Art Holiday Travel and Vacation information for Shetland Islands

"SHETLAND, insular county of Scotland, 50 miles NE. of Orkney, 352,876 ac., pop. 29,705; Mainland, pop. 20,821; it consists of about 100 islands, 29 of which are inhabited -Mainland, Yell, Unst, Fetlar, Whalsay, and Bressay being the largest. Mainland, comprising more than half the area of the whole group, extends N. and S. for 54 miles, and has an extreme breadth of 21 miles, but the coast-line is so irregular and deeply indented that no spot is 4 miles from the sea. The surface of Shetland is generally bleak and moorish, and rises to a maximum alt. of 1475 ft., but only in a few places higher than 500 ft. The rock scenery around the coasts is exceedingly grand and interesting. The climate is humid and comparatively mild, but severe storms are frequent. Large numbers of cattle and sheep of native breeds are reared, and the small Shetland ponies are remarkable for their strength and hardiness. Barley, oats, turnips, and potatoes are grown. The fisheries, especially the herring fishery, are of the greatest importance, and afford the chief employment. The knitting of woollen articles is also a great industry. Shetland comprises 12 pars., and the police burgh of Lerwick. It unites with Orkney in returning 1 member to Parl. [Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]

Your first experience of Shetland may be the view of the archipelago of islands from a plane's window. Or it might be the vista of distant cliffs seen from the rail of a ferry steaming towards Lerwick - or maybe even a glimpse of land from the deck of your own yacht, sails straining, as she carves through the blue waters to the east of Noss. For thousands of years Shetland has been welcoming visitors. Some came by accident, others on planned expeditions - a mix of wanderers, fishermen, traders, explorers, smugglers and invaders. All travellers.

Allegedly the Romans sailed this far North, and if that is the stuff of legends then they certainly knew of a cluster of one hundred islands at the confluence of our North Atlantic and North Sea. They called it "Ultima Thule".

Others came and stayed. Like the Vikings, Norsemen and Danes. Ruled for more than 600 years by Scandinavia and then given as a dowry to Scotland, the islands have a unique blend of culture. This culture is further seasoned by those seafarers from other countries who landed and made Shetland their home.

In addition to the ships, and the visitors who stop here to relax and reprovision, Shetland also provides a welcome landfall for many species of birds as they migrate between Africa and the Arctic Circle. The seashore, voes, moor and marshland serve as a safe haven and animal habitat, the cliffs and rockscapes as footholds for wild plants and breeding grounds for thousands of seabirds.
Set foot here. Discover all this, and much more, for yourself. There is a choice on the islands of all manner of places to stay from top quality town and country-house hotels to homely guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. Alternatively, if you lust for the great outdoors, we have official campsites and many crofters have maintained traditional cottages for you to enjoy. Or you can bed down in one of our award-winning Camping Böds - basic communal accommodation in historic and traditional, refurbished Shetland buildings like the Sail Loft at Voe or Johnnie Notion's at Eshaness. Wherever you stay you will find real hospitality, and wherever you go you are assured a warm Shetland welcome. On the menus of our restaurants and hotels there is fish and seafood straight off the boat and vegetables fresh from the fields, perfect for appetites sharpened by a day in the open air. Succulent Shetland lamb, and other local specialities can be followed by maybe a good malt whisky and a roaring peat fire. Norse sagas aside, for a true insight into Shetland history, museums and heritage centres spread the length and breadth of the islands provide many illustrations and examples of our colourful past. Visit the Croft House Museum to see how a typical crofting family lived during the last century, or the Agricultural Museum at Tingwall, the Bod of Gremista or Tangwick Haa. Or take time to browse around the Shetland Museum in Lerwick to see artefacts from days long gone, pictish stones and brooches, Viking weapons and tools, cannon from sunken ships and old crofting, fishing and whaling implements. The adventurer, as well as reaching the most Northerly point in Britain, Muckle Flugga, might also be drawn to the isolation of the island of Foula, 26 miles to the west of Mainland, or Fair Isle to the south, renowned worldwide for both its Bird Observatory and its Knitwear. More than a magnet for ornithologists, a trip to this rocky jewel has, for many, proved both an inspiration and an unrivalled experience.