Day 5 - A mini guide to the Shetland Islands

#30DaysOfScotland, Beaches, Coastal, Days out, Rural

Shetland Isles


It’s not hard to see why the beautiful Shetland Isles stand out so much. A delightful mix of cultures combine to reveal a truly unique part of the world. We've put together this mini guide to the Shetland islands to help you discover the very best of this beautiful Scottish region.

A visit to Shetland should, without a doubt, be on your list! Not least for the awe-inspiring beaches and diverse landscapes but also for the fascinating wildlife and incredible history, heritage and geology.


Travelling to and around the Shetland

Don’t let the fact that Shetland is the most northerly point of Scotland put you off, there are direct flights available from the major airports on the mainland Scotland which take around 90 minutes. Sumburgh Airport is around 25 miles from Lerwick.

If you’d rather experience the scenery, you can also catch the ferry from Aberdeen which is the longer travel option, taking around 12 hours to reach Lerwick, usually around 7.30 am – providing a wonderful sunrise view as you approach the port. Whether you choose to fly, or drive using the ferry, the approach to Shetland is a beautiful journey – and that’s before you even arrive.

A brief guide to the top Shetland Islands

Shetland Islands Mini Guide header

The Shetland isles are made up of over 100 islands, so how do you know where to go? Only 15 of these are inhabited and while they all have incredible beauty in common, each island also has something unique to offer.

An important fishing island, Whalsay is just five miles long and two miles wide. The Vikings once called Whalsay ‘the island of whales’ – if you keep your eyes peeled on the 30 minute ferry crossing from Laxo, you might see why. The island is also home to Britain’s most northerly golf course.

While all of the islands offer sheer beauty, Fetlar is known as ‘The Garden of Shetland’, which is a true testament to just how phenomenal it is. From the wildlife-rich habitats to ancient sites and breathtaking beauty spots, Fetlar has the full package.

Likewise, the natural beauty of the remote island of Foula, meaning ‘Bird Island’ in Old Norse, is sure to take your breath away, as one of the most remote inhabited islands in Britain. There are only about 30 people who live on the island but that’s what makes it so special, that and its five outstanding peaks which drop to the sea!

The mainland of Shetland naturally lays claim to being the largest island but after that comes Yell, also known as the gateway to the Northern Isle. Here traditional Shetland life blends with modern styles offering a varied base – from here the smaller islands of Unst and Fetlar are easily accessible.

Isle of Bressay SSP

Two completely separate islands but so close together, they come as a pair. Escape the hustle and bustle of Lerwick and take the short journey across to Bressay where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of this rural island. Likewise, Noss is even smaller but plays hosts to a fascinating range of birds and wildlife.

With only 70 islanders, the local people of Fair Isle live in traditional crofts showing just how rural communities live and thrive together pioneering big projects such as the use of wind power!

While all of the islands offer wonderful walks and fascinating wildlife opportunities, if you’re visiting just one, choose Papa Stour. There are 18 species of sea birds here plus seals, otters and all-kinds of beautiful wildflowers. The island is also home to the Hole of Bordie – the fourth longest sea cave in the world!

Finally, Unst is probably the most sociable island of all, offering all kinds of events on top of the fascinating cultural and heritage attractions, wildlife and natural wonders of the Shetland Isles as a whole!

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Posted by Ed on 5th April 2017