Shetland Things to Do Tips by leics Top 5 Page for this destination
Shetland Things to Do: 48 reviews and 133 photos
View from Weisdale
Scalloway, a busy fishing port, was once Shetland's capital...that's why Earl Stewart built his castle there. It still stands over the picturesque harbour. There's a new museum in the process of being opened (only a temporary display at the moment, but by summer 2012 all will be in place) and strong links to the Shetland Bus. My Scalloway page will have more detail.
And Tingwall...at the north end of the loch, near Tingwall kirk with its ancient graveyard, lies Lawting Holm, where Shetland's ancient parliaments met.
The pretty islands of Trondra, East and West Burra are joined to the mainland by bridges. Wonderful walking country, superb for birds.....and with the tiny-but-exquisite white-sand Meal Beach.
And there are wonderful views over the sea and the islands from Weisdale and Whiteness.
How could you not want to explore?
Drive to get to places, of course...or take the bus.
But Shetland is made for walking. Unlike Orkney, it has very few cows....it's sheep country....so you need not worry about crossing fields full of nursing cows or bullocks here!
And Scotland does not have the public footpaths you find in England, so you can walk anywhere...but sensibly, of course.
Don't walk through growing crops (remember grass is a crop, for hay); walk round the edge of the field.
Leave gates as you find them and, if you must climb a gate or fence (because it is otherwise un-moveable) then make sure you climb nearest the hinged gatepost, where it's stongest.
Don't leave litter of any type. Not only is it ugly, it can (and does) also kill wildlife.
Avoid frightening sheep (it can make them abort when pregnant, it can lead to them breaking limbs at other times) or seals (they loll because they need to do so, not because they are lazy).
Avoid frightening birds too: many birds will abandon their nests if frightened, but the skuas and fulmars (especially the bonxies) will make very sure they frighten *you*!. Even though they rarely hit you, being dive-bombed by screaming, angry skuas or fulmars is remarkably scary and unpleasant...put your hand above your head and beat a hasty retreat.
When you are walking you'll see birds and flowers, wonderful geology and landscape, superb views around every corner. Along the coast you'll see seals, maybe porpoises.....maybe whales if you are seriously lucky!
There are more than 6000 archaeological sites in Shetland. Many are not signed in any way, but you'll see them marked on the Ordnance Survey maps (well worth buying these before you come). Walking is the only way to visit most of these......Iron Age brochs, Neolithic barrow tombs, Bronze age 'burnt mounds', ancient standing stones...
So.....wear the right clothes, wear the right footwear, pack something to eat and drink (shops are few and far between), remember your binoculars and your camera... and set out to explore. If you are exploring wild country, such as Northmavine, take Ordnance Survey map, compass and emergency supplies with you.
Directions: Anywhere you go in Shetland you will find wonderful walking country.
Gannet colony on Noss cliffs.
If you haven't arrived in your own boat a boat-trip will show you a side of Shetland which is otherwise inaccessible.
There are several trips operating out of Lerwick, including the 'Seabirds-and-seals' trip which I took (see the Lerwick page for the review). Well worth the money.
Or you could take the Mousa ferry from Aithsvoe (see my Mousa page), probably seeing porpoises on the way and certainly giving you 3 hours or so on the island to explore its wonderful birdlife and its magnificent Iron Age broch, the best-preserved example in existence.
Or you could take the regular ferry from Lerwick to Bressay and/or perhaps drive across that island to take the ferry (an inflatable boat) to the Noss National Nature Reserve.
Or you could drive up to Toft and take the ferry to Yell, and perhaps onwards to Unst.
Ferry options and timetables can be found on the link below.
Lots and lots of options, whether you have a car or not. But, definitely, take some sort of boat trip whilst you are visiting!
St Ninian's Isle
Certainly for its unique and beautiful tombolo..........a crescent of white sand, lapped on either side by the sea, allowing access to the island in all but the highest of tides or stormiest of weather.
