I’m traveling to Shetland mid-August for a week and will be located in Lerwick. Can you give me some suggestions of tours, places of interest, even restaurants you would recommend . Thanks in advance.
That is a very very big brief.
Begin by reading this and then go to the map page on the Undiscovered Shetland website having a look at the Undiscovered Scotland website and follow the links to text pages with information and lots of pictures.
Shetland is mainly about scenery but there are also places like Clickimin Broch, Jarlshof, Mousa with its broch... Add in a trip to Old Scatness near Jarlshof. There is also the Crofthouse museum at Dunrossness. Make time to talk to the custodian about life on Shetland.
Visit Scaloway and learn about teh story of the Shetland Bus. (Try and get hold of a copy of David Haworth's Book 'The Shetland Bus' and read that before visiting. He helped set up and run the organisation. It is an amazing story of courage and survival very much against the odds. He is buried at Lunna Kirk along with some of Norwegians. They used Lunna House as their base, which is now a B&B The Scalloway museum has information and arefacts. Have a read of this article. There is also a lovely memorial in Scalloway. The rocks taken from the birthplaces of the 44 Norwegian crewmembers that died during the operation of the Shetland Bus. Their names can be found on the plaque at the base of the sculpture.)
Head to Yell and Unst - the furthest most part of the UK. Take a boat trip around Noss for the bird life.
Catch a ferry to either Whalsay or Out Skerries to experience a completley different island.
If you are wanting ideas for walking - this is the website to check out.
If I were going to Shetland, I'd be really tempted to look into "cake fridges" and "honesty boxes".
Thank you so much wasleys! These are wonderful suggestions- some of which I had already signed up for such as- the boat trip to Noss & Bressay and Yell & Unst. However, others I did not know about -such as the WWII activity at Scalloway and your recommended book [have ordered this from Amazon] and the Undiscovered Shetland and walking links. I do appreciate your time and effort in putting these items together!
Thank you kaiecem for telling me about "cake fridges" and "honesty boxes".. I did not know anything about these but have found them explained on the Shetland Tourism website. I'll be on the look-out for them on my visit.
@Wasley's thank you for the walking website as well. I'll be on Burray Orkney to start with and will have some time to myself so I think I can do the walk they have for there.
PS I'm about halfway through The Shetland Bus book on my Kindle app. So good and those guys were so amazing!
@J Phillips - If you do FB, a former RS tour guide (well I think he has one more tour in August) has a tour going to Orkney and Shetland in August. You might look at his itinerary for some ideas although I think Wasley's has covered most of the sights. He also does little vignettes of imagined people who might have lived in the area where he travels. He put this one up recently for Shetland.
Sorry to be the pedant (or wisearse) here, but Unst isn't the northernmost part of the British Isles. That honour goes to Muckle Flugga, which is a currently uninhabited island off the north coast of Unst. The lighthouse on Muckle Flugga operated for about 140 years (1854 to 1995), until it was finally automated in 1995.
There's a great link about Muckle Flugga here:
Once you get to the Northlink site, click on Shetland. Go all the way down to the bottom of that screen, then click on "View previous articles about the Shetland Islands". The article about Muckle Flugga is about 2/3rds of the way down, but the rest of the articles make great reading as well.
The Northern Lighthouse Board has a similar article on the lighthouse:
It's possible to land on Muckle Flugga, but there are no scheduled tours, so anyone interested (or crazy) enough to want to visit would have to hire a boat out of Unst.
Anyone interested in one man's quest to reach Muckle Flugga should read It's a Long Way to Muckle Flugga, by W R Mitchell. It was written in 1990, and is apparently still in print.
As Paul Harvey was wont to say, "And now you know...the rest of the story".
p.s.: Okay, I know that I'm going to outpedanted by someone who is going to say that the unnamed sea stack off the northern coast of Muckle Flugga is actually the northernmost point in the British Isles. But Muckle Flugga is generally accepted as the last outpost before the Arctic Circle.
p.p.s.: Legend has it that Lady Franklin sailed to Muckle Flugga to watch for the return of her husband, John, from his ill-fated 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage. "Ten thousand pounds would I freely give, to say on Earth that my Franklin lives". (Lady Franklin's Lament) Listen: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTbQbdQmDqU
p.p.p.s.: Mitchell and his companions never made it to Muckle Flugga. They could only look at it from the cliffs at Hermaness.
Hi Mike, yes you are right - perhaps I ought to have qualified it as the most northerly INHABITED ...
