Shetland is City/Area of Shetland Islands, Latitude: 60.1546, Longitude: -1.14899

Gon Firth in Shetland's West Mainland   For the most northerly railway in Britain, go to Thurso.

Gon Firth in Shetland’s West Mainland
For the most northerly railway in Britain, go to Thurso. For the “most northerly” of just about anything else, you need to come to Shetland. The name, sometimes in the past referred to as Zetland (hence the “ZE” beginning to postcodes), comes from the Norse name for the islands, Hjaltland. For accommodation in Shetland see the links in the “See and Stay” menu above. See the map below for an outline of Shetland and links to connecting areas.

Because most maps of Scotland include Shetland in a box near the top right hand corner, not many people have a strong sense of where this archipelago of 100 islands and islets lies. It comes as a surprise to many to discover it is nearer Bergen than Aberdeen; that it is further north than Moscow or southern Greenland; and that Lerwick is as far as Milan from London. The population of Shetland is around 23,000.

Shetland, Showing Main Settlements & Connecting Areas
Shetland was Norse until 8 September 1468, when the islands were mortgaged to Scotland for 8,000 florins as part of the marriage agreement between the future James III and Princess Margrethe of Denmark. In 1472 the Scots annexed both Shetland and Orkney.

Shetland measures about 70 miles from Sumburgh Head in the south to Muckle Flugga off the coast of Unst in the north. With a land area of 567 square miles enclosed by a coastline of 900 miles, nowhere is more than three miles from the sea, and very few places are out of sight of it.

It is no surprise that the sea dominates life on Shetland today, as it has throughout history. Fishing has always been vital to the islands and remains the single largest contributor to the Shetland economy in terms of jobs and value added. Another harvest from the sea, or rather beneath it, has also brought considerable prosperity. Oil was discovered under the North Sea in the 1970s and much of it is piped ashore to the Sullom Voe oil terminal for transfer to tankers.

Transport links are good. NorthLink Ferries took over the service linking Lerwick with Aberdeen and Kirkwall in 2002, using much larger vessels. The main airport is at Sumburgh, at the southern tip of Mainland, complete with a wide range of scheduled services. Most oil related traffic goes through Scatsta Airport, near Sullom Voe, while a range of inter island services operate from Tingwall Airport, a little north of Lerwick. Inter island ferry services are very good and extremely good value, and Shetland offers by far the best, and best maintained, road network in Scotland.

As a result of the various transport links, outlying islands like Out Skerries, Fair Isle and Whalsay are readily accessible, while Bressay has virtually become a suburb of Lerwick.

Shetland’s capital and only town is Lerwick. This lies roughly at the centre of Shetland’s main island, Mainland. The old fishing port has been vastly expanded, but retains much of its charm. Here, too, you cas see the bastion of Fort Charlotte, still impressive though now surrounded by the town. An older fortification in superb condition can be seen on the south west side of Lerwick, the Broch of Clickimin.

25 miles south of Lerwick is Sumburgh, with its airport. Here, too, is Sumburgh Head, complete with spectacular views south towards Fair Isle and north along South Mainland.

Five miles west from Lerwick is Shetland’s old capital, Scalloway, still dominated by Scalloway Castle despite extensive land reclamation for harbour building in recent years. A little beyond Scalloway is the charming fishing village of Hamnavoe.

Also west from Lerwick is West Mainland, with highlights including the fishing village of Walls, also a ferry terminal for Foula. A less travelled road brings you to the excellent coastal scenery around Sandness. Other centres in Mainland include Sandwick, Aith and Voe on the west coast and Vidlin on the east.

North Mainland is dominated by the Sullom Voe oil terminal, complete with villages that have been expanded to provide accommodation such as Mossbank and Brae. Brae also marks the gateway, across “Mavis Grind” used by Vikings as a short cut from the North Sea to the Atlantic, to Northmavine. This offers some of the wildest coastal scenery in Shetland at Eshaness, and near Hillswick: while to the north the village of North Roe lies close to the end of Mainland.

The large islands of Yell and Unst lie to the north east of Mainland and are easily accessible from it by good ferry services. Unst is home to Britain’s most northerly brewery, Valhalla, and its most northerly church, the Methodist Church at Haroldswick. Here, too, are the settlements of Haroldswick, Baltasound and Uyeasound.


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