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About Shetland

About Shetland 

Shetland is an archipelago of more than 100 islands. It lies on the 60th parallel, 600 miles north of London and less than 200 miles from Norway.

Shaped By the Sea

The sea and its influences are felt everywhere in Shetland – hardly surprising when no point on land is more than 3 miles from it.

The sea has washed and battered Shetland for aeons, creating the spectacular sea cliffs, rock stacks and geos, and the beautiful, pristine beaches that are so impressive today.

Scenery and Geology

The geology of Shetland, stretching back 3 billion years, is extraordinarily rich and varied. Nearly every geological process can be identified somewhere in the 100 or so islands, and geologists, students and interested amateurs come from all over the world to explore the islands – particularly Unst – for themselves.

During the great Ice Ages the sea was locked up in ice sheets and glaciers, which gouged and ground the islands. This created rounded hills and U-shaped valleys and thick layers of debris, exposing Shetland’s fascinating geology in the process. Find out more about Shetlands geology with our PDF, and for a quite superb and detailed account visit Shetland Landscapes (http://www.landforms.eu/shetland/). We highly recommend it!


Shetland is world famous as a place to see wildlife.

The North Atlantic Drift, which starts as the Gulf Stream, brings relatively warm waters sweeping past Shetland, before merging with colder Arctic currents. These currents are rich in plankton, supporting an amazing quantity of marine wildlife – everything from mackerel to whales.

Of course the sea’s influence is not restricted to marine wildlife:

· Seals, otters and other fauna feed off sea life

· Plants live in the salt-laden air

· Moorland flora and “inland” fauna adapt to the great winds, rain and fog that blow in off the northern sea

· Seabird abound, everything from gannets to bonxies, and the iconic little puffins live on Shetlands coast

· Rare and exotic vagrants (birds that are resting on migration or blown off course by the wind) are often found in Shetland

· The indigenous Shetland pony has adapted to be stronger and more robust in Shetlands climate

Our PDF is available for even more information about Shetlands wildlife.

Archaeology and History

Man has also had to adapt to the sea – and bend to its will.

The evidence of man’s presence is everywhere in Shetland. From Norwegian Vikings that used Shetland as a staging post as they voyaged across the North Seas, to German and Dutch merchants whose interest was trading fish that proliferate around Shetland’s coast. More recently, Shetland has been home to the military, as well as oil men exploiting the valuable resources lying beneath the ocean floor.

Following its history, Shetland boasts some quite outstanding archaeology and history, which can be enjoyed in the field or in Shetland’s excellent Museum & Archives in Lerwick, or revealed in one of the rural Heritage Centres.

You can also get a great insight into the different ages in history and how each have sculpted Shetland to be the way it is today with our Shetland Archaeology and History PDF.

Shetland Culture

Shetlanders of today are forward-looking free-thinkers, embracing modern technology and working hard to ensure that their islands thrive in the 21st century. However, we are also immensely proud of our past and of the characteristics that make us Shetlanders.

The mixture of northern, southern and eastern influences, together with the Islands’ historic isolation, have given Shetland a unique culture all of its own.

· Music, dominated by the fiddle

  • Dance
  • Singing
  • Poetry

· Story telling

  • Events
  • Festivals

· Traditional Crafts

All have Norse and Scottish affinities, but have resulted in something distinctly Shetland in character. Shetland is what it is: a land apart.

To find out more about Shetland, including place names, Shetland dialect, music and much more please read our PDF. 

Holiday in Shetland

Shetland has more than its fair share of attractions and there is more than enough for all tastes and for all seasons of the year. You can discover, see and experience to your heart’s content and you will leave feeling relaxed, happy and fulfilled having learned about this unique outpost of Britain for yourself.

Shetland’s Weather

The summer half of the year is comfortably warm, rainfall is low (comparable with Edinburgh’s), and sunshine hours are long. Shetland has a climate made for exploring, walking, cycling and generally enjoying the great outdoors.

Winters, conversely, are darker than in more southerly parts and the weather is also wetter and windier. This is a time for brisk walks to see spectacular coastal scenery before relaxing in front of the fire with a good book and a drink.

Winter is also the time of Shetland’s renowned fire festivals, Up Helly Aa. The largest being in Lerwick but others taking place throughout Shetland too.

Getting to Shetland


Daily flights from Scotland’s major cities and twice weekly flights from London land at Sumburgh Airport, Shetland, and from there a magnificent drive takes you north to Unst. Find out about flights to Shetland.


Alternatively, you can take the Northlink car ferry to Lerwick, Shetland’s county town, either from Aberdeen or from the North Coast of Scotland via Orkney. Find out more about the ferry to Shetland.


Car Hire

A number of car hire firms operate in Shetland, including:

· John Leask and Son

· Bolts Car Hire

· Star Rent A Car

All of these companies can have cars ready for you to collect on arrival at the airport or ferry terminal.

Public transport

Bus Service

The bus service from Lerwick to Baltasound, Unst, runs 3 times a day and takes 2hrs 25mins, including the 2 ferry crossings. See Shetland Bus Services.

Ferry Service

Shetland Islands Council’s ferry services operate throughout the day, so that travel to Unst, or any other islands, is easy and smooth. Find out more about Shetland's inter-island ferries. We would strongly recommend booking ferries in advance of travel in the summer months to avoid any unnecessary delays.

The big skies of Shetland

The puffin - a Shetland icon


See Shetland on Video




Salmon farming workboats


Traditional crofting methods are in harmony with nature.

Winter storms certainly blow the cobwebs away!