steeped in history, boasting attractions such as Scalloway Castle, once a stronghold of the Stewart earls. The village offers glimpses into Shetland’s past, including its role during World War II.

B. Yell

  1. Mid Yell: The largest settlement on Yell Island, Mid Yell offers stunning coastal scenery and opportunities for outdoor pursuits such as birdwatching and coastal walks. Visitors can explore the island’s rich Norse heritage and archaeological sites.

C. Unst

  1. Haroldswick: Situated on Unst, the northernmost inhabited island of the Shetland archipelago, Haroldswick is known for its rugged landscapes, diverse wildlife, and historic sites. Highlights include the Hermaness National Nature Reserve and the striking cliffs of Hermaness Head.
  2. Norwick: Norwick, nestled on the east coast of Unst, is renowned for its picturesque beaches, including the stunning Norwick Beach, framed by dramatic cliffs and pristine sands. Visitors can also explore the nearby Keen of Hamar Nature Reserve.

D. Whalsay

  1. Symbister: The main settlement on Whalsay Island, Symbister, is a picturesque fishing village known for its bustling harbor, traditional cottages, and thriving fishing industry. Visitors can explore scenic coastal walks and enjoy fresh seafood delicacies.

E. Fetlar

  1. Houbie: Located on the island of Fetlar, Houbie is a charming village surrounded by verdant hills and breathtaking coastal scenery. Visitors can discover Fetlar’s rich natural heritage, including rare bird species and wildflower meadows.

Exploring these main islands offers a glimpse into the diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant communities that define the Shetland Islands.

From ancient ruins and scenic coastlines to picturesque villages and wildlife reserves, each island beckons visitors to discover its own unique treasures and experiences.

Now let’s discuss the 14 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Shetland Islands:

1. Getting There

shetland train

Planning your journey to the Shetland Islands involves considering various transportation options and ensuring smooth logistics for your trip. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process seamlessly:

A. Transportation Options

  1. Ferry: Traveling by ferry is a popular option for reaching the Shetland Islands, especially if you prefer a scenic journey across the North Sea. NorthLink Ferries operates services connecting Aberdeen, Orkney, and Shetland, providing both passenger and vehicle transport options. The ferry journey offers stunning views of the coastline and an opportunity to spot marine wildlife along the way.
  2. Flight: For those seeking a quicker alternative, direct flights are available from several Scottish cities, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, to Sumburgh Airport in Shetland. Loganair operates regular flights, offering convenient connections to the mainland. The aerial approach provides breathtaking aerial views of the islands and surrounding seas.

B. Tips for Booking Tickets and Planning Your Journey

  1. Book in Advance: Whether you opt for ferry or flight, it’s advisable to book your tickets well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. This ensures availability and may also offer early booking discounts.
  2. Consider Flexible Dates: If your travel dates are flexible, consider checking different departure times and dates to find the most convenient and cost-effective options.
  3. Check for Special Offers: Keep an eye out for special offers and promotions from ferry and airline companies. Subscribing to newsletters or following them on social media can help you stay informed about discounts and deals.
  4. Pack Accordingly: Depending on your mode of transportation, be mindful of baggage allowances and restrictions. For ferry travel, ensure your vehicle is appropriately loaded, and for flights, adhere to luggage weight and size restrictions to avoid additional charges.
  5. Plan Ground Transportation: Upon arrival in Shetland, familiarize yourself with local transportation options for getting around the islands. Car rentals, buses, and taxis are available, but it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
  6. Stay Informed: Monitor weather forecasts and travel advisories, especially if you’re traveling during winter months when adverse weather conditions may affect ferry and flight schedules. Stay in touch with ferry or airline representatives for real-time updates and changes to your itinerary.

2. Weather and Climate

shetland weather

Understanding the weather and climate patterns of the Shetland Islands is crucial for planning a successful and enjoyable visit. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you prepare for the elements:

A. Overview of Shetland’s Climate

  1. Mild Temperatures: Despite its northern latitude, the Shetland Islands experience relatively mild temperatures throughout the year, thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream. Summers are cool, with average temperatures ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), while winters are mild, with temperatures typically hovering around 3°C to 7°C (37°F to 45°F).
  2. Variable Weather: Shetland’s weather is notoriously changeable, with rapid shifts between sunshine, rain, wind, and fog occurring frequently. Visitors should be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions and dress accordingly.
  3. Abundant Rainfall: Rainfall is a common feature of Shetland’s climate, particularly during the autumn and winter months. However, precipitation is spread throughout the year, and sunny spells are not uncommon, especially during the summer season.

B. Best Times to Visit Based on Weather Patterns

  1. Summer (June to August): The summer months offer the most favorable weather conditions for visiting the Shetland Islands. With longer daylight hours and milder temperatures, summer provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities, sightseeing, and wildlife spotting. Additionally, many cultural events and festivals take place during this time, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.
  2. Spring (April to May) and Autumn (September to October): Spring and autumn are transitional seasons in Shetland, characterized by milder temperatures and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months. While weather can be unpredictable during these seasons, visitors can still enjoy exploring the islands’ natural beauty and cultural attractions.
  3. Winter (November to March): Winter in Shetland is characterized by shorter daylight hours, cooler temperatures, and a higher likelihood of inclement weather. While the islands’ stark landscapes and cozy accommodations can offer a unique winter getaway experience, visitors should be prepared for colder conditions and reduced outdoor activities.

