"Tiny, friendly capital 'city'" Lerwick by leics
Lerwick Travel Guide: 29 reviews and 89 photos
Lerwick lies in the centre of mainland Shetland and has been its capital since 1708 (before that Scalloway was the capital...and, before that, Tingwall was of central importance).
The area has been settled for over 3000 years and, although its population now is only around 7500, almost half the Shetland population (which is only around 22000 anyway) live in the two or nearby.
It's the cruise port, and the ferry port, and still has an important fishing industry. So you'll see plenty of industrial buildings on its outskirts although its centre, around the old harbour area, gives you a taste of what Lerwick was once like.
The first settlement to be called Lerwick was built, largely of wood, in the 1600s. based on the fish trade with the Netherlands. Stone buildings followed in the 1700s, once Fort Charlotte was built. I recognised the many crow-stepped gables of the older buildings as being similar to those which were fashionable in the Netherlands at that time. No doubt some of their owners were Dutch traders and merchants.
The Victorians (mid-1800s onwards) added their own architectural touches: you can see turrets and twiddles and 'Gothick' features on many of the more imposing mansions and public buildings.
But it is the stone-flagged streets and the narrow 'closses' (alleyways) of central Lerwick which are its atmospheric heart. Walking there it's easy to imagine this place as a busy fishing port of the past, with all the sounds and smells associated with that trade, its streets full of roistering fishermen and sailors (and, no doubt, the 'herring girls' who travelled up for the herring season during the herring 'boom' of the 1800s).
Modern Lerwick has its shops and cafes, its takeaways (Indian, Chinese, Thai, Gurkha), its b&bs and a hotel or two, and a rather magnificent new museum which only opened in 2007. It's not a town aimed at the visitor (thankfully). It's a working port, and a working community..the two large supermarkets which lie a few minutes' drive from the harbourside provide not only jobs but also a much wider variety of goods than would have been available until a decade or so ago.
I liked Lerwick a lot. I enjoyed wandering its older streets, exploring Clickimin broch (much restored but still impressive), watching the birds and the boats at the harbour (especially early in the morning), walking out to the Knab to watch yet more birds and boats, and to gaze across the waters to Bressay and beyond,
It seemed to me that the people of Lerwick were particularly friendly, happy to chat and happy to welcome visitors to their town.
So don't visit Lerwick expecting to find umpteen tourist-focused shops, exciting nightlife and a vast range of restaurants. Lerwick is not like that. It's a functional place, rightly focused on its own concerns and community rather than on providing amusement for tourists.
But Lerwick does make an ideal base for exploring mainland Shetland, by car or by bus. It has friendly pubs, which have live music at times, it has the widest range of accommodation and eating-out options and, if you are self-catering, it definitely has the easiest food shopping.
And its museum is unmissable! :-)
- Pros:Superb setting and convenient location for exploring.
- Cons:It may be the capital but it is tiny; don't expect city life!
- In a nutshell:Lerwick is capital of Shetland, so of course you must visit!
There are several boat-trip operators working out of Lerwick, but I do highly recommend the one I took. The... more travel advice
Lerwick Town Hall is a magnificent example of Victorian pomp and grandeur. Set at the crest of the hill behind Lerwick... more travel advice
Written Aug 21, 2011
Written Aug 21, 2011
On the boat trip around Noss....
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