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A Week in Shetland

Despite spending much of my life over the last 5 years exploring Scotland's endless hidden glens, urban backstreets and evocative ruins there has been one serious omission from my hit list. The Shetland Isles occupy the nothernmost boundary of Scottish territory and boast a uniquely appealing allure that makes the lengthy journey worth every windy minute.

Merging Norse and British cultures, I struggle to make comparisons between Shetland any other Scottish region. The 13th-16th Century ruins and mansions that Scotland is so renowned for are replaced by pre-historic remains that originate in the Bronze and Stone Ages. Mountainous and tree-riddled terrain are replaced by desolate peat bogs and sheer cliff-faces. It's really all unexpectedly different - to the extent that I actually felt out of place in my kilt! But that's the primary reason I was so eager to come - to immerse myself in this bold and memorable culture.

So what are the things to look out for?

Shetland's all about the outdoors - despite the ferocious wind you'll be facing - and great walks include the dramatic hike around Hermaness, remote clifftop Eshaness and in the exposed southern tip at Sumburgh Head. Wildlife spotting opportunities are endless and look out for puffins, Minke Whales and dolphins at the coast - boat trips and even kayaking are an excellent way of fully appreciating nature's visitors to the islands.

For the history fans, ruins include Jarlshof, Clickimin Broch, Scalloway Castle and the fabulous Muness Castle on Unst. Of course Viking reference points can be found dotted about and the biggest event in the Shetland calendar is Up Helly Aa. A magnificent fire festival of epic proportions, the whole community comes together to support the Jarl Squads of dressed-up Shetlanders. An enormous amount of planning and effort goes into ensuring quality in the attire and equiptment on display and the January event gathers worldwide interest and admiration. Let's face it, the Vikings were cool!

For culture, Shetland has options in spades. The modern and thoughtfully designed Shetland Museum is one of the very best in the country and tells the full story of Shetland's past - from geological beginnings to its vital role in the war efforts of the 20th Century. Surprising nuggets like Quendale Mill, Scalloway Musuem, Hoswick Visitor Centre and Sumburgh Lighthouse all have loads to offer too for the culture vulture.

Finally, there's the local mascots. How could I not mention the Shetland Ponies? Maybe the cutest animals you'll ever meet these guys can be found all over the island but are particularly centered on Unst in the very far north. If you're lucky, they may even let you say hello.

Have you ever been to Shetland? Do you have any favourite spots to share? For those that haven't been, is it on your list?

Scotland travel blogger and writer with a wee bit of photography and video thrown in. Love nothing more than exploring my home country and have a particular leaning towards the outdoors, history and our national drink.

You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr.


  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Awesome post @travelswithakilt
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, DunoonSpeyside)

  • j2scotlandj2scotland Member ✭✭
    Great post!  Shetland is absolutely on my to-do list, especially after watching the TV series Shetland.
    Come by and say hello.  :) 
    Instagram: journeys2scotland
  • travelswithakilttravelswithakilt Member ✭✭✭
    It's a great show isn't it, Douglas Henshall plays it brilliantly! Great advert for the islands - murders aside ;-)
    Scotland travel blogger and writer with a wee bit of photography and video thrown in. Love nothing more than exploring my home country and have a particular leaning towards the outdoors, history and our national drink.

    You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr.
  • VisitScotlandLiamVisitScotlandLiam Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Great pics Neil!  @travelswithakilt

    Lead vocalist & rhythm guitarist for The Bright SkiesSpotify, Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube.
  • ParsmanParsman Member ✭✭✭
    My mum was a Shetlander and my dad grew up there. They only came away in the early 60's after they married. I spent many happy holidays there with grandparents and aunts and uncles. You really haven't been to a wedding till you have been to a Shetland wedding. And just to put in a word for Fort Charlotte in Lerwick. A bit like Edinburgh Castle it rises above the town and harbour, though it is not quite so high up. My uncle was an officer in the Army cadets and he was allowed to live with his family in accommodation in the fort itself. Was great fun as a child to live there even if only for a short time. It is a great example of an 18th Century fortification.
  • ScathachScathach Member ✭✭
    Been to Shetland and loved them!
    One of my favourite places is St. Ninian Isle.
    Amazing with turquoise water. It's tidal and the island is connected via a stretch of sand that it becomes unavailable with high tide.
    If you are there during low tide it's worth going to the other side and walk all around the island. You have some terrific views!
    Also, if you love vikings (like me) go to the Museum in Lerwick and buy the Viking trail (£3.50 if I remember correctly). It's a booklet with plenty of trail around the islands that will take you to some really lovely remains of longhouses. My favourite one was ay Sandwick bay - they really had a knack for choosing a nice spot for their houses.
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