C. What to Pack for Different Seasons

  1. Summer: Lightweight, breathable clothing, including waterproof outer layers and sturdy walking shoes, are essential for exploring the islands during the summer months. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect against the sun.
  2. Spring and Autumn: Layered clothing is key for navigating the variable weather conditions of spring and autumn. Pack waterproof jackets, warm sweaters, comfortable walking shoes, and accessories like gloves and scarves for cooler days.
  3. Winter: Winter visitors should pack warm, insulated clothing, including waterproof outer layers, thermal underwear, hats, gloves, and scarves. Sturdy footwear with good traction is essential for navigating potentially icy or muddy terrain.

3. Accommodation

shetland accommodation

Choosing the right accommodation is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable stay in the Shetland Islands.

Here’s what you need to know about the various types of accommodations available and tips for booking in advance:

A. Types of Accommodations Available

  1. Hotels: From luxury resorts to cozy boutique hotels, Shetland offers a range of hotel options to suit different preferences and budgets. Many hotels boast stunning coastal views and convenient amenities, making them ideal for travelers seeking comfort and convenience.
  2. Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs): B&Bs are a popular choice for visitors looking for a more personalized and intimate lodging experience. Shetland’s B&Bs often feature charming accommodations, hearty breakfasts, and warm hospitality, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the island’s culture and hospitality.
  3. Self-Catering Cottages: For those seeking greater independence and flexibility, self-catering cottages provide a home away from home experience. These accommodations range from traditional croft houses to modern apartments, equipped with kitchens and amenities for self-catering convenience.
  4. Hostels and Guesthouses: Budget-conscious travelers can find affordable accommodations in hostels and guesthouses scattered throughout the islands. These options offer shared or private rooms, communal spaces, and opportunities to connect with fellow travelers.
  5. Camping and Caravan Parks: Outdoor enthusiasts can embrace the natural beauty of the Shetland Islands by camping or staying at caravan parks. Several campsites offer stunning seaside locations, modern facilities, and easy access to outdoor activities and attractions.

B. Recommendations for Booking Accommodations in Advance

  1. Plan Ahead: Due to the popularity of the Shetland Islands as a tourist destination, especially during the summer months, it’s advisable to plan and book accommodations well in advance. Start researching and booking accommodations as soon as your travel dates are confirmed to secure your preferred options.
  2. Consider Peak Seasons: The summer months, particularly June to August, are the busiest times for tourism in the Shetland Islands, with accommodations filling up quickly. If you plan to visit during peak season, book your accommodations several months in advance to avoid disappointment.
  3. Flexibility is Key: Be flexible with your travel dates and accommodation preferences, especially if you’re booking last minute or during high-demand periods. Consider alternative lodging options or adjust your travel itinerary to secure availability.
  4. Check Cancellation Policies: Before booking accommodations, review the cancellation policies carefully. Ensure that you understand the terms and conditions, including any fees or penalties associated with cancellations or changes to your reservation.
  5. Utilize Online Booking Platforms: Take advantage of online booking platforms and travel websites to compare prices, read reviews, and book accommodations securely. These platforms often offer exclusive deals and discounts for booking online.
  6. Contact Accommodations Directly: In some cases, contacting accommodations directly may yield better rates or availability, especially for smaller establishments like B&Bs and guesthouses. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the property owners or managers to inquire about special offers or tailored packages.

4. Currency and Payment Methods

british pound

Ensuring you have the right currency and payment methods is essential for a smooth and hassle-free experience during your visit to the Shetland Islands. Here’s what you need to know:

A. Information about Currency Used in Shetland (British Pound Sterling)

  1. British Pound Sterling (GBP): The official currency used in the Shetland Islands, as well as throughout the United Kingdom, is the British Pound Sterling (£). Banknotes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, and £50, while coins include 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, and £2.
  2. Currency Exchange: While major banks and currency exchange offices may be limited in the Shetland Islands, currency exchange services are available at airports, ferry terminals, and some banks on the mainland. It’s advisable to exchange currency before arriving in Shetland or withdraw cash from ATMs upon arrival.
  3. Credit and Debit Cards: Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions throughout the Shetland Islands. Major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are commonly used, although some establishments may not accept all card types.

B. Availability of ATMs and Credit Card Acceptance

  1. ATMs: ATMs are readily available in larger towns and villages across the Shetland Islands, including Lerwick, Scalloway, and Brae. These ATMs dispense British Pound Sterling and may charge fees for withdrawals, especially for international cards. It’s advisable to check with your bank regarding any foreign transaction fees or withdrawal limits before traveling.
  2. Credit Card Acceptance: Most hotels, restaurants, and retail establishments in the Shetland Islands accept major credit and debit cards. However, some smaller shops, cafes, and rural areas may prefer cash transactions or have minimum purchase requirements for card payments. It’s always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller purchases or in case of emergencies, especially when venturing into more remote areas.
  3. Contactless Payments: Contactless payment technology is increasingly prevalent in the Shetland Islands, allowing for quick and convenient transactions for purchases under a certain amount. Many establishments now offer contactless payment options, which can be particularly useful for travelers looking to minimize physical contact and handle transactions efficiently.
  4. Currency Exchange Services: While currency exchange services may be limited in the Shetland Islands, banks and post offices on the mainland offer currency exchange facilities and may provide assistance with international transactions and currency conversions.

