Shetland is a group of over 100 islands, only 16 of which are inhabited, located 211 miles north of Aberdeen and 225 miles west of Bergen where the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. The islands have a population of approximately 23,000 and occupy a total area of 567 square miles with 1,697 miles of coastline. The capital of Shetland is Lerwick, a town with a population of around 7,500.
Shetland is renowned for its Viking heritage, Shetland ponies and its traditional music and knitwear, and rightly so, but there is much more to the islands. Indeed, there are many reasons to visit Shetland, none more than to experience its stunning landscapes and rugged natural beauty. Shetland is uniquely beautiful at any time of the year but it is perhaps at the twilight of its long summer evenings, known locally as ‘da Simmer Dim’, when its landscapes appear most breath-taking. Shetland in winter should not be overlooked either and the islands is one of the best places in the UK to view the ‘Northern Lights’ or aurora borealis, known locally as ‘Mirrie Dancers’.
If you are passionate about wildlife and nature then Shetland is the place for you. With its world-class nature reserves and bird colonies, and abundant sea life providing regular sightings of orcas (killer whales), seals, porpoises and otters, Shetland will not disappoint wildlife enthusiasts. For the ultimate wildlife watching experience, book an excursion with an experienced tour operator. A list of operators can be found here.
With a history of human occupation dating back 6,000 years, Shetland has a rich and diverse archaeological heritage. Spectacular sites such as Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement and Mousa Broch contribute to Shetland’s world-class archaeology, and with numerous other high quality historic sites to visit you will be truly spoilt for choice.
Shetland enjoys a unique and vibrant culture which can be best experienced in a number of spectacular annual festivals and events. The most famous of these is Lerwick Up Helly AA, Shetland’s largest fire festival which takes place on the last Tuesday in January each year. A number of smaller fire festivals also take place throughout Shetland’s rural communities between January to March, each equally impressive and with their own unique identity. Other symbolic festivals of culture that are an important part of the Shetland calendar and well worth a visit include the Shetland Folk Festival, Shetland Accordion & Fiddle Festival, Shetland Wool Week and the Taste of Shetland Festival.