Many years ago we spent a week on Unst and the owner of the accommodation used to crew for the skipper who ran day trips out to Muckle Flugga if the weather conditions were suitable. And no, being April we didn't do one. We just looked at it from Unst. I know the skipper of the boat died a few years ago. I'm not aware of anyone offering tours now, although there was this Trip Advisor thread a year ago. -
Hi J -
It’s been a while since we toured the Shetlands, but I would heartily recommend taking a pair of Binoculars to spot the abundant wildlife and, in particular, bird life and a pocket book of British birds (Mitchell Beazely is the one we bought, but there others). We didn’t go to Shetland as bird watchers but certainly came back as them. It gets a bit tedious going “I wonder what that is?” after a couple of days. So much so, that we asked an educated group of ‘twitchers’ “what are those black and white birds?” “Oystercatchers” they replied, with a universal slack jawed look, a mix of horror and incredulity that we had no idea what this numerous and common bird was!
Oh yes, if you venture across the Hermaness bird sanctuary on foot to glimpse Muckle Flugga offshore, take an umbrella or walking pole (no need to extend/open either) to hold above your head so the large and aggressive Arctic Skuas or ‘Bonxies’ don’t make contact with your head (they’ve been known to) as they dive bomb you to protect their territory.
We thought the people of Shetland were really friendly. Everybody, and I mean everybody, waved to us as we drove past. It took us a few days to realise that they had us marked as tourists as EVERY single hire care on the islands was a red Ford Fiesta!
-->A slight diversion .... but for birding there is an excellent free birding app called Merlin, from the Cornell University Ornithology Department. You can do an ID from characteristics or there is a sound ID you can use. I had a lot of fun using the sound ID in Northumberland in May and it was fairly accurate. I even used it on the boat trip out to the Farne Islands. Through all that squawking when we were near the rocks it did a good job of picking out what we were actually seeing. The sound ID does not need data but the regular ID function does. You do need to download the "bird packs" for the area you are visiting which will give you likely matches based on location.
OK...back to Shetland!
While you have gone that far north, it may be worth taking the fairly infrequent ferry to the little visited Island of Fetlar. Some of the Yell to Unst ferries take a triangular route via the slipway on Fetlar.
I am in Shetland now; got here yesterday. Today we took a full day tour of the mainland with James Tait of Island Trails. He is excellent. It is a small group tour, but turned into a private tour for us. We are taking the ferries to Yell and Unst and on another day taking a boat tour around Noss. Not sure what else we will do, but we have a car, and the driving is easy. You will love Shetland.
Thanks to all for your time in replying and for your suggestions.
@Pam- I will investigate seymour travel tours and thanks for the name of that birding app :-)
@ Ian- good idea to bring binoculars and a good bird book as I had heard that the bird population is huge; I think I would be worse than you in not knowing British birds as we don't have many different types of birds here- mostly hummingbirds, crows, doves, and a few hawks. I'll definitely look up oyster catchers before leaving ;-)
@isn31c: I'll see if I can make it to Fetlar! Sounds interesting.
@Carroll: Enjoy your travels; I am doing the ferries and boat tour you mentioned; I also am booked for a Shetland Pony experience; if you are interested here's the URL https://www.theshetlandponyexperience.com/
I looked at Island Trails website and found a link to ~20 webcams; those of you not in Shetland might like to reminisce when looking at them :-) https://www.shetlandwebcams.com/
Again thanks for all suggestions!
Thanks, JP. I will check out those websites. I saw some Shetland ponies yesterday. My favorite, though, is the puffins!
In addition to camera and binoculars, be sure to bring warm clothes. When the wind gets blowing, it can be really cold. It’s been low to mid fifties here, but it feels much colder when the wind blows. Especially if it is raining.
I've just been trying to find the tour video, and can't but I don't think that even the USLHS (United States Lighthouse Society) managed to get to Muckle Flugga on their tour of the Northern Isles- I seem to remember that they had to content themselves with the view from the mainland of Unst.
I think they've done 2 tours to Shetland but I can only find the 2007 tour at the moment.
The island north of Muckle Flugga appears to be called Out Stack.
I wonder. in the days when Smyril line called at Scrabster on their way from Denmark to the Faroes, if they passed anywhere close to Muckle Flugga.
I wonder. in the days when Smyril line called at Scrabster on their way from Denmark to the Faroes, if they passed anywhere close to Muckle Flugga.