5. Language and Culture

shetland culture

Exploring the language and culture of the Shetland Islands provides insight into the rich tapestry of traditions and heritage that define this unique archipelago. Here’s what you need to know:

A. Overview of Shetland’s Cultural Heritage

  1. Norse Influence: The cultural heritage of the Shetland Islands is deeply rooted in its Norse history, dating back to the Viking era. Norse settlers arrived in the islands over a thousand years ago, leaving an indelible mark on the language, place names, folklore, and traditions of Shetland.
  2. Fishing and Maritime Tradition: Fishing has been a way of life in Shetland for centuries, shaping the islanders’ identity and economy. Traditional fishing methods, boat-building techniques, and maritime skills continue to be celebrated and preserved, reflecting the islands’ close connection to the sea.
  3. Music and Folklore: Shetland boasts a vibrant musical heritage, with traditional folk music and dance playing a central role in local culture. From fiddle tunes and ballads to lively reels and dances, music is deeply ingrained in Shetland’s social fabric, with regular gatherings, concerts, and festivals celebrating the island’s musical traditions.
  4. Arts and Crafts: The Shetland Islands are renowned for their distinctive arts and crafts, including intricate knitwear, textile weaving, and pottery. Local artisans draw inspiration from the islands’ natural beauty and cultural heritage, producing unique handcrafted goods that showcase Shetland’s creativity and craftsmanship.

B. Common Phrases in Shetlandic Dialect

  1. “Aye” – Yes
  2. “Noo” – Now
  3. “Peerie” – Small or little
  4. “Bonnie” – Beautiful
  5. “Da” – Dad
  6. “Mun” – Must or have to
  7. “Bairn” – Child
  8. “Kirk” – Church
  9. “Fae” – From or of
  10. “Hame” – Home

Learning a few common phrases in the Shetlandic dialect can enhance your interactions with locals and enrich your cultural experience during your visit to the islands.

C. Cultural Etiquette and Customs to be Aware of

  1. Respect for Traditions: Shetlanders take pride in their cultural heritage and traditions. Visitors are encouraged to show respect for local customs, including observing local festivals, participating in traditional activities, and supporting local artisans and businesses.
  2. Hospitality and Friendliness: Shetlanders are known for their warm hospitality and friendliness towards visitors. It’s customary to greet people with a smile and engage in friendly conversation, especially in smaller communities where a strong sense of community prevails.
  3. Environmental Stewardship: Shetland’s pristine natural environment is a cherished asset, and visitors are encouraged to practice responsible tourism and conservation efforts. This includes respecting wildlife habitats, following designated trails, and disposing of waste responsibly to minimize environmental impact.
  4. Appreciation of Nature: The Shetland Islands boast breathtaking landscapes and diverse ecosystems, making them a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Visitors are encouraged to take time to appreciate the natural beauty of the islands, whether exploring coastal cliffs, observing seabird colonies, or strolling along sandy beaches.

6. Local Cuisine

shetland food

Exploring the culinary delights of the Shetland Islands offers a tantalizing journey through its rich maritime heritage and abundant natural resources. Here’s a taste of what to expect:

A. Traditional Shetland Dishes and Specialties

  1. Shetland Reestit Mutton Soup: A hearty and warming soup made from reestit mutton (salted and dried lamb), potatoes, and root vegetables, simmered to perfection with savory herbs and spices.
  2. Shetland Lamb: Renowned for its tender texture and rich flavor, Shetland lamb is a prized delicacy, often prepared in traditional dishes such as lamb stew, roast lamb, or slow-cooked shepherd’s pie.
  3. Shetland Seafood: With its bountiful coastal waters, Shetland is celebrated for its fresh and flavorful seafood offerings. From succulent scallops and plump mussels to delicate smoked salmon and haddock, seafood lovers will delight in the diverse array of oceanic delights available.
  4. Shetland Black Pudding: A savory delicacy made from locally sourced ingredients, including oatmeal, onions, and spices, blended with blood and suet to create a rich and flavorful sausage with a distinctive dark hue.
  5. Bannocks: Traditional Shetland bannocks are hearty, oat-based flatbreads, perfect for pairing with soups, stews, or enjoying on their own with a generous slathering of butter.
  6. Beremeal: Beremeal, a type of barley flour unique to Shetland, is a staple ingredient in many traditional recipes, including bannocks, biscuits, and oatcakes, prized for its nutty flavor and hearty texture.

