Visitors

A History of Shetland 

Sumburgh airport is one of the airports on Shetland.  Shetland is the home of otters, puffins & Shetland ponies.

Shetland is one of Scotland’s best kept secrets, with 6000 years of civilisation; some of the nation’s most diverse wildlife and unspoilt landscapes Shetland has something to offer everyone. The islands have over 1,600 miles of coastline with a variety of terrains and open access to spectacular views at every turn making Shetland a walker’s paradise. Although on the same latitude as the southern tip of Greenland Shetland’s location in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream provide temperate weather throughout the year. These rich waters attract to the islands a wide selection of coastal wildlife ranging from the native seals and otters to over 1 million seabirds which come to Shetland to breed each year, if you are lucky you may even spot whales patrolling the coastal waters.

Shetland has been settled since Neolithic times, and through a network of museums and archaeological sites, you can discover the story of Shetland’s people.

Just outside Sumburgh airport are two of the nation’s most important archaeological sites. Jarlshof and Old Scatness show layers of settlement with bronze-age wheelhouses, Pictish brochs through to Norse farmsteads which were successively built on top of the older sites. Throughout the summer months both sites are open with guides available and Old Scatness hosts living history events. The remains of Pictish brochs can be seen all along the coast of Shetland but Shetland is also home to the only near complete broch in Scotland.

On the island of Mousa, you can see a broch which has changed little in the 2000 years it has been standing, during the months of May to July the broch comes to life when Storm Petrels make land fall for their breeding season. Boat trips can take you to Mousa between April and mid September.

The Shetland museum in Lerwick is an essential stop for any visitor to Shetland, weave through the story of Shetland from its geological beginnings through to the modern day Shetland industries. Throughout the summer the museum hosts workshops and entertainments for kids.

During the summer months an essential first stop when you arrive at Sumburgh airport is a visit to Sumburgh Head, not only does the headland provide outstanding views south to Fair Isle and across Shetland’s South Mainland but it is teaming with seabirds.

The star attraction here is the enigmatic Puffin which set up home here between late May and early August, at Sumburgh head you can literally step out of your car and be little more than 3 feet away from one of these joyful little characters.

In Shetland, the wildlife is never far away and so always keep a look out for otters and whales. Whales can be seen all around Shetland, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee spotting one, though they are seen along the coast throughout the year. June through to late August are popular times to see Killer whales.

For fans of bird life, the nature reserve of Hermaness on the northernmost island of Unst is sure to please, during the breeding season there are large numbers of puffin, guillemot, gannet and arctic skua to name but a few which make Hermaness their home.

A walk around this headland will also take you to the most northern tip of the UK, the famous lighthouse on Muckle Flugga lies just off of the headland and a little to further north is Oot Stack, the full stop at the end of Britain.

You could take a boat tour from Unst around Muckle Flugga and along the cliffs of Hermaness for an alternative view. There are boat tours which you can do in many areas of Shetland giving you the opportunity to take in the vast cliff scenery of Shetland or get close to the nature. Popular boat tours from Lerwick travel around the islands of Bressay & Noss, the cliffs of Noss team with birds throughout the summer and this is a popular site for spotting gannets as well as seals which enjoy the kelp forests that lay under the water – so it is all the better that these tours have underwater cameras also!

The people of Shetland are well known for their hospitality and their love of music, the musical style of Shetland fiddle and accordion playing have become famous worldwide. There are many opportunities to hear Shetland music and enjoy Shetland hospitality at events in Shetland all year round from the Mid-Summers celebrations in June to Up-Helly-Aa in January Europe’s largest fire festival.

Read more information about what to do and where to visit on Shetland.