But also for the island itself. The tiny Celtic chapel there was excavated in the late 1950s and a hoard of 'treasure' was found...wonderfully intricate silver bowls and ornaments dating from around 800AD. You can find the excavated chapel, and perhaps find St Ninian's Well too (I didn't).
Walk the island cliffs, watch the seabirds and the sea, enjoy the views...if you are lucky you'll be entirely by yourself.
More details will be on my St Ninian's Isle page
Directions: On the south-west of mainland Shetland. You'll need a car, or be prepared for a long walk from the bus stop at Levenwick.
Sky and sea
These three districts in Central Mainland offer a slightly gentler landscape in some parts, with rolling hills, hummocky moorland and tiny lochs, narrow voes (inlets) and scattered settlements. Sullom Voe is there too, a huge voe on which the Sullow Voe terminal stands (and, remarkably, is not the eyesore I thought it would be).
There are wonderful views from every bend in the road, standing stones and cairns, hamlets and lighthouses. A lot of history too, with WW2 sites and, most especially, strong links with the 'Shetland Bus' (which smuggled spies, radios and supplies into Occupied Norway and brought back refugees).
Lunna, where the Shetland Bus first started, also has the oldest kirk still in use...and a headland superb for walking and watching the thousands of seabirds passing by.
There will be more detail on my Lunna and Sullom Voe pages.
Northmavine is almost an island...it's only joined to Shetland mainland by a narrow strip of land separating the Atlantic from the North Sea, 100 yards or so wide (Mavis Grind). Sop narrow that, until the 1950s, fishermen carried their boats across to save themselves time!
It's the most northerly part of mainland Shetland, the wildest and the least settled.
It is magnificent in its wildness, with stunning cliff scenery, unique geology, thousands and thousands of birds to watch and miles of empty space to walk and explore.
Most of Northmavine has no road access, and you really need a car to get there anyway because bus services are very limited.
Eshaness (pronounced 'ayshaness') is just one part of Northmavine, a most wonderfully wild place. Drive to the lighthouse, park and then just walk the cliffs....for miles, if you like. Magnificent geos and blowholes and arches, the wild Atlantic sea hundreds of feet below, birds to watch and maybe even whales to spot.
I'll write in more detail about Eshaness on my Hillswick page (Eshaness is not in the VT database).
If you have a car, a visit to Eshaness is a *must*.
Unless you arrive by boat, you'll land at tiny Sumburgh airport, to the far south of Shetland mainland and about 30 minutes' drive from Lerwick (there are regular buses).
It's in the most wonderful spot, with sea either side and magnificent views over the surrounding voes (inlets, rather like fjords) and landscape.
Like most Shetland settlements Sumburgh is spread out amongst the surrounding area rather than having an obvious village 'centre'. But it does have two fascinating archaeological sites (Jarlshof and Old Scatness) and the magnificent Sumburgh Head reserve where you can watch thousands of birds (including puffins in season) and keep and eye open for whales, seals and porpoise.
Again, I'll write in more detail on my Sumburgh page.
Lerwick in early morning sun
Lerwick is the capital of Shetland, with stone-flagged streets and many narrow 'closses' (alleyways), shops, cafes and a couple of supermarkets...and a population of less than 8000, although almost half of the whole Shetland population (totalling 22000) live nearby..
So, as you can imagine, it's not really a huge capital city. It's just a small town, where people know each other, where the community is strong but visitors are welcomed.
I'll write in more detail about the town on my Lerwick page. It has a really excellent (and new) museum, a lovely (and busy) set of harbours where you can watch boats and birds, several interesting bits of architecture and lovely walks along the Knab.
It is from Lerwick that most buses and boat tours around the island operate...seabirds and seals and stunning cliff scenery. The ferry to Bressay leaves regularly (every 30 minutes or so, a 10-minute trip) so it's easy to visit there too. A car helps hugely but you can still see a lot of the islands by bus.
If you visit Shetland you'll almost certainly visit Lerwick, and definitely so if you come on a cruise: it's Shetland's cruise port. You'll enjoy it! :-)
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