B. Recommendations for Trying Local Restaurants and Cafes

  1. The Scalloway Hotel Restaurant: Located in the heart of Scalloway, The Scalloway Hotel Restaurant offers a delightful menu showcasing locally sourced ingredients and traditional Shetland flavors. From seafood platters and lamb dishes to indulgent desserts, diners can savor the best of Shetland cuisine in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
  2. Hay’s Dock Cafe Restaurant: Situated within the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick, Hay’s Dock Cafe Restaurant offers panoramic views of Lerwick Harbour and a delectable menu featuring seasonal dishes crafted from locally sourced produce. Visitors can enjoy freshly prepared seafood, homemade soups, and artisanal baked goods while taking in the stunning waterfront vistas.
  3. The Dowry Cafe: Tucked away in Lerwick’s historic lanes, The Dowry Cafe is a charming spot serving up delicious homemade fare and artisanal coffee in a cozy and relaxed setting. Visitors can enjoy a selection of soups, sandwiches, and baked treats made with locally sourced ingredients, alongside friendly service and a warm welcome.
  4. Frankies Fish & Chips: For a taste of classic Shetland comfort food, head to Frankies Fish & Chips in Brae, where you can indulge in freshly battered fish, hand-cut chips, and other seaside favorites made to order. With its casual atmosphere and generous portions, Frankies is a beloved local institution for fish and chip enthusiasts.
  5. Peerie Shop Cafe: Nestled in the picturesque village of Brae, Peerie Shop Cafe offers a cozy and inviting atmosphere, perfect for enjoying freshly brewed coffee, homemade cakes, and light bites made with locally sourced ingredients. Visitors can browse the charming gift shop and sample a selection of Shetland delicacies while taking in the tranquil surroundings.

7. Things to Do and See

shetland islands

The Shetland Islands beckon visitors with a wealth of natural wonders, historical treasures, and outdoor adventures waiting to be explored. Here’s a curated list of experiences to enhance your journey:

A. Exploration of Natural Attractions

  1. Cliffs and Coastlines: Explore the dramatic coastal cliffs that define the rugged beauty of the Shetland Islands. From the towering cliffs of Eshaness to the majestic sea stacks of Noss, visitors can marvel at breathtaking vistas and geological wonders carved by the relentless forces of nature.
  2. Beaches: Discover secluded coves and pristine beaches scattered along the Shetland coastline. From the white sands of St. Ninian’s Isle to the windswept shores of West Sandwick, each beach offers its own unique charm and opportunities for relaxation and exploration.
  3. Wildlife Watching: Embark on wildlife-watching excursions to observe Shetland’s diverse array of marine and birdlife. From seals and otters to seabird colonies teeming with puffins, guillemots, and razorbills, the islands offer unparalleled opportunities for nature enthusiasts to observe wildlife in their natural habitats.

B. Historical Sites and Landmarks to Visit

  1. Jarlshof: Step back in time at Jarlshof, an archaeological site spanning over 4,000 years of human history. Explore the remains of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish, Viking, and medieval settlements, including dwellings, brochs, and Norse longhouses.
  2. Mousa Broch: Journey to Mousa Island to marvel at one of the best-preserved Iron Age brochs in Scotland. Towering over 13 meters high, Mousa Broch offers a glimpse into the island’s ancient past and panoramic views of the surrounding seascape.
  3. Scalloway Castle: Discover the imposing ruins of Scalloway Castle, once the stronghold of the Stewart earls and a key strategic fortress during the medieval period. Explore the castle’s atmospheric chambers, towers, and dungeons, and learn about its turbulent history through interpretive displays.

C. Outdoor Activities

  1. Hiking: Lace up your hiking boots and embark on scenic trails through Shetland’s diverse landscapes. From coastal paths and heather-clad moors to hill walks and nature reserves, the islands offer a myriad of hiking opportunities for all skill levels.
  2. Birdwatching: Shetland is a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to a remarkable variety of seabirds, waders, and migratory species. Join guided birdwatching tours or venture out independently to spot puffins, skuas, terns, and other feathered residents along coastal cliffs and nesting sites.
  3. Kayaking and Coastal Exploration: Take to the water and explore Shetland’s pristine coastline by kayak or boat. Paddle through sheltered sea lochs, explore sea caves and rock formations, and keep an eye out for seals, porpoises, and other marine life that inhabit the surrounding waters.

8. Transportation Within the Islands

shetland bus

Navigating the Shetland Islands efficiently ensures that visitors can explore the diverse landscapes, attractions, and communities with ease. Here’s a guide to transportation options and tips for getting around the islands:

A. Overview of Transportation Options Within Shetland

  1. Car Rentals: Renting a car provides flexibility and convenience for exploring the Shetland Islands at your own pace. Several car rental agencies operate in larger towns such as Lerwick and Sumburgh Airport, offering a range of vehicle options to suit different needs and budgets.
  2. Public Transportation: Shetland’s public transportation network includes bus services operated by ZetTrans, providing connections between major towns and villages across the islands. Additionally, ferries operate between various islands, offering scenic crossings and essential links for island residents and visitors alike.
  3. Taxi Services: Taxi services are available in larger towns and villages, offering on-demand transportation for short journeys or transfers to and from airports, ferry terminals, and accommodations.

B. Renting a Car vs. Using Public Transportation

  1. Renting a Car: Renting a car provides the freedom to explore remote areas and scenic routes at your leisure. It’s ideal for visitors who prefer independence and flexibility in their travel itinerary, allowing for spontaneous detours and exploration off the beaten path.
  2. Using Public Transportation: Public transportation offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for getting around the islands. Bus services connect major towns and villages, providing access to popular attractions and amenities. For visitors without access to a car, public transportation is a convenient way to explore the islands’ diverse landscapes and communities.

