St Ninian's Isle beach in Shetland's South Mainland.
Whether it’s hidden coves, sweeping sands or stony strands, Shetland has it all and, among the many beaches that make up Shetland’s breathtaking coastline, there are five that have been included in the national Beach Awards, part of the Keep Scotland Beautiful charity.
These awards “are the benchmark for quality, celebrating clean, well managed and sustainable beaches.” Those selected “demonstrate excellent beach management and environmental best practice, and maintaining high standards.”
As 2020 is the Year of Coast and Waters I thought I would bring you a list of Shetland’s award-winning beaches. As many people are spending this time planning their next holiday, why not start with some top-rated beaches to get your next holiday off to a flying start.
1. St Ninian’s Isle
St Ninian's Isle beach in Shetland's South Mainland.
This is perhaps the best-known of Shetland’s beaches – and rightly so – with an expansive sand tombolo spanning some 50 metres, its sheer beauty will take your breath away. It is no wonder that most postcards of Shetland will bear a photo of this beach.
This 500-metre long expanse of pristine sand is pretty unmissable, and the tombolo is the largest active sand tombolo in the UK.
St Ninian's is found in Shetland’s sweeping South Mainland, surrounded by fertile farmland and overlooked by the Bigton Farm. The beach leads to St Ninian’s isle, famous for its 12th-century chapel site and the incredible discovery of one of Scotland’s greatest Pictish treasure hoards: the St Ninian’s Isle treasure.
2. Sands of Breckon
Sands of Breckon in the north of Yell.
Sands of Breckon is situated in the north of Yell, (one of Shetland’s North Isles), and the area offers a fascinating glimpse into Shetland’s archaeological past. Not only does it boast an expanse of white sand and almost guaranteed solitude, but it also has an exciting and rich archaeological chronology, still visible to any would-be archaeologists today.
Tresta beach in Fetlar, the perfect escape.
Outstandingly beautiful, picture-perfect and flanked by the steep slopes of Lambhoga, Tresta Beach commands uninterrupted views across the Wick of Tresta and the North Sea beyond. Tresta is a place to note for its beauty and is situated in the heart of the island of Fetlar, one of Shetland’s three North Isles.
The area is dominated by the spectacular beach with Papil Water behind – an excellent spot for little trout fishing. When the tide is in, the beach is narrow and rocky, but as the sea moves out, the beautiful sandy shores are revealed, offering a large expanse of beach with the spectacular cliffs of Lambhoga to the west. Nearby is the Kirk which was built in 1790 and has memorials to both the Nicolson and Cheyne families (prominent families in the islands), as well as several graves from the Second World War.
This beach is a wonderful place to while away an afternoon, with several picnic benches to sit back and enjoy the views.
4. West Voe
Westvoe beach in Shetland's South Mainland.
West Voe, close to Shetland’s southernmost point, is also a site that demonstrates Shetland’s rich past with prehistoric evidence spanning millennia.
Archaeological excavations revealed a Late Mesolithic shell midden. (A shell midden, in simple terms, is a rubbish heap; the detritus of human activity that provides archaeologists with vital clues about how people lived in the past). Radiocarbon dating revealed that the midden dates back some 6,000 years, showing that West Voe was the first Mesolithic site to be discovered and dated in Shetland.
What this fascinating beach demonstrates is that visitors have been coming to Shetland for at least 6,000 years!
Today, whether you are arriving or departing, this beach, sited beside the airport, is the perfect place to soak up some of Shetland’s fresh Atlantic air and sea breeze.
5. West Sandwick
West Sandwick Beach, Yell. Photo: Deborah Leggate.
West Sandwick is another of Yell’s beaches, situated on the west coast of the island. The pristine white sand is tucked away underneath the dunes, just a short stroll from the car park.
West Sandwick, Yell. Photo: Deborah Leggate.
From here, a picnic on the sand affords uninterrupted views across Yell Sound to Northmavine, Mainland Shetland’s rugged northern frontier.
Why are Shetland’s beaches so unmissable?
Shetlanders take great pride in the landscape and nothing displays this better than the annual Voar Redd up that takes place throughout the islands in the spring of every year. Da Voar Redd up, meaning, the spring clean up, sees about 20 per cent of islanders take to the roadsides and beaches to clean up any rubbish and litter that has been discarded, or washed onto the beaches over the preceding winter. It is the UKs largest, and most successful, community litter-pick and it is now in its 33rd year.
If you would like to virtually explore more of Shetland's beaches, you can read a blog about my favourite beaches, here.
And always remember, when visiting a beach, to leave only footprints.
“Visitors want to have the best experience; they want to see Shetland through the eyes of a local. They want to taste the salt on their faces, smell the sea and bear witness to the wind in their hair. They want to drink in the sights, the smells and the sounds of an island community. They want to be shown the places they would otherwise not discover. They want to piece together the fascinating jigsaw and truly discover Shetland; this is the trip they have dreamed of.”
Sign up to my monthly email newsletter for more Shetland inspiration.
Whether you are looking to book a tour, or just seeking some ideas, Shetland with Laurie is happy to help you get started on making your Shetland adventure a reality.
Hello, and welcome to my blog. I hope that you find what you're looking for, whether you are planning that perfect holiday or maybe you're from Shetland and looking for some inspiration. Hopefully, there is something here for everyone.