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Shetland Islands, ferry or fly from Aberdeen or Inverness, location location location

We just watched an enticing travel film featuring the dramatic geological cliffs, landscapes and seascapes the Shetland Islands have to offer, abounding with bird life and sea creatures. Leaving home in Spokane, Washington, we will begin extensive travels throughout Europe. This initial landing place looks ideal for walking and exploring without a hurried agenda.

Searching for lodging brought us to a website rich with resources for exploring the area from Lerwick. We would want to take a boat ride to see the more remote sights. No flights found into Lerwick, only into Sumburgh. Hmmm...???

Based on experience please share recommendations as well as forewarnings.
We found that there are ferries connecting visitors to a variety of Islands from Lerwick, but we haven't found how to actually get to Lerwick.
We would fly to Edinburgh from the Shetlands at the end of our stay. Would 3 nights allow for jet lag recovery and a rejuvenating adventure exploring this awe inspiring place on earth.

Posted by
11294 posts

The Wikipedia entry for the Shetland Islands, in the Transportation section, has some of the answers to your confusion. It turns out Sumburgh has the islands' main airport (with flights from the British mainland), and then there are flights from the separate Lerwick/Tingwall airport to the other islands in the Shetland group.

To find out who flies where from an airport, a great resource is that airport's Wikipedia page. Here's Sumburgh:
and Lerwick:

Wow - who knew that such a sparsely populated place could have a situation like Tokyo? (In Tokyo, Narita airport, many miles from central Tokyo, gets most of the international and intercontinental flights, while Haneda, much closer to the center, has most of the domestic flights. Therefore, going to smaller cities in Japan from abroad often involves changing airports).

Posted by
255 posts

Thank you for guiding us to Wikipedia. Didn't realize it can serve for travel logistics. I also looked at google maps to find that from Shetland's Sumburgh airport to Lerwick, it's about a half hour drive. I have contacted a possible host for information regarding how to make that trip: taxi or bus.

Posted by
1019 posts

Hi Zagfam - Just wanted to let you know what a wonderful place Shetland is. My great great grandfather came from Shetland with his mom and sister here to the US. His dad was a fisherman (I believe) and died at sea... My grandfather did an amazing job of ancestry work on Shetland. So, June 2010, my dad's cousin (and his wife had been before also) took my sister and I there on a great adventure there. She and I live in Tulsa, Ok we flew to Newark and then to Birmingham, England, then to Aberdeen, Scotland. Our cousin met us in Newark and we flew together the rest of the way. It is a two day trip there. We arrived about noonish in Aberdeen and took the over night ferry (northlinks) leaving at 7 pm to Lerwick (which is the capital of Shetland), arriving at 7 am the following morning. Our main adventure was to seek out living relatives (which we found 5th cousins still living there). They have an event calledHamerfarin, a celebration about every 10 to 20 years or so. Not sure when the next one would be.

It is a very beautiful place. The landscape , cliffs, birds of all kinds is just fantastic. Shetland comprises of lots of islands, so you can drive to the ferries stops and take the ferry across to the other island. Eshaness is spectacular, Sumburgh (bottom tip of mainland island ) where the lighthouse is....has cliffs and lots of bird watching. Puffins galore.

Took the ferry to the most northern island(Unst) More cliffs and birds. took a boat ride around Bressay and more wonderful sites

We rented a car from Bolt (I believe). I think we were there about 10 days give or take. I found a self catering cottage (nothing special) because all we needed it for was sleeping, cooking, and laundry. It was on Burra Island. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen. Very cheap (Bannaminn Cottage). Not sure if it is still being rented. Not an elaborate place, but suited our needs. Very plain

We drove all over the islands.... to st. Ninian's Isle, beautiful place, tombolo there, with awesome Atlantic ocean views, You could walk across the tombolo to get to the other island. Had afternoon tea with cousins, went to cemeteries, they have a neat museum and archives, fort charlotte, like I said before..took a boat tour around bressay/noss saws birds and seals, they had also had an event going on called Flavour of Shetland (not sure if it still goes on). Went to Sandness and can see other islands of Papa stour and muckle roe. Jarlshof which is down by Sumburgh (It is a broch). Drove out to Northmavine area, we packed a picnic lunch and stopped at Braewick café and caravan park and had lunch, then headed for those magnificent cliffs.

You got scalloway castle, clickiman broch.

Getting there again.... We left Thursday June 10, 2010 for Newark, then caught flight to Birmingham, England which we arrive on Friday, June 11, then caught flight to Aberdeen Scotland arrived about 11:45 on the 11th. Took cab to the Northlink ferry departure. They took our bags and we just walked around Aberdeen and had lunch and Left Aberdeen at 7:00pm on the ferry and arrive at 7am on the 12th at Lerwick. We bought a berth to sleep on the ferry. Pretty cool. We did have gale force winds crossing the Atlantic/North sea. Coming home was better.

The only flights are into Sumburgh airport whick is the southern tip of mainland Shetland. We chose the ferry because it sounded fun.

I would go back in a heartbeat again. Hope I did not ramble on too much. Had to do this from memory, then got out my scrapbook to look a few thinks up.

We went to the grocery store in Hamnavoe and also a Tesco in Lerwick for our food. We generally cooked breakfast, got stuff for sandwiches and picnic type stuff and sometimes took a picnic with us when we went out adventuring around. Then at dinner we generally went into Lerwick, Scalloway or Sumburgh to have dinner.

I add another reply for food.

Posted by
1019 posts

Food and restaurant - delicious place in Lerwick was Monte's Bistro (may need reservations). wonderful pub with drinks and lively music was the Douglas Arms in Lerwick. Think there was a hotel by the pier that had good food, and Indian delicious. We asked a local couple if the food was good here.... they re plied it was great, they come every Friday. Also hotel at Sumburgh and had a meal there also. Then are final meal with our cousins was at the Scalloway hotel.

Hope I did not ramble on too much..

Have fun..... can I go with you. LOL


Lots of Inksters on the Island (my maiden name)

Posted by
11294 posts

kim - thanks for posting that - great details!

"Thank you for guiding us to Wikipedia. Didn't realize it can serve for travel logistics."

I didn't either, but learned from this Forum the trick of looking up an airport on Wikipedia to learn its destinations. The lists seem to be very up to date, but of course you have to check with the actual airlines.

Posted by
3 posts

I was recently in the Shetland Islands for a day while taking a cruise to Norway, and I asked a local in Lerwick that question. "How do you get places from here?" It was probably more eloquently phrased, but you get the gist. He answered by ferry to Aberdeen airport.

I loved the Shetland Islands. While you are there, check out Up Helly Aa. We visited the Up Helly Aa Exhibition. I was fascinated by this local festival.

Posted by
8643 posts

The series of Shetland mystery novels by Anne Cleeves and the PBS series that was made of them, give an interesting view of life there and the geography.

Posted by
88 posts

Please post a trip report when you return. I'm interested in going someday. I just caught up on the show Shetland (a mystery series) and fell in love with it. I looked into flights/ferries but it looked like I would need more money and free time than I currently have. I'm still collecting info though for a possible future trip.