Shetland consists of a group of 100 windswept islands so remote from mainland Britain that the Romans called Shetland ‘Thule’, the magical island that the ancients believed lay on the edge of the world. It’s not surprising therefore that this archipelago of outstanding beauty is the perfect place for peace and solitude.
Characterised by bare, peat-covered landscapes and a convoluted maze of sea lochs, bays and inlets – or ‘voes’ as they are known, Shetland has a distinctive character and spirit that separates it from the rest of Scotland. As a historic hub of Viking expansion, the Nordic culture is still part of Shetland life. Not least celebrated on the last Tuesday in January with the pagan fire festival of Up Helly Aa, when a full size replica of a Viking longship is set fire to, heralding the return of the sun after a long dark Winter. And return it does, for one of the great highlights of a visit to these islands is a midnight walk in mid Summer, when you can watch the sun set briefly below the horizon before rising again a short time later. The ‘simmer dim’ twilight of mid Summer adds a touch of timelessness to holidays.
Famous for its knitwear, it’s not surprising sheep outnumber people by eight to one, and although famed for its miniature ponies also, it is birds that dominate Shetland. Filling the sky and cliff ledges, huge colonies of gannets, guillemots, fulmars and puffins migrate and nest in Shetland, making it an ornithologists paradise. Botanists have around 500 species of plants to discover, and for naturalists there are vast quantities of seals to watch, basking on the rocks, and otters to be seen in the remoter coastal areas. Whales, sharks, dolphins and porpoises can also be seen off the coast. Trout fishing is excellent in the lochs, and sea angling is first class for white fish.
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