"A'll tell dee o da Hamelaand - da Isles across da sea; Whaar dir birds ta waatch an fysh ta catch an hedder hills ta clim, An times whin darkness niver faas idda Laand o da Simmer Dim”
- Rhoda Bulter
Shetland has so much to offer visitors. From the rugged scenery, to the history and wildlife, there is something for everyone here.
Made up of over 100 islands, Shetland is an archipelago in the centre of the North Atlantic. Where the North Sea meets the North Atlantic, and Scotland meets Scandinavia, Shetland enjoys a distinct and unique culture.
Shetland lies at 60° North. The latitude line passes through the sweeping South Mainland, metaphorically slicing Shetland in two. Being so far north means that the days of summer are very long and light – or, as in winter, are very short and dark. In summer, Shetland enjoys up to 19 hours of daylight but, in the winter, can expect to see only six hours of light. Put simply, Shetland is closer to the Arctic Circle to the north (400 miles/643 km) than it is to the UK’s urban powerhouse, London (600 miles/962 km), to the south.
Shetland itself is made up of over 100 islands. Its rugged coastline of almost 1,000 miles (1,700km) has been carved and shaped by the unbridled power of the North Atlantic on the west while, while, on the east coast, the North Sea challenges the ever-changing coastline. Of these 100 or so islands, 16 are inhabited (one with a population of only two), and they are all connected to the Mainland (Shetland) either by Inter-Island ferry or, in the cases of Burra, Trondra and Muckle Roe, a road bridge.
Including Fair Isle to the south, and Out Stack in the north, Shetland is about 100 miles (160 kilometres) long and, at its widest, is 7 miles (11 km), but in places like Mavis Grind, it’s no more than about 70 metres wide. Mainland is the largest of the islands, at 55 miles (88 km) long it has links by inter-island ferry, plane and road bridge to those that are inhabited. Geographically, Shetland resembles a jigsaw puzzle, formed by a range of ancient hills standing on the continental shelf and partly drowned when the last period of glaciation retreated 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.
WILDLIFE - Take a walk on the wild side!
It would be impossible to come here and not appreciate the wildlife. We have seals, seabirds, sheep, ponies and much more besides. Trips can be arranged to visit many of the nature reserves on Shetland, just get in touch to arrange.
Shetland is geologically complicated: from the lavas and granites in the north to the fertile sandstones and limestones in the south, it offers a diverse range of geology which, given the size of the islands, is mirrored nowhere else in Europe.
The oldest rocks are metamorphic – formed by heat and pressure – dating back 2.8 billion years ago – that’s over half the age of the Earth! These ancient rocks that form the basis of the islands have been on a journey over hundreds of millions of years as the different parts of the metaphorical ‘jigsaw puzzle’ were pushed along geological faults towards their current resting position; moving from a point near the equator, about 10° South, to where they now stand at 60° North. The pieces of the jigsaw were finally brought together between 900 and 450 million years ago as the Caledonian Mountain Range was formed. At its height, these mountains were estimated to have been as big as the Himalayas, but after much erosion and the opening up of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the range has been whittled away and broken up. The only parts remaining are found in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Greenland, North America, and of course, Shetland.
Even as the mountains were forming, they were being eroded and changed and evidence of this can be seen throughout Shetland in the sandstone cliffs of Bressay and Noss and the volcanic north-west. These are the mountains that now form Shetland’s hills.It is this rich geology and the fact that so much variety is compressed into a small area, that allowed Shetland to gain UNESCO Geopark status in 2009.