Tips For Planning A Trip To The Shetland Islands

Vacationing in the Shetland Islands is an experience like no other. When planning a trip, there are plenty of things you don't want to miss. In this article, you'll learn helpful pointers for planning your itinerary, as well as top spots to check out. As well as a bit about the Shetland Islands themselves, to give you more insight on your destination.

Shetland Islands

Where Are The Shetland Islands?

Shetland is part of the Mainland British Isles. These islands make up the northernmost point of both Scotland and the United Kingdom. Visitors can find the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Norway, Great Britain, and the Faroe Islands.

Around 300 kilometers away from Norway, 80 kilometers away from Orkney, and 170 kilometers from the mainland, these islands lie off the coast of Scotland. Two seas surround Shetland: the Norwegian Sea to the west and the North Sea to the east.

There are about a hundred islands among the archipelago, along with islets and rocks. Of these, 16 are inhabited.

Plan How You'll Travel

Knowing more about Shetland will enable you to plan travel accommodations accordingly. It's not as easy as hopping in a car for a few hours.

It is necessary to take a ferry from mainland Scotland to reach the Shetland Islands. There is no trouble getting a ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick overnight, which is exceptionally comfortable and well-run. Travelers can take advantage of the restaurant, bar, and cinema during the 12-to-13-hour journey and relax in a cozy cabin. Cars, motorhomes, and bikes are welcome, and pets are welcome in the cabins and kennels. The public areas are accessible to people with disabilities, with lifts, toilets, and wheelchairs.

Throughout the year, Aberdeen-Lerwick ferries depart seven nights a week in both directions. They call at Kirkwall, Orkney, three times a week en route. With these factors in mind, you can plan your arrival in Shetland with excitement and ease.

Dress For Shetland Island Weather

The worst mistake travelers can make is not packing for the climate.

During most of the year, the climate is oceanic, cold, and wet on the Shetland Islands. Especially in autumn and winter, there is often wind, and it can be stormy. However, the summer months are very cool.

The highest point in the interior is Ronas Hill, which stands at 450 meters (1,480 feet). Since it often rains (or snows) with temperatures just above freezing for a few months out of the year, the altitude of these hills makes snow accumulation more common.

About 1,250 millimeters (49 inches) of rainfall is expected annually, with the rains occurring most often from October to March. Spring and summer experience a relative minimum in showers.

It's important to note what time of year you're planning to travel and pack the appropriate clothing so discomfort doesn't interrupt your trip.

Things to Do in the Shetland Islands

There is an abundance of things to do and see when visiting these gorgeous Scottish islands. You'll want to bring a digital camera and plenty of storage cards so you don't miss any of the fantastic photo opportunities coming your way!

Historical Sights

Jarlshof, which has a history of over 4,000 years, is a vast archaeological treasure trove. A Neolithic community lived on this plot of land until the 1600s. Like Skara Brae, situated on a dramatic promontory overlooking Sumburgh's West Voe, a series of powerful storms exposed the site. Here are several ancient settlements dating back several thousand years. It includes a Bronze Age oval house, Iron Age brooches, Norse longhouses, medieval farmsteads, and a laird's house from the 1500s. The visitor center houses several intriguing artifacts found on site.

For centuries, the island of Mousa has been guarded by Scotland's best-preserved broch (a tower or roundhouse from the Iron Age found only in Scotland). Standing 13 meters high, it is surrounded by double drystone walls and features a winding staircase leading to superb vistas. Mousa Broch is thought to have been built around 300 BCE to the south of the island. By boat, you can visit this broch, which is also mentioned in Norse sagas.


An excellent example of a 19th-century croft house with a thatched roof, the Croft House Museum is a window into the past. This popular Dunrossness attraction has been beautifully restored using traditional materials to recreate the atmosphere of the 1870s. Inside, the Peat Fire, the box beds, and the conventional Shetland mouse trap provide a fascinating view of life at that time. The custodial staff is always available to share stories and information regarding croft life, the Shetlands, and its people.

Shetland Museum and Archives, located at Lerwick's historic Hay's Dock, tells the story of the Shetland Isles throughout the ages in a beautiful way. Geology and archaeology, customs, folklore, seafaring heritage, trade, industry, and textiles are all represented in the galleries. It dates back to around 1900, but today visitors can watch boats being beautifully restored in the Boat Shed. Enjoy a tasty bite at Hay's Dock Café Restaurant, too, while you’re there.

Enjoy Fine Cuisine

While some people enjoy the thrill of finding dinner at random, there's nothing wrong with planning deliberate excursions to a few of Shetland's finest restaurants. Many have menus online, which can help you decide exactly what kind of meal you'd like to enjoy.

As previously mentioned, Hay's Dock is a must. Above the Shetland Museum, this eatery boasts a wall of picture windows and a balcony that affords views of the harbor during fair weather. The menu relies heavily on Scottish and local produce, with a dash of international flair. You can choose from delicious fish and chips to chowder for lunch, while dinner menus are focused on steak and seafood.

With wood-paneled walls and large picture windows overlooking the water, Fjarå is a cute cafe in an ideal location. The restaurant has breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, bagels, and beers, as well as cocktails, burgers, and seafood, along with some excellent dinner offerings.


Download our countdown clock app - the best app to count down the days until your dream vacation on the Shetland Islands begins.

Some of the links are “affiliate links”, a link with a special tracking code. This means if you click on an affiliate link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. The price of the item is the same whether it is an affiliate link or not. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

 We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to