The archipelago of the Shetland Islands, also simply known as Shetland, is a group of islands in the Northern Atlantic and northernmost part of the British Isles. The subarctic Scottish isles archipelago is made up of over 100 islands, with only 15 of them inhabited, and boast stark, spectacularly beautiful, rugged, wild, and untouched terrain. The capital of Lerwick is situated on the largest island known as Mainland and the other inhabited islands are reached by regular ferries that run daily. Shetland is renowned for its ancient history, windswept moors, and warm and welcoming locals who are proud of their isolated land. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale Mill
© Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale Mill
Based in the quaint village Weisdale, the Weisdale Mill is a historic watermill situated near the head of Weisdale Voe on the west side of the Mainland. Built in 1855, the corn mill was the largest and busiest mill in the area and worked until the 1930s, grinding corn and oats into flour and meal for local crofters and farmers. The mill was converted into a slaughterhouse and butcher shop in 1936 by a local farmer and worked as such until 1982 before being transformed into an art gallery, a gift shop, and a café in 1994. Today, the Bonhoga Gallery showcases a comprehensive collection of local, national, and international arts and crafts.
Weisdale Mill, Weisdale ZE2 9LW, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-74-38-43
2.Bressay Heritage Centre
© Bressay Development Ltd
The Bressay Heritage Centre is a local exhibition space at the Bressay ferry terminal that is dedicated to the history of the Shetland Islands. Opened in 1996, the center hosts a variety of rotating exhibitions throughout the year, focusing on different periods in the history of Bressay, which has been inhabited for the past 6000 years. Exhibitions include storyboards documenting the village’s role during World War I and a photographic display of Bressay’s beautiful flowers in the spring. Other notable attractions at the center include a reconstruction of a Bronze Age Burnt Mound next to the Heritage Centre, and visitors can enjoy self-guided tours of the facility.
Bressay, Shetland ZE2 9EL, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-82-07-50
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3.Broch of Clickimin
The Broch of Clickimin is a well-preserved example of a broch, a typical stone-built roundhouse that is found only in Scotland. Situated on the southern shores of the Clickimin Loch south-west of Lerwick, the broch is built on a small bluff protruding into the loch and is approached by a stone causeway from the mainland. Thought to be over 1,000 years old, the historic site features a blockhouse, a tower, and several smaller structures, all of which are enclosed in a thick stone wall. A large stone on the causeway has been carved into a pair of feet and is thought to date back to the late Iron Age. The Broch of Clickimin is one of the most well-preserved broch sites in the Shetland Islands.
The Willows, 38 South Rd, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0RD, United Kingdom
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4.Croft House Museum
The Croft House Museum is a beautifully preserved Shetland croft dating back to the mid-nineteenth century and an excellent example of how families lived off the land with just the bare essentials. Based in the picturesque parish of Dunrossness, the thatched croft house is divided into two sections, namely the ‘Ben End’ (bedroom) and the ‘But End’ (kitchen). The kitchen has a roaring fireplace where all the cooking was done over peat and a lovely garden in which vegetables and herbs were grown. Knowledgeable custodians tell visitors stories of the past and what it was like to live in a croft house and off the land.
Boddam, Dunrossness, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-1950 460557
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Set on the Northmavine peninsula, the Eshaness (or Esha Ness) Lighthouse is a historic light tower that protected ships from the rugged coastline in rough seas. Built by David Alan Stevenson in 1925, the concrete lighthouse features a 39-foot high square, tapering tower with an automated white light that flashes every 12 seconds and can be seen for up to 25 nautical miles. Today, the lighthouse is owned by the Shetland Amenity Trust and the former lighthouse keepers' lodgings have been turned into self-catering accommodation that can sleep up to six guests.
Esha Ness, Shetland, ZE2 9RS, United Kingdom
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6.Fair Isle Bird Observatory and Guest House
© Fair Isle Bird Observatory and Guest House
The Fair Isle Bird Observatory is an ornithologist’s paradise. The world-famous bird observatory is home to a wealth of bird species and has long been a magnet for bird enthusiasts and scientists. The observatory runs a conservation and research program for the numerous local and migrating bird species, including ringing and tagging, and monitoring local puffin colonies. Visitors can enjoy ranger-led walks, watch birds being ringed, and learn about the cultural and social history of the island. The Fair Isle Guesthouse offers comfortable overnight accommodations, a cozy lounge-bar with fantastic views, and a small gift shop. A visitor center offers a wealth of information on Fair Isle, the observatory, and the surrounding Shetland Islands.