C. Tips for Navigating the Islands Efficiently

  1. Plan Your Itinerary: Before setting out, plan your itinerary and prioritize key attractions and activities you wish to experience. Consider distances between locations, transportation schedules, and potential sightseeing opportunities along the way.
  2. Check Transportation Schedules: Familiarize yourself with bus and ferry schedules, especially if you plan to rely on public transportation. Timetables may vary depending on the season, so be sure to check for any schedule changes or service disruptions in advance.
  3. Be Mindful of Weather Conditions: Shetland’s weather can be unpredictable, with fog, wind, and rain common throughout the year. Stay informed about weather forecasts and be prepared for changing conditions, especially if traveling by sea or in more remote areas.
  4. Stay Connected: Keep essential contact information, including transportation providers, accommodation details, and emergency contacts, readily accessible. Consider carrying a mobile phone with a local SIM card for communication and navigation purposes.
  5. Respect Local Traffic Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and customs, including driving on single-track roads, yielding to wildlife, and respecting pedestrian right-of-way in towns and villages.

9. Safety Tips

shetland weather

Exploring the Shetland Islands offers unforgettable adventures amidst stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, consider the following safety tips:

A. Advice for Staying Safe While Exploring Shetland

  1. Weather Awareness: Shetland’s weather can be unpredictable, with rapid changes in conditions. Stay informed about weather forecasts and be prepared for sudden shifts in temperature, wind, and precipitation, especially if engaging in outdoor activities.
  2. Coastal Safety: Exercise caution when exploring coastal areas, cliffs, and beaches. Pay attention to tide times, rough seas, and slippery surfaces, and avoid venturing too close to the edge of cliffs or unstable terrain.
  3. Wildlife Encounters: Respect wildlife and observe from a safe distance to avoid disturbing or endangering animals. Keep a safe distance from seals, seabird colonies, and nesting sites, and refrain from feeding or approaching wildlife.
  4. Outdoor Activities: If participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, or birdwatching, plan ahead and take necessary precautions. Carry adequate supplies, including water, food, maps, and emergency equipment, and inform others of your itinerary and expected return time.
  5. Driving Safety: If driving in Shetland, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws, road conditions, and signage. Exercise caution on single-track roads, adhere to speed limits, and yield to pedestrians, cyclists, and livestock.
  6. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a fully charged mobile phone with local emergency contacts programmed and accessible. Be aware of your surroundings and know how to reach emergency services, including police, fire, ambulance, and coastguard.

B. Emergency Contact Information and Medical Facilities

  1. Emergency Services: In case of emergencies, dial 999 for police, fire, ambulance, or coastguard assistance. Emergency services are available 24/7 and can dispatch assistance to your location promptly.
  2. Medical Facilities: Shetland offers medical facilities and healthcare services in major towns and villages, including Lerwick, Scalloway, and Brae. Lerwick Health Centre and the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick provide primary and emergency medical care, including accident and emergency services.
  3. Pharmacies: Pharmacies in Shetland provide prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as healthcare advice and support. Pharmacies are typically open during regular business hours, with some offering extended hours or emergency services.
  4. Coastguard Services: The Shetland Coastguard provides maritime safety and search and rescue operations around the islands’ coastal waters. In case of maritime emergencies, contact the Coastguard by dialing 999 and requesting Coastguard assistance.

10. Wildlife and Nature Conservation

shetland wildlife

The Shetland Islands boast a rich tapestry of wildlife and natural landscapes, offering visitors unparalleled opportunities to connect with nature and experience the wonders of the wild.

Here’s what you need to know about Shetland’s diverse wildlife and tips for responsible tourism and nature conservation:

A. Information about Shetland’s Diverse Wildlife

  1. Seabird Colonies: Shetland is home to some of the largest seabird colonies in the United Kingdom, including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and kittiwakes. Visitors can observe these magnificent seabirds nesting on coastal cliffs and offshore stacks during the breeding season, providing unforgettable wildlife encounters.
  2. Marine Mammals: Shetland’s coastal waters are teeming with marine life, including seals, otters, dolphins, and porpoises. Seal colonies can be found basking on rocky shores and remote beaches, while sightings of cetaceans are common during boat trips and coastal walks.
  3. Rare Bird Species: Shetland’s remote location and diverse habitats make it a haven for rare and migratory bird species. Birdwatchers can spot rarities such as the white-winged scoter, yellow-browed warbler, and Siberian rubythroat, particularly during migration periods in spring and autumn.
  4. Wildflowers and Plant Life: Shetland’s unique climate and geology support a diverse array of wildflowers and plant species. From colorful carpets of heather and bluebells to delicate orchids and rare alpine flora, the islands’ flora adds vibrant splashes of color to the landscape.

B. Tips for Responsible Tourism and Nature Conservation

  1. Respect Wildlife and Habitat: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and avoid disturbing nesting sites, breeding colonies, and sensitive habitats. Keep noise levels to a minimum and refrain from feeding or approaching wild animals to prevent stress and disruption.
  2. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by disposing of waste responsibly, including litter, food scraps, and plastic waste. Carry out all rubbish and recyclables and leave natural areas as you found them to preserve their beauty for future generations.
  3. Stay on Designated Trails: Stick to designated paths and trails when exploring nature reserves, coastal areas, and protected landscapes. Avoid trampling vegetation and fragile ecosystems, and respect signage and guidelines provided by conservation authorities.
  4. Support Conservation Efforts: Consider supporting local conservation organizations and initiatives dedicated to protecting Shetland’s wildlife and natural heritage. Get involved in volunteer programs, wildlife surveys, and habitat restoration projects to contribute to conservation efforts firsthand.
  5. Educate Yourself and Others: Learn about Shetland’s wildlife, ecosystems, and conservation challenges, and share your knowledge with fellow travelers. Raise awareness about the importance of nature conservation and responsible tourism practices to promote sustainability and stewardship.

