bentoninn Destination A comprehensive guide to the Shetland Islands

A comprehensive guide to the Shetland Islands

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The Shetland Islands are an archipelago of 100 islands of which only 15 are inhabited by around 23,000 residents, off the coast of Scotland. Located about 100 miles northeast of the Scottish mainland, Shetland has over 1,700 miles of coastline, resulting in many different beaches on which to relax. These islands divide the Atlantic Ocean on the west side from the North Sea on the east side. The best time to visit the islands is summer, especially between May and August. Winter here can be quite cold and wet. However, during the winter, you may be treated to the wonderful sight of the Northern Lights dancing over the islands. Shetland Islands Council does an excellent job of managing cleanliness, public spaces and schools on the islands.

You’ll find many flocks of sheep roaming free on these islands, and their wonderfully soft wool is used by weavers to make the famous Fair Isle patterned knitwear, and you absolutely must shop for this knitwear on your visit here.

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Things to do and places to visit in the Shetland Islands

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Northern Lights

These islands are the best place to view the Northern Lights from Great Britain as they are closest to the North Pole. Since it’s not extremely common in this region, you can spot the lights anytime between mid-March and mid-October, so we don’t recommend planning a trip to see them here. But you might get lucky if you travel during this time.

Discover the abundant wildlife of the Shetland Islands

shetland wildlife puffin bird

From seals, otters, killer whales and dolphins to the famous Shetland ponies, these islands have a very rich and diverse flora and fauna, largely due to the changing nature of the land and sea in this area over the years. People from all over the world come here to go birdwatching to see the rare migratory birds, as well as the rich colonies of seabirds.


Jarlshof of Shetland

Jarlshof is officially described as “one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles”, and many of its remains date back to ancient times such as the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age. This is the most famous archaeological site in the Shetland Islands. You can visit a Stone Age hut around 4,000 years old, the remains of an Iron Age tower and even a Viking village. Jarlshof had Vikings living there and you can even find some of the things that have been discovered here in the Shetland Museum.

Shetland Museum and Archives

shetland museum and archives

The Shetland Museum is the perfect place to start understanding the history of the Shetland Islands. The museum is located on a 19th-century pier on the seafront on Lerwick Island, and you can find over 3,000 artefacts from the museum and archives that are on display here. You can experience the exact recreation of an 18th century home here and also experience some of the finest world class fabrics. The museum attracts over 86,000 visitors a year and to truly grasp the rich heritage of the Shetland Islands, visiting this museum is an absolute must.


sherland islands lerwick

Lerwick Island is also known as Mainland Shetland. Famous for its seabird colonies, this is the largest island of all the Shetland Islands. It features both stunning beaches of soft white sand and glittering pebble beaches strewn with sea glass. You’ll find impressive rock formations adorning Lerwick’s landscapes. This island dates back to the 17th century. While you can fly to Shetland via Lerwick by flight from Sumburgh Airport, you can also take a ferry to Lerwick from Aberdeen. There is a popular B&B here called West Hall Bed & Breakfast that is keen on providing a comfortable stay like home.


shetland ponies

Being part of the Northern Isles, Unst is the most northerly island of the Shetland Isles and is where the famous Shetland ponies come from. The Shetland Pony is a Scottish breed of pony that is short, has a gorgeous fluffy mane and has roamed the hills and moors of Scotland for more than 4,000 years. They might look deceptively small and delicate, but they are very strong and hardy, thanks in large part to the fact that they evolved under extreme weather conditions with very little food. They were used in coal mines in the 19th century. Shetland ponies are nothing like the ponies you’re used to and we’re sure you’ll come across them easily on your trip here.

The beaches of Unst have white sand and offer a lot of comfort and spaces to relax. The main place where most of the tourists prefer to stay in Unst is the village of Bare which houses the famous Busta House Hotel which offers comfortable accommodation. There are parts of the hotel itself that are over 400 years old, making it an important part of the region’s history. You can enjoy the local food here and also enjoy the breathtaking views of Busta Voe from here.


How many islands are there in Shetland?

There are over 100 islands in Shetland, of which 16 are accessible and habitable.

What are the main Shetland Islands?

Some of the main Shetland Islands are Unst, Lerwick and Jarlshof.

What islands make up Shetland?

Burra, Fetlar, Foula, Trondra, Unst and Whalsay are some of the main islands of Shetland.

Does the Shetland Islands belong to the UK?

Yes, the Shetland Islands belong to the UK as part of Scotland.

How do I get to the Shetland Islands from the UK?

You can fly to the Shetland Isles or you can go by ferry from any major Scottish city, with the most commonly used ferry being from Aberdeen to Scotland.

How do I get to the Shetland Islands from mainland Scotland?

You can take a Shetland ferry from Aberdeen in Scotland to the islands. There are also other ferries from other major Scottish cities.

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