2020, the Year of Coasts and Waters


With over 2700km of coastline and being surrounded by an awful lot of water, we are keen to take part in the Year of Coasts and Waters.
From Muckle Flugga in the far north to Fair Isle in the far south, Shetland has many unique sights, much dramatic scenery, loads of ancient monuments and enough wildlife to satisfy everyone whatever their interests.
Shetland boasts a hugely varied coastline ranging from many massive cliffs and headlands to a surprising number of sandy beaches and quiet coves and, not to be left out, our lochs and heathland also provide visitors with a wide array of stunning scenery, plants and wildlife.
There is going to be a year-long programme of events and activities which, although we don't have all the details yet, will shine a spotlight on many of these elements.
If you are planning an "activity holiday", there will be boat trips to our bird reserves, sea fishing trips, loch fishing trips, nature walks, and tours around our ancient monuments and archaeological sites.
Those looking for a more sedate type of holiday will probably be happy to just wander around, absorb some of our rich culture, visit our excellent museums, attend one (or more) of our music festivals, or partake in one of the many other events scheduled throughout the year.

About Shetland

Lying at the northernmost tip of the United Kingdom. Approximately 80km NE of the Orkney Islands, Shetland straddles the 60 degree North line and is part of the division between the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean
There are over 100 islands and islets in the group, 15 are inhabited, and the largest Island "Mainland" is is just over 960 sq km in size making it the 5th largest island in the UK.
Shetland has been inhabited since the Mesolithic period and, it is a land of spectacular views and outstanding archaeological monuments - the brochs and prehistoric villages are among the most significant in Europe - where mysterious standing stones dot the landscape, and medieval castles at Scalloway on the mainland and Muness on Unst testify to Shetland's historic importance and ancient links to Scandinavia.
Fishing, Salmon Farming and Crofting are important parts of the local economy, but the discovery of oil in the North Sea during the 1970's has brought significant extra revenue and employment to both the public and private sectors.
This has also driven upgrades in communication and travel facilities and Shetland is well serviced by a daily ferry service to Aberdeen in addition to airports at Sumburgh (mostly passenger) in the south, Tingwall (mostly Inter Island) in the centre and, Scatsta (mostly Oil Industry) in the north


Shetland Fire Festivals

Shetland is home to Lerwick's internationally famous "Up Helly Aa" Viking Fire Festival. This spectacular event, the largest of it's kind in Europe, contains hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators, some traveling hundreds (or even thousands) of miles just to witness it.
Few realise that there are also 11 other Fire Festivals on Shetland as each of the Islands population centres has one of it's own. They normally start early morning with a parade of the "Jarl's Squad" followed by various "civic" functions throughout the day.
The galleys are burned early evening before the squads set off to perform their "acts" at a number of different venues.
Each Fire Festival is an almost 24 hour marathon of dancing, music, and fun, but we know how to party!.


Shetland Sheep, Ponies, Sheepdogs and Wildlife

The home of the famous miniature Shetland Ponies, Shetland Sheep and Shetland Sheepdog is also home to a large variety of wildlife and over 50,000 visitors are lured to the islands each year to catch a glimpse of, amongst others, otters, seals, puffins and hundreds of other different species of wild birds. In fact, it is estimated that more that 1 million birds make Shetland their summer home with large colonies being established at Hermaness National Nature Reserve, Noss National Nature Reserve and the RSPB Sumburgh Head Reserve. The Island of Fair Isle, which visitors can access by a local ferry or by air, also has a well known bird observatory and guest house
It's not just the unspoilt natural beauty of the islands, or the large quantity of wildlife that can be seen, we also have a very active community that is keen to share it's experiences with anyone who cares to participate, and we have a large number of events that help to achieve this.


 

Shetland Music

Shetland is home to many fine musicians of all ages and also hosts a number of internationally acclaimed music festivals complete with some of the best visiting musicians there are to be had.
We have, amongst other events, the Shetland Folk Festival, the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival, and the Shetland Fiddle Frenzy.
All this in addition to regular "sessions" held at venues around the island.
The following video features some of our young, and very gifted, musicians performing at a local venue. Enjoy!


Tourism and Visiting Cruise Liners

Shetland has always welcomed tourists of all kinds. From "Backpackers" who enjoy camping at one of the many sites around the Islands through to Family Holidays in more comfortable surroundings and, as Lerwick has a very well sheltered natural deep water harbour, and Shetland has so much more to offer, we are also increasingly becoming a very popular major stopping point for visiting yachts and cruise liners. In the past year (2018), many yachts and over 90 cruise liners carrying thousands of passengers paid us a visit, and 2019 is already promising well in excess of 100 liners ,and many more visiting yachts, who have added us to their itinery.

 

Shetland's Botany

People might surprised by the large variety of plants that grow and thrive on Shetland. In fact, we have some very rare examples and one in particular that is unique to Shetland (Edmondston's Chickweed) and which grows nowhere else in the world. The Shetland.org website has an excellent web page that describes everything you might want to see.
Please note that is an offense to pick wild flowers/plants without permission. Just photograph them please.


Shetland's Archeology

Shetland has been inhabited for more than 4000 years and has some of the best archeology to be found anywhere. There are remains of more than 5000 sites scattered all over the Islands, and some are really well preserved. Broze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Medieval, take your pick.


Shetland's Geology

In 2009, Shetland was awarded membership of the European Geoparks Network and, as well as those in search of peace and solitude, the pristine natural environment and unusual land formations also entice students of geology who wish to investigate our rocks and landscape which contain almost 3 billion years of Earth's history. Try a visit to Shetland Amenity Trusts' excellent website for more information.

From wild isolation on the remoter islands to the friendly, bustling warmth of the attractive main town of Lerwick, Shetland holds a seductive fascination which will draw you back again and again.