11. Events and Festivals

shetland event

The Shetland Islands are renowned for their vibrant cultural scene and lively calendar of events and festivals, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the rich heritage and traditions of the archipelago.

Here’s a glimpse into the annual festivities and suggestions for attending cultural celebrations:

A. Overview of Annual Events and Festivals in Shetland

  1. Up Helly Aa: Up Helly Aa is Shetland’s most famous and iconic festival, celebrated annually on the last Tuesday of January in Lerwick. The festival culminates in a spectacular torchlit procession, where thousands of costumed participants march through the streets, followed by the burning of a replica Viking longship.
  2. Shetland Folk Festival: Held in May each year, the Shetland Folk Festival showcases traditional music and dance from Shetland and around the world. The festival features concerts, ceilidhs, workshops, and sessions in venues across the islands, attracting musicians and enthusiasts from far and wide.
  3. Shetland Nature Festival: The Shetland Nature Festival celebrates the islands’ natural heritage and biodiversity, with a diverse program of guided walks, wildlife tours, talks, and family-friendly activities. Held in July, the festival offers opportunities to explore Shetland’s landscapes, flora, and fauna in the company of knowledgeable guides and experts.
  4. Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival: The Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival is a highlight of the islands’ musical calendar, featuring concerts, dances, competitions, and workshops celebrating traditional Shetland music. Held in October, the festival attracts performers and enthusiasts from across Scotland and beyond.
  5. Screenplay Film Festival: The Screenplay Film Festival is Shetland’s premier celebration of cinema, showcasing a diverse selection of international and independent films, documentaries, and shorts. Held annually in September, the festival offers screenings, discussions, workshops, and special events for film enthusiasts of all ages.

B. Suggestions for Attending Cultural Celebrations

  1. Plan Ahead: Research event dates, venues, and program details in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on the highlights of each festival. Consider booking accommodations and transportation early, especially during peak festival periods, to secure your preferred options.
  2. Immerse Yourself in Local Culture: Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in Shetland’s rich cultural heritage by attending concerts, performances, workshops, and community events during festivals. Engage with locals, participate in traditional activities, and savor the unique atmosphere of each celebration.
  3. Experience Authentic Cuisine and Hospitality: Sample traditional Shetland cuisine, including local delicacies and specialties, at food stalls, markets, and restaurants during festivals. Embrace the warmth and hospitality of Shetlanders as you enjoy music, dance, and culinary delights in the company of fellow revelers.
  4. Capture the Moment: Bring your camera or smartphone to capture memorable moments and vibrant scenes from the festivals. Share your experiences on social media and connect with other festivalgoers using event hashtags and online communities.
  5. Respect Local Customs and Traditions: Show respect for local customs, traditions, and etiquette during cultural celebrations. Follow event guidelines, be mindful of cultural sensitivities, and contribute to a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all participants and visitors.

12. Shopping and Souvenirs

shetland shopping

Exploring Shetland’s shopping scene offers visitors a chance to discover unique treasures and souvenirs that reflect the islands’ rich culture, craftsmanship, and natural beauty.

Here’s where to find distinctive souvenirs and support local artisans and businesses:

A. Where to Find Unique Souvenirs and Gifts in Shetland

  1. Craft Shops and Galleries: Explore craft shops and galleries in towns and villages across the islands, where you’ll find a diverse selection of handmade goods and artisanal crafts. From Shetland knitwear and textiles to pottery, jewelry, and artwork, these establishments showcase the talents of local artisans and offer one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home.
  2. Lerwick: The capital town of Lerwick is home to a variety of shops and boutiques offering a wide range of souvenirs, gifts, and local products. Explore Commercial Street and surrounding areas to browse specialty shops, art galleries, and craft studios showcasing Shetland’s creative talents.
  3. Craft Markets and Fairs: Keep an eye out for craft markets, fairs, and artisan events held throughout the year in Shetland. These events provide opportunities to meet local makers, browse handmade goods, and purchase unique souvenirs directly from the artisans themselves.
  4. Croft Shops and Farm Stores: Visit croft shops and farm stores located in rural areas and on smaller islands, where you’ll find a selection of locally produced goods, including preserves, honey, wool products, and handmade crafts. These charming establishments offer a glimpse into traditional island life and provide authentic souvenirs with a sense of place.
  5. Online Marketplaces: Explore online marketplaces and websites that showcase Shetland-made products and crafts, allowing you to shop for souvenirs and gifts from the comfort of your home. Many local artisans and businesses offer online platforms to showcase their creations and reach a wider audience.