Fair Isle, Shetland, ZE2 9JU, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-76-02-58
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Fort Charlotte is a historic artillery fort in the heart of Lerwick that was built in 1781. Named after the wife of George III, the current fort was built on the site where three previous forts had stood, the first of which was constructed in 1652. The five-sided artillery fort has bastions and half bastions on all the corners and has had various use from housing a garrison during the Napoleonic Wars to being a Royal Naval Reserve, a jail and courthouse, a custom house, and a coastguard station. Today, the fort serves as the base for the Army of Shetland and is managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
179 Commercial St, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0HX, United Kingdom
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8.George Waterston Memorial Centre and Museum
Based in the former Fair Isle School on Fair Isle, the George Waterston Memorial Centre, and Museum is a fascinating museum dedicated to the island’s history from prehistoric times to the present. Named after much-loved local George Waterston (1911–1980), who co-founded the Fair Isle Bird Observatory and was Director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the museum features a comprehensive collection of a variety of objects relating to the history of the island. Displays include archaeological artifacts, fine, applied and decorative art, ancient coins and textiles, old medals, and handcrafted costumes, and the museum maintains a rich and diverse archive of materials.
Shetland ZE2 9JU, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-76-02-44
9.Go Shetland Tours
© ALFIO FERLITO/stock.adobe.com
Go Shetland Tours offers a hassle-free way to explore and experience the Shetland Islands with a variety of guided and tailor-made tours. The travel company offers an array of services led by a friendly, professional team with extensive knowledge of Shetland, ranging from pre-planned tours that visit off-the-beaten-path and little-known places to customized journeys that cater for personal needs. Tours are conducted in comfortable vehicles ranging from taxis with drivers to buses, depending on the size of the group, and can take a few hours or several days. Go Shetland Tours also offers guided walks with the option of transport.
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10.Hermaness Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve
The Hermaness National Nature Reserve is a spectacular landscape of rolling hills, windswept moorlands, and dramatic cliffs beaten by crashing waves. This remote island reserve is home to a wealth of endemic fauna and flora, as well as numerous species of birds, including fulmars, kittiwakes, great skuas, gannets, and puffins who nest high on the ridges of the towering cliffs. Fields of heather, bog bilberry, cotton grass, crowberry, and mosses extend for miles and is a carpet of color in the spring when the wildflowers bloom. Managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, the reserve is home to Muckle Flugga, Britain's most northerly point, and is one of Shetland’s natural gems.
Muckleflugga Shorestation, Haroldswick, ZE2 9EQ, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-69-33-45
11.Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement
Journey 4,000 years back in time with a visit to the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement. Located in Sumburgh on Mainland, the prehistoric archaeological site boasts a variety of ancient remains, some dating back to 2,500 BC. Notable features at the site include oval-shaped Bronze Age houses, a broch, and a wheelhouse from the Iron Age, longhouses typically found in Norse settlements, a medieval farmstead, a 16th-century laird’s house. A visitor center has several exhibits displaying an exceptional collection of artifacts and objects from different eras discovered at the site and offers breathtaking views of the West Voe of Sumburgh.
Sumburgh, Shetland ZE3 9JN, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-19-50-46-01-12
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Michaelswood is a five-hectare woodland in Aith that offers a variety of interesting attractions and recreational activities for the whole family. The young forest was established in memory of Michael Ferrie, a local musician who passed away from cancer in 1996 and is open seasonally from April to October. The woodland is home to many different tree species, including Swedish Whitebeam trees that only grow in Shetland, shady picnic areas, a tranquil pond, a children’s playground, numerous hiking and mountain biking trails, and a quiet area for reading.
Aith, Shetland ZE2 9NB, United Kingdom
13.Broch of Mousa
Located on the western shore of Mousa Island, Broch of Mousa (Mousa Broch) is a well-preserved broch, or round tower, dating back to the Iron Age and one of the best-preserved prehistoric structures in Europe. One of more than 500 brochs built in Scotland, Broch of Mousa stands 43 feet tall and is thought to have been constructed in circa 100 BC. Overlooking the Mousa Sound from a promontory, the broch features a staircase that winds to the roof and offers breathtaking views across the ocean.
