It’s closer to Norway’s capital of Oslo than it is to London, and there’s no denying that the Shetland Islands are one of the most remote parts of the UK. However, it is exactly this remote and wild impression of the islands which attracts an increasing number of visitors each year, as well as people wishing to escape the rat race and live a simpler, more relaxing existence.
There are no direct flights to Shetland from the south of England, so a trip to the most northerly part of the UK means you’ll have to catch a connecting flight to Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow or Edinburgh. The islands also have an overnight ferry service from Aberdeen which is popular with returning residents but not often used by visitors, unless they are planning on taking a car to the islands. The best time to visit Shetland is in summer, where the long hours of daylight means it hardly gets dark at all. Conversely, in December and January the islands are plunged into almost permanent night.
What is There to See?
Shetland was the first place in the UK to be invaded by the Vikings, and the people still have strong links to their Scandinavian neighbours. Some of the best archaeological sites in Europe are on Shetland, such as the Iron Age village of Mousa Broch and Jarlshof Viking village. All of these sites are open to the public, and the small museum in Lerwick also displays a selection of treasures from previous digs carried out on the islands.
Many people travel from all over the UK just to see the wildlife in Shetland, which is diverse and plentiful. Whale watching trips are popular in the summer, and there is also the chance to see otters and basking sharks. Shetland is a bird watcher’s paradise, and you won’t have to try hard to see some seabirds like puffins, guillemots, razorbills or kittiwakes. There are nature reserves across the island and plenty of information on websites to help you maximise your nature experience on Shetland. For people visiting with children, the 138 sandy beaches means you’ll never be far from somewhere to build sandcastles or fly kites.
Lerwick, the island’s capital is not a shopping metropolis by any standards, but has all the basics you’ll need to enjoy your holidays. There are many independent shops selling souvenirs or locally produced items and these are the ideal places to pick up something to take home. Jewellery making is an important island industry, with silver being the material of choice for most craftspeople. Shetland wool and knitting is another long-established tradition, and although the wool may appear more scratchy than the Merino yarn you may be used to, you’ll find that it’s perfect for the intricate Shetland patterns. Many of the larger brands mix in Merino yarn with locally produced fibres, so always check the label before buying. Many artists are attracted to Shetland because of the long hours of summer daylight, and picking up a painting to take home is the perfect reminder of your trip to the edge of the UK.
One of the traditional products you may come home from the Shetland Isles with is a piece of knitwear. Should you wish to replicate these impressive wool items at home you can find Merino yarn and Merino blend online from retailers such as Pack Lane Wool.