Shetland (from Middle Scots Ȝetland; Scottish Gaelic: Sealtainn) is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north and east of mainland Great Britain. The islands lie some 80 km (50 mi) to the northeast of Orkney and 280 km (170 mi) southeast of the Faroe Islands and form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total area is 1,468 km2(567 sq mi) and the population totalled 22,210 in 2009. Comprising the Shetland constituency of the Scottish Parliament, Shetland is also one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the islands' administrative centre and only burgh is Lerwick.
The largest island, known simply as "Mainland", has an area of 967 km2 (373 sq mi), making it the third-largest Scottish island and the fifth-largest of the British Isles. There are an additional 15 inhabited islands. The archipelago has an oceanic climate, a complex geology, a rugged coastline and many low, rolling hills.
Humans have lived there since the Mesolithic period, and the earliest written references to the islands date back to Roman times. The early historic period was dominated by Scandinavian influences, especially Norway, and the islands did not become part of Scotland until the fifteenth century. When Shetland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 trade with northern Europe decreased, although fishing has continued to be an important aspect of the economy up to the present day. Now part of the United Kingdom, the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s significantly boosted Shetland incomes, employment and public sector revenues.
The local way of life reflects the joint Norse and Scottish heritage including the Up Helly Aa fire festival, and a strong musical tradition, especially the traditional fiddle style. The islands have produced a variety of writers of prose and poetry, many of whom use the local Shetlandic dialect. There are numerous areas set aside to protect the local fauna and flora, including a number of important seabird nesting sites.