We did the trip on Symril back in 2006 when they sailed from Lerwick ( it was a few years later they changed to Scrabster). The route round Shetland was determined by weather and particularly wind condions. We swung up the east coast on the outside of Noss. I seem to remeber we sailed between mainland and Yell, but am now wondering if I imagined that and if the channel would have been wide enough and deep enough for Norrena to pass?. I don't remember seeing Muckle Flugga - or may be perhaps conditions were getting so rough them we were in our cabin? From Scrabster Smyril would probably have taken a route well west of both Orkney and Shetland.
Oh...that webcam site is great!
IF you are interested in birding, there is also a Shetland Wildlife and Shetland Birding pages on FB.
I also recommend the Collins Bird Guide which I have downloaded to my iPad Mini. I just really try to minimize my carrying around of guidebooks. Now, for car trips here in the US I will always throw in my Sibley's guide but it's too heavy to carry if it's a non-car trip,lol.
You might use the Merlin app in your back yard....if you hear birdsong just hit the sound ID and see what it says. Then try to find the bird, lol. The more you look the more you see. The more you listen the more you hear!
Just wanted to let you know, yesterday we took the Seabirds and Seals boat trip yesterday. It sailed around Bressay and Noss. It was fantastic. We were lucky that it was a sunny day and the water was calm. We saw a zillion birds. By no means am I a birder, but I found watching the birds flying around quite thrilling, especially when they threw fish in the water for them. The islands themselves are stunning.
Ours was a two hour tour; they also offer three hour tours. I think most of them are three hours, but ours had to be rescheduled due to weather, so I think they had to hold it to two hours to shoehorn it into another day. I thought two hours was enough, but I don’t know what they do with the extra hour.
One other thing — we only saw a few puffins, but they should be gone by August. I don’t know what birds are around in August, but the birds have already started leaving, so you might check that out.
St. Ninian’s island is a great place for walking. You reach it from a small parking lot in Bigton near the Hayhoull House, the B&B where we are staying (highly recommended). We walked; it’s only 5 minutes by foot. At no time was the parking lot full when we were there. You walk across the beautiful tombolo beach to get to the island; no worries about high tide in summer; only rarely in winter is it an issue. It takes 2-3 hours to walk around the island, depending on how long you stop to take pictures and take in the views, which are spectacular. It’s quite easy walking, though hilly in parts.
Have you been to see the local Art Exhibition in the Hymhus- the former Bigton Kirk? It looks interesting. One of the 20 or so Kirks which have been closed during the restructuring of Churches on Shetland, and a successful (so far) community purchase of the building.
We did the trip on Symril back in 2006 when they sailed from Lerwick
One of those long planned trips I have never managed to get around to doing- for the 1 week round trip to Iceland. Since the Lerwick/Scrabster and the Bergen calls were withdrawn you've had to go to Denmark to catch the ferry. At least it's easier now the ferry uses Hirsthals rather than the original Hanstholm, which always seemed to be very tricky to reach. At least Hirsthals is on the railway- a privatbaner.
At least I've been to the Faroes on a cruise- that time we went south back out of Lerwick around Fair Isle, rather than northabouts, in a summer storm so a very lively passage, one of several North Atlantic storms on that cruise.
The Norrona used to do a special sailing for the Faroese once a year to Newcastle/North Shields for Christmas shopping.
We had a week on the Faroes followed by just over two weeks on Iceland - we rapidly ran out of superlatives to descrtine the scenery.
We also used to use sail from Newcastle to Bergen and the boat was always full of Norwegians returning laddened down with bags and bags of shopping...
Isn31c, I have not been to that art exhibit. We just moved from Bigton to Busta yesterday, so it looks like we will miss it. My husband is not into art, and we both are focused primarily on walking and wildlife.
We are on the ferry coming back from Unst and Yell. We spent all our time in the Hermaness National Nature Reserve. We had a wonderful hike with stunning scenery and tons of birds including about 40 puffins. (I only count them if I can see their faces.) it took us over 3.5 hours, but we spent a lot of time watching the birds. It was sunny when we left but turned to mist and then light rain after the first hour or so. By the time we were done, we were pretty wet so we headed back to the ferry and we’re able to get on an earlier one. This might have been our favorite hike in Shetland.
@Carroll- how is the bug/insect population now on Shetland? Is a bug spray needed?
Oh! J Phillips...what a good question! Will be good to hear an on the ground report!
I've been looking at Smidge forecasts for midges and Shetland has been a 1 (no problem) for weeks. I've still got my midge head net packed (and yes it's made for midges not skeeters!) and will probably leave it in. It's less than an ounce.
