Shetland is a fantastic place for a holiday.  It has become more visited recently due to TV programmes such as Simon King’s Shetland Diaries and the new BBC drama ‘Shetland’.

Below, I have highlighted what are, in my opinion, the top 5 attractions (or areas to visit) within the Shetland Islands.

1) Sumburgh Head/Jarlshof/Scatness – all three of these attractions are very close together on the southern tip of mainland Shetland, close to the airport.  Sumburgh Lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson, one of many generations of Stevenson’s to design Lighthouses and grandfather to author Robert Louis.  It is possible to see Puffins there as part of one of the most accessible bird colonies in the UK.  Jarlshof contains remains dating from 2500BC up to the 17th century AD and has been described as “one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles”.  Buildings on the site include the remains of a Bronze Age Smithy, an Iron Age Broch and Roundhouses, a complex of Pictish Wheelhouses , a Viking Longhouse and a Mediaeval Farmhouse.  At Scatness, lies the Ness of Burgi Fort, which is an Iron Age Blockhouse that resembles a Broch.

Jarlshof - lairds house
Jarlshof – lairds house


2) Isle of Unst – there are many attractions on the isle of Unst.  The island is the most northerly in the UK and at it’s most northerly point is the tiny island of Muckle Flugga, with it’s automated Lighthouse.  Also on Unst is the Boat Haven, which is dedicated to the maritime history of Shetland’s boats, traditionally built for use under oar and sail.  Muness Castle to the south of the island was built in 1598 by Laurence Bruce and was designed by Andrew Crawford, who also designed Scalloway Castle on mainland Shetland. Hermaness national Nature Reserve includes one of Shetlands largest seabird colonies, with 15 breeding species. Finally, there is every ‘northern-most” attraction you can think of  From the most northerly Post Office, town, pub, brewery, beach, road and house etc!

Unst - Skaw Beach
Unst – Skaw Beach

3) Shetland Museum – has a collection of artefacts, images and audio recordings that span the last 6000 years from Shetland’s geological beginnings through to the oil boom of the 1970’s. The exhibits in the Museum range from items of great historical importance, to items of great significance to Shetland, such as delicate lace shawls and even complete boats

Shetland Museum and Archives

Shetland Museum and Archives – Image Copyright Lis Burke. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence.

4) Tangwick Haa Museum/Eshaness – both of these attractions are located on the north-west coast of mainland Shetland.  Tangwick Haa is a museum using a mixture of artefacts and photographs to preserve the history of Northmavine, in the north mainland of Shetland.  Few places in Shetland can rival Eshaness, either for scenery or historical interest.  Eshaness has received the full fury of the Atlantic, which has created some of Shetland’s most dramatic cliff scenery.

Mainland Shetland - Eshaness
Mainland Shetland – Eshaness

5) Isle of Fair Isle – located about halfway between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle is known for sweaters, birds and the Shipping Forecast! The island is the most remote inhabited island in the UK, with a resident population of about 70. There are two Lighthouses on the island – one at each end. It is possible to walk from one to the other and on a non-windy day this walk is magical (I know, because I did it a few years ago)! In January 2004, Fair Isle was granted ‘Fairtrade Island’ status. Many ornithologists visit Fair Isle, as several rare species of birds have been recorded on the island.

Fair Isle - North Haven

Fair Isle – North Haven

These attractions are easy to visit (apart from Fair Isle – where you would need to fly or catch the ferry).  There are other excellent attractions in Shetland such as Scalloway Castle, Brough Lodge on the Isle of Fetlar, Out Skerries and the Cliffs on the Isle of Foula.  Wherever you decide to visit on Shetland, you are guaranteed a friendly welcome and memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Leave a Comment