The Tourist Information Shop
will point you in the right direction (and suggest enough activities to keep you as busy as you like).
When we were there, Visitshetland was running a texting service that brings you up to date with any special offers, forthcoming events, changes of venue, weather reports, etc. Take a good look around Lerwick on foot, it’s bigger than you think. Carry a map, it’s not all a grid pattern, and there are lots of little alleyways. There are quite a few "tourist" shops, but with one unusual difference, there's a far larger proportion of things you actually want to buy. Ask where to get the Puffin Poo. The larger most southern island is called the Mainland and the islanders don’t really think of themselves as Scottish, and although they are very polite about it, they prefer to be seen as different, rather like the New Zealanders and Canadians. There are regular and excellent ferries to the other islands, (we are particularly fond of Yell where Fiona spent four years of her childhood amongst what became family). I would recommend hiring a car