Shetland ZE2 9HP, United Kingdom
Standing sentry on the island of Unst, Scotland's most northerly inhabited island, Muness Castle is an impressive fortress and museum a few miles Uyeasound. Britain’s northernmost castle, Muness Castle was built in 1598 for the half-brother of the 1st Earl of Orkney, Laurence Bruce of Cultmalindie, and is an exceptional example of tower house architecture. The rectangular-shaped castle with circular towers was destroyed by French pirates in 1627 and abandoned in the late 18th century. Today, the roofless remains of the castle are managed by Historic Scotland and open to for the public to explore.
Unst, Shetland ZE2 9DL, United Kingdom
15.Noss National Nature Reserve
Situated on the island of Noss, Noss National Nature Reserve features breathtaking natural landscapes of rugged 600-foot cliffs bashed by tumultuous seas, wildflower-strewn grasslands, and towering headlands. The park is home to a diverse variety of wildlife and seabirds and is one of the best places in Europe to view seabird colonies up close. The soaring cliffs are home to a multitude of bird species from gannets and guillemots to fulmars and kittiwakes, while colonies of great skuas nest further inland. A coastal path runs along the edge of the cliffs, offering spectacular views of the nesting bird colonies and ocean below, and a modern visitor center offers information on the park and fauna and flora that call it home. Noss National Nature Reserve can be reached by a thrilling ferry ride on a small inflatable run by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Isle of Noss, ZE1 0LL, Bressay, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-69-33-45
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16.Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village
Located in the pretty parish of Dunrossness, the Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village is an exceptionally preserved archeological site that features historic remains from the Medieval, Viking, Pictish, and Iron Ages. Settled over thousands of years ago, the site was first discovered in 1975 and boasts several excavated and finely reconstructed structures, and costumed guides provided docent-led tours of the site and living history demonstrations. The Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village is open seasonally during the summer.
Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village Scatness, Sumburgh, Shetland ZE3 9JW, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-19-50-46-18-69
17.Otter Tracks in Shetland - Shetland Otter Tours
Otter Tracks in Shetland offers professionally guided tours to some of the Shetland’s best places for spotting otters. Tours venture to areas in the North Mainland and the Northern Isles of Shetland in search of these beautiful, but shy creatures, allowing guests to see them in their natural habitat, as well as other marine animals like whales, dolphins, puffins, and gannets. Groups are kept to a maximum of four people and dark clothing and good walking shoes are advised.
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© Aubrey Thompson/stock.adobe.com
Roundabout Shetland offers guided tours of Shetland, exploring the islands’ natural attractions and spectacular beauty on comfortable, seven-seater climate-controlled vehicles with fully adjustable seats and state-of-the-art PA systems. Tours are led by friendly, professional guides with extensive knowledge of Shetland and guests can enjoy standard pre-scheduled tours or tailor-made, personal tours that cater to specific needs.
Daala-mist, Longfield, Dunrossness, Shetland, UK, ZE2 9JH, Phone: +44-79-79-64-40-20
19.The Swan Trust
© The Swan Trust
The Swan Trust offers guided sailing voyages around the Shetland Islands on a beautifully restored an original Shetland fishing sailboat. Built and launched in Shetland in 1900, the Swan offers classic sailing trips around the Shetland Islands, as well as Orkney, the Faroe Islands, St Kilda, Mainland Scotland, the Western Isles, and further afield like Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Sailing trips allow guests to be part of the crew and to play an active role in helping to work and sail the boat under the command of the skipper.
The Swan Trust, PO Box 2, Shetland, ZE1 0WW, Phone: +44-0-15-95-69-51-93
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© Yuriy Chertok/stock.adobe.com
The remains of the Scalloway Castle are an impressive example of a tower house built in the late 1500s. The castle was designed and built by Andrew Crawford for Earl Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney, who was renowned for his poor treatment of the people of Shetland and carried the nickname ‘Black Patie’. One of only two castles built in Shetland, the castle’s L-shaped tower stands three stories high with circular gun loops at many of the windows, and the still stands as a symbol of Earl Patrick’s harsh rule for many today.
Castle St, Shetland ZE1 0TQ, United Kingdom
© Scalloway Museum
Located next to Scalloway Castle, the Scalloway Museum documents the history of Scalloway and the people who have called the village home from the first settlers to the present day. Owned and managed by the Shetland Bus Friendship Society, the museum was opened in 1985 and features an array of interesting exhibits and displays covering interesting times in history like ancient Scalloway, the booming years, and wartime. The museum has a memorial in honor of the 44 men who died during the Shetland Bus missions in World War Two.