B. Support for Local Artisans and Businesses

  1. Buy Local: Support local artisans, crafters, and businesses by purchasing handmade goods and products crafted in Shetland. By choosing locally made souvenirs, you’re not only acquiring unique keepsakes but also contributing to the local economy and sustaining traditional crafts and skills.
  2. Attend Workshops and Demonstrations: Participate in workshops, demonstrations, and studio visits offered by local artisans and crafters. Gain insight into traditional techniques, learn about the creative process, and engage with the vibrant arts community in Shetland.
  3. Spread the Word: Share your positive experiences and discoveries with friends, family, and fellow travelers. Recommend local shops, artisans, and products to others, and help raise awareness about the quality and diversity of Shetland-made goods.
  4. Explore Sustainable Options: Look for eco-friendly and sustainable souvenirs that align with Shetland’s commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation. Choose products made from natural materials, support ethical practices, and minimize waste by opting for reusable and eco-conscious items.
  5. Connect with the Community: Engage with local artisans and businesses through social media, newsletters, and community events. Follow their creative journey, stay informed about new products and promotions, and foster connections with the people behind the crafts.

13. Internet and Communication

shetland internet

Staying connected while exploring the Shetland Islands ensures that visitors can access essential information, communicate with loved ones, and share their experiences with the world.

Here’s what you need to know about internet and communication services in Shetland:

A. Availability of Internet and Mobile Phone Coverage

  1. Internet Access: Internet access is available in most accommodations, cafes, restaurants, and public spaces throughout the Shetland Islands. Many hotels, guesthouses, and bed-and-breakfast establishments offer complimentary Wi-Fi for guests, allowing travelers to stay connected during their stay.
  2. Mobile Phone Coverage: Mobile phone coverage is generally reliable in populated areas and larger towns across Shetland. Major mobile network providers offer coverage across the islands, including 3G and 4G services, enabling visitors to make calls, send texts, and access mobile data services.
  3. Remote Areas: In more remote and rural areas of Shetland, particularly in the more isolated islands and coastal regions, mobile phone coverage may be limited or sporadic. Visitors should be prepared for potential gaps in coverage when venturing off the beaten path or exploring remote landscapes.

B. Tips for Staying Connected While in Shetland

  1. Check Roaming and Data Plans: Before traveling to Shetland, check with your mobile network provider regarding international roaming and data plans. Consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival for affordable access to voice and data services during your stay.
  2. Utilize Wi-Fi Hotspots: Take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots available in cafes, restaurants, libraries, and visitor centers across Shetland. Many establishments offer complimentary Wi-Fi for patrons, allowing visitors to connect their devices and access the internet without incurring additional charges.
  3. Download Offline Maps: Download offline maps and navigation apps to your smartphone or tablet before exploring Shetland. Offline maps allow you to navigate the islands even in areas with limited mobile coverage, ensuring you can find your way without relying on a constant internet connection.
  4. Communicate Emergency Contacts: Save emergency contacts, including local emergency services, accommodations, and tour operators, in your phone’s contacts list for easy access. Be prepared for unexpected situations and ensure you can reach assistance quickly if needed.
  5. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with local news, weather forecasts, and travel advisories using online resources and official websites. Stay informed about any changes in transportation schedules, weather conditions, or safety alerts that may affect your travel plans while in Shetland.
  6. Respect Privacy and Connectivity: Respect the privacy and connectivity needs of others when using shared Wi-Fi networks or public spaces. Avoid streaming large files or downloading heavy data while connected to limited bandwidth networks to ensure a positive experience for all users.

14. Environmental Conservation Efforts

shetland environment

Shetland’s commitment to environmental sustainability and conservation efforts reflects the islands’ dedication to preserving their natural beauty, protecting wildlife habitats, and fostering eco-friendly tourism practices.

Here’s a closer look at Shetland’s environmental conservation initiatives:

  1. Protected Areas: Shetland is home to a network of protected areas, including nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). These designated areas help safeguard fragile ecosystems, rare species, and important habitats from development and environmental degradation.
  2. Community Engagement: The Shetland community actively participates in environmental conservation efforts through volunteer programs, cleanup campaigns, and educational initiatives. Local organizations, conservation groups, and government agencies collaborate to raise awareness, promote sustainable practices, and address environmental challenges facing the islands.
  3. Environmental Policies: Shetland’s local authorities implement environmental policies and regulations aimed at mitigating climate change, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting renewable energy sources. Initiatives focus on energy efficiency, waste reduction, and resource management to minimize the islands’ ecological footprint and enhance environmental resilience.
  4. Wildlife Protection Programs: Shetland supports wildlife protection programs and conservation projects focused on safeguarding native species, preserving habitats, and monitoring biodiversity. Efforts include seabird monitoring, marine mammal research, and habitat restoration initiatives aimed at enhancing ecosystem health and resilience.
  5. Eco-Friendly Tourism Practices: Shetland promotes eco-friendly tourism practices that minimize environmental impact and promote sustainable travel experiences. Accommodations, tour operators, and attractions embrace green practices such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and responsible wildlife viewing to ensure that tourism activities are conducted in harmony with nature.
  6. Education and Outreach: Environmental education and outreach programs play a crucial role in raising awareness about Shetland’s natural heritage and conservation priorities. Schools, community centers, and visitor attractions offer educational resources, guided tours, and interpretive exhibits that engage residents and visitors in learning about local ecosystems, wildlife conservation, and environmental stewardship.
  7. Partnerships and Collaborations: Shetland collaborates with national and international partners, including conservation organizations, research institutions, and government agencies, to address global environmental challenges and promote sustainable development. Partnerships foster knowledge exchange, research collaboration, and capacity-building initiatives that support long-term conservation goals and enhance environmental resilience.
  8. Sustainable Fisheries Management: Shetland’s fishing industry adopts sustainable fisheries management practices aimed at ensuring the long-term viability of marine resources and minimizing ecological impact. Fisheries regulations, quotas, and conservation measures help maintain fish stocks, protect sensitive marine habitats, and support the livelihoods of local fishermen and coastal communities.


