Shetland is a world where wildlife is truly wild; where you can watch otters and seals at play; where the air is filled with the sound of seabirds crowding awesome cliffs in huge, noisy colonies; where the beautiful ice-carved landscape is steeped in legend.
There is much more to Shetland than awe-inspiring nature and wildlife. Shetland has a truly unique culture, as you'd expect of an island group that has been inhabited for over 6,000 years. You'll notice this from our dialect, our heritage, our place names and, of course, our world-renowned traditional music.
Up Helly Aa
Up Helly Aa, takes place in Lerwick, Shetland, on the last Tuesday in January every year. Up Helly Aa day involves a series of marches and visitations, culminating in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley. The following Wednesday is a public holiday in Lerwick to allow for recovery.
Up Helly Aa procession
Up Helly Aa is our annual Viking festival and something very unique to Shetland. Although the Lerwick event is the largest there are numerous Fire Festivals held throughout Shetland until March.
A seal in Lerwick Harbour
The most numerous marine mammals in Shetland waters are two species of seal - the Grey Seal and the Common Seal or Harbour Seal. The old Shetland name for the Grey Seal is 'haaf fish' (deep sea fish), because it prefers more open sea conditions, while the Common Seal is known as 'tang fish' (seaweed fish) because of its preference for more sheltered shores and islands.
Da Nort Bank, Foula
Foula is a bleak yet spectacular island in the Atlantic Ocean, 20 miles west of Walls in Shetland. The island is about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) by 3.5 miles (5.6 km), with a low-lying coastal strip along the east side. It is the seventh largest and most westerly of the Shetland Islands.
Killer Whales off Shetland
The killer whale (Orcinus orca), also referred to as the orca whale or orca, and less commonly as the blackfish or grampus, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. Killer whales are found in all oceans, with sightings around Shetland becoming increasingly common.
Gannets Take Roost
Ever since birdwatching became a popular British leisure pursuit in the late 19th century, Shetland's been famous, among those in the know, as the place to enjoy sensational seabird colonies and amazing rarities. If you want close-up views of tens of thousands of breeding Gannets, alongside Guillemots, Puffins, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, you head for Sumburgh Head, Noss or Hermaness nature reserves.
Garden on the Island of Tondra
Shetland’s windswept landscape is home to many beautiful and carefully maintained gardens that showcase flowers and plants unique to the islands. Shetland is home to an array of plants and wild flowers which flourish in spite of its winds and dry soil, and there are a surprising number of beautiful and unusual gardens in which you can admire them.
Voe and Olna Firth
Looking over the flowers and admiring the view to Voe and Olna Firth
Hoswick Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre provides a welcoming venue for locals and visitors to the area. The Café provides delicious home bakes and light lunches all made to order as well as space to display items collected and preserved. The Centre includes weaving machinery, local items and an interpretation of the Hoswick Whale case.
Mousa Broch, Mousa
Standing 13m high, Mousa is Scotland's most impressive and best surviving Iron Age tower or broch. A broch is a round tower which had an inner and outer drystone wall which were about 5m thick in total. They were clearly both defensive and prestigious buildings. We now know that brochs were built in Shetland around 400-200BC.
Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, Unst
Muckle Flugga is a small rocky island north of Unst in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. It is often described as the northernmost point of the British Isles, but the smaller islet of Out Stack is actually farther north. It used to be the northernmost inhabited island, but forfeited that accolade when the lighthouse was automated and the last residents moved out. The name comes from Old Norse, Mikla Flugey, meaning "large steep-sided island".
North Lighthouse, Fair Isle
Fair Isle North Lighthouse is on a rocky promontory with the light 47 feet above ground level and 262 feet above spring tides. In the engine room were three Kelvin-Diesels, each of 88 bhp driving at 750 rpm, which supplied the Sentinel air compressors for the fog signals.
Puffins at Sumburgh Head
Almost all Puffins leave Shetland during the winter months returning to their breeding areas from March onwards. Large 'rafts' (groups of birds swimming together) of Puffins may be seen on the sea at this time as they gather around their breeding areas. They lay only a single egg and the chick is fed in the burrow on small fish. Most Puffin colonies are empty soon after mid-August. The best time to visit a Puffin colony is in the morning or early evening.
Sands of Breckon, Yell
The Sands of Breckon is a white sand beach in the North of Yell, which has the largest area of shell sand dune and dune grassland in Shetland. This beautiful blue flag beach is sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly winds and provides a wonderful view of the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. Traces of Viking and pre-Viking settlements can be found around the beach. The beach is in a rural farming region and access to the beach can be steep in places, but it is well worth the walk.
St Ninian's Isle
St. Ninians Isle beach is a large tombolo (a natural sand causeway with sea on either side) on the west coast of Shetland, linking the South Mainland with the Isle. It is easily accessible from Bigton, the nearest township. The blue flag beach itself is picturesque, often featured in promotional material and photographs of Shetland. The beach is in a rural farming region, with an archaeological site located on St. Ninians Isle.
The Shetland pony is a breed of pony originating in the Shetland Isles. Shetlands range in size from a minimum height of approximately 28 inches to an official maximum height of 11 hands at the withers.
The Gaada Stack at Da Ristie, Foula
The Gaada Stack, located at Da Ristie, is even more impressive in real life.