Castle Street, Scalloway, Shetland, Scotland, ZE1 0TP, Phone: +44-0-15-95-88-07-34
22.Shetland Museum and Archives
The New Shetland Museum and Archives is dedicated to the rich heritage and culture of the Shetland Islands. Located on the restored historic Hay's Dock in Lerwick, the award-winning museum was opened by HM Queen Sonja of Norway in 2007 and is a multifunctional cultural gateway into the heart of Shetland. The museum has two floors of galleries, the first of which documents the history of Shetland up to 1800, while the second floor chronicles the last 200 years of the region, and the nation’s important role in fishing, whaling, merchant shipping, and wartime service. The museum also offers a comprehensive education program with workshops, lectures, and community outreach sessions.
Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0WP, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-69-50-57
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23.Shetland Photo Tours
Explore Shetland on tailor-made guided photo tours with Shetland Photo Tours. Run by passionate naturalist and photographer, Richard Shucksmith, the company offers personalized photo tours and workshops that can be tailored to specific needs, ranging from instructional guidance to simple enjoyment. Richard takes guests to some of the best places to view Shetland’s wildlife, such as puffin colonies, seabirds like gannets and great skuas, otters, and more, as well as offers guidance and advice on different photographic techniques like shooting landscapes, wildlife, and places.
Bod of Gremista, Gremista Industrial Estate, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0PX, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-15-95-69-43-86
24.Shetland Textile Museum
© Shetland Textile Museum
Housed at the historic Böd of Gremista, a beautifully restored 18th-century fishing station in Lerwick, the Shetland Textile Museum is dedicated to the islands’ textile heritage and boasts a fascinating collection of traditional Shetland textiles dating from the 1800s to the present day. The Böd is also famous for being the birthplace of Arthur Anderson, a master of Shetland textiles and one of the founders of the P & O Shipping company. The museum is registered as a Scottish charity and features a spectacular array of textiles for which the Shetlands are famous, including Fair Isle knitting, intricate handmade lace, Shetland taatit rugs, Shetland lace knitting, and woven tweed. The museum hosts knitting, spinning and weaving demonstrations, and has a small gift shop selling textile items designed and made in Shetland.
Bod of Gremista, Gremista, Lerwick, Phone: 015-95-69-43-86
25.Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve
The Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve offer an array of engaging and interactive experiences that focus on the natural and cultural history and the pristine beauty of Sumburgh Head. Situated on Sumburgh Head at the southern tip of the Mainland, the center offers an array of activities from learning more about the history of the area through informative exhibits to getting up close to some of the local wildlife like puffins and oystercatchers in the marine life center. Visitor can tour the historic Robert Stevenson-designed lighthouse and the center offers a range of educational programs, workshops, and guided tours.
Sumburgh ZE3 9JN, United Kingdom
25 Best Things to Do in Shetland
- Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale Mill, Photo: Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale Mill
- Bressay Heritage Centre, Photo: Bressay Development Ltd
- Broch of Clickimin, Photo: AndrewJ/stock.adobe.com
- Croft House Museum, Photo: teesixb/stock.adobe.com
- Eshaness Lighthouse, Photo: AndrewJ/stock.adobe.com
- Fair Isle Bird Observatory and Guest House, Photo: Fair Isle Bird Observatory and Guest House
- Fort Charlotte, Photo: nyiragongo/stock.adobe.com
- George Waterston Memorial Centre and Museum, Photo: moramora/stock.adobe.com
- Go Shetland Tours, Photo: ALFIO FERLITO/stock.adobe.com
- Hermaness Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Photo: h368k742/stock.adobe.com
- Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, Photo: nyiragongo/stock.adobe.com
- Michaelswood, Photo: Michaelswood
- Broch of Mousa, Photo: lisastrachan/stock.adobe.com
- Muness Castle, Photo: celiafoto/stock.adobe.com
- Noss National Nature Reserve, Photo: giedriius/stock.adobe.com
- Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village, Photo: Leon/stock.adobe.com
- Otter Tracks in Shetland - Shetland Otter Tours, Photo: giedriius/stock.adobe.com
- Roundabout Shetland, Photo: Aubrey Thompson/stock.adobe.com
- The Swan Trust, Photo: The Swan Trust
- Scalloway Castle, Photo: Yuriy Chertok/stock.adobe.com
- Scalloway Museum, Photo: Scalloway Museum
- Shetland Museum and Archives, Photo: AndrewJ/stock.adobe.com
- Shetland Photo Tours, Photo: giedriius/stock.adobe.com
- Shetland Textile Museum, Photo: Shetland Textile Museum
- Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, Photo: Oliver/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: marcaletourneux/stock.adobe.com
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