They aren't usually a problem on Shetland as there is usually plenty of breeze on Shetland which keeps the midges away. Also there are few trees.
We have not encountered a single midge since we got here. That includes a week on Orkney before arriving in Shetland. My understanding is that they are not a problem when it is windy, and we have not had a day or even a minute without wind.
Yesterday we took a walk along the Eshaness Cliffs and it was fantastic. Perhaps the most stunning scenery we’ve seen in Shetland. There is parking by the lighthouse. Head north for fantastic coastal vistas. We only went a couple of miles and back. You will see a pile a boulders around two miles from the lighthouse. It was a bit challenging (I am 69 and fit but a bit clumsy), but we climbed over them to get to the edge, and it was well worth it. Just the most beautiful place with little pools surrounded by cliffs and rock with a view of the ocean.
On another day we drove to Sandness and hiked along the coast there. It was very nice, but not as phenomenal as Eshaness.
We also spent time in Lerwick, which is a nice little town. Loved seeing Jimmy Perez’s house and other sites from the series Shetland.
We leave today. 🙁
I'm enjoying your positive comments on Shetland Carrol - they are bringing back many memories.
A question for you - is Bobby's Bus Shelter still there on Unst, complete with all its contents?
Wesley’s, It is still there with furnishings!
Oh, I'm so pleased about that- it's fantastic!!
@Carroll- how about mosquitos?
Thanks for all your on-the-spot details and information! Hope you have a good trip home or onward to another country!
J, We did not see a single mosquito. In fact we were not bothered by any bugs. The only bugs I saw were some tiny bugs hopping on the sand when walking on the beach, but they never bothered me.
We are in Yorkshire Dales for a few days before flying home. I was dying to experience at least small slice of this area after watching All Creatures Great and Small.
I hope you have a wonderful trip!
@Carroll, thanks so much for the mosquito report :-) I am really looking forward to being in Shetland.
I hope you have a wonderful time in Yorkshire. It is a beautiful area! Safe travels home.
All these comments are making me jealous. I love shetland. My ancestors 2nd great grandfather came from there to the states in 1848. I have been lucky to have been to Shetland twice. 2010 for Hamerfarin and then last year with Seymour travels. I thought I may have did a trip report but guess not.
You have a lot of great suggestions. Driving is not to bad. We did on our own in 2010 but last year was a tour , no driving for us.
The puffins are so adorable. But some maybe there or maybe not. ( excuse any name typos , doing this on my phone and memory)…Jarlshof, clickamin broch , scalloway for Shetland by at the museum. Scalloway caster was closed last year…. Doing renovations, echaness( beautiful). St ninanians isle. Grab lunch at Braewick caravan park for lunch on way to Echaness. Their tomato soup in delicious. There is also a museum in that area. Sandness, museum in Lerwick on the harbor, Bobby ‘s bus stop on Unst, Viking ship and Croft on Unst, old haa, I saw on Facebook page Shetland on camera about a place I had not heard of Lunna House, haroldwick on Unst had a museum ( it maybe old haa ( I think it is on Yell, Heritage center on Unst. Fort charlotte, west Burra minn beach. We stayed at a self catering cottage by minn. Burra history Croft museum. My 5th cousin help run the Burra history there. She passed away a few years ago.
We never took ferry to bressay but took boat ride around noss and bressay. Unst boat haven, tang wick haa museum, dore holm, Shetland museum and archives, Neal beach, mavis grind, da drongs, muness castle, Shetland textile museum. Scenery is just brilliantl!
Join some Shetland Facebook groups.
Food…. Still not too much restaurants in lerwick. Dowlry, no. 88 kitchen, crest la vie,
Bars. Lounge (shots from the Shetland TV show), douglass arms bar.
This makes me wanna go back and explore more areas I never made it to!
Sorry for the ramblings
Thanks Kim for your suggestions! I have added them to my notes.
Just noticed you wanted restaurant recommendations. There are some good ones in Lerwick; you can count on one hand the ones elsewhere (marginal exaggeration). For a good breakfast, I can heartily recommend the New Harbour Café near the Virgin Bank. I think to really get the place, you just have to go around taking it all in. It is hard to describe, other than being mostly treeless, and people are extremely nice.
@ phoffen2001 Thanks for the recommendation for breakfast. I do have breakfast provided by my B&B; however I see that they also serve lunch with lots of options for wraps... my favorite. I will definitely eat there