As you prepare for your journey to the captivating Shetland Islands, it’s essential to keep in mind several key points that will enhance your experience and ensure a memorable adventure amidst the rugged landscapes, rich culture, and abundant wildlife. Here’s a recap of what to remember before visiting Shetland:

Key Points to Remember Before Visiting Shetland:

  1. Planning Your Journey: Consider transportation options, accommodations, and itinerary planning in advance to make the most of your time exploring the islands. Book accommodations early, especially during peak seasons, and familiarize yourself with transportation schedules and routes.
  2. Weather and Climate: Be prepared for Shetland’s unpredictable weather patterns, including wind, rain, and fog, by packing appropriate clothing and gear for varying conditions. Check weather forecasts regularly and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  3. Respecting Local Culture: Embrace the unique cultural heritage of Shetland by learning about its history, traditions, and dialect. Respect local customs, etiquette, and wildlife habitats, and engage with the community through cultural events, festivals, and interactions with residents.
  4. Exploring Natural Beauty: Take advantage of Shetland’s diverse landscapes and natural attractions, from dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches to ancient ruins and wildlife reserves. Explore on foot, by bike, or by boat, and immerse yourself in the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife that await discovery.
  5. Supporting Local Businesses: Support local artisans, businesses, and conservation efforts by purchasing handmade souvenirs, dining at locally owned restaurants, and participating in eco-friendly tourism practices. Embrace sustainable travel practices that minimize environmental impact and contribute to the islands’ vibrant economy.

As you embark on your journey to the Shetland Islands, embrace the sense of adventure and discovery that awaits you amidst the untamed beauty of this remote archipelago.

From the exhilaration of exploring coastal cliffs and wildlife reserves to the warmth of community gatherings and cultural celebrations, each moment promises new experiences and unforgettable memories.

Take time to savor the tranquility of secluded beaches, the majesty of ancient ruins, and the camaraderie of local festivals that celebrate Shetland’s rich heritage and traditions.

Engage with the natural world, connect with local residents, and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and flavors of island life.


FAQ’s About the Shetland Islands:

What language do they speak in Shetland?

In Shetland, English is the primary language spoken by the majority of the population.

However, there’s also a unique dialect known as Shetlandic, which reflects the islands’ Norse and Scottish heritage.

This dialect incorporates elements of Old Norse, Scots, and Scottish Gaelic, making it distinct from standard English.

What is special about the Shetland Islands?

The Shetland Islands are renowned for their stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and diverse wildlife.

With rugged coastlines, pristine beaches, and dramatic cliffs, Shetland offers breathtaking landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The islands also boast a vibrant arts scene, traditional music festivals, and a strong sense of community spirit that makes them truly unique.

How long is the ferry from Scotland to Shetland?

The ferry journey from Scotland to Shetland typically takes around 12-14 hours, depending on the route and weather conditions.

The NorthLink Ferries service operates between Aberdeen or Scrabster on the Scottish mainland and Lerwick, the capital of Shetland.

Is Shetland closer to Scotland or Norway?

Geographically, the Shetland Islands are closer to Norway than to mainland Scotland. However, politically and administratively, Shetland is part of Scotland.

The islands lie approximately 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of mainland Scotland and about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Norway.

What currency does Shetland Islands use?

The currency used in the Shetland Islands, as in the rest of Scotland and the United Kingdom, is the British Pound Sterling (£).

Both banknotes and coins issued by the Bank of England are commonly used for transactions in Shetland.

How do you say hello in Shetland?

In Shetland, a common greeting is “hello” or “hi” in English.

However, in the traditional Shetlandic dialect, you might also hear people say “Höla” or “Höla der” as a friendly hello.

Can you get around Shetland without a car?

Yes, it is possible to explore Shetland without a car.

The islands have a public transportation system consisting of bus services operated by ZetTrans, which connect major towns and villages.

Additionally, taxis are available, and some areas are accessible by foot or bicycle. However, having a car offers more flexibility, especially for reaching remote or less accessible locations.

Is Shetland friendly?

Yes, Shetland is known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

The local residents, known as “Shetlanders,” are renowned for their hospitality and community spirit.

Visitors often find the islands to be a warm and inviting destination, with locals eager to share their knowledge, traditions, and stories with guests.

Why does Shetland belong to Scotland?

Historically, the Shetland Islands were under Norse rule for several centuries before coming under Scottish sovereignty in the 15th century.

In 1469, the islands were pledged to Scotland as part of the dowry for the marriage of Princess Margaret of Denmark to King James III of Scotland.

Since then, Shetland has been an integral part of Scotland, although it retains a distinct cultural identity influenced by its Norse heritage.

shetland island

(Island Expert)

Christian is a dynamic serial entrepreneur and a licensed real estate agent with a relentless passion for unlocking the potential of island real estate. Christian's expertise extends beyond entrepreneurship and property transactions. He possesses a profound expertise in crafting captivating content and persuasive copywriting tailored exclusively to the enchanting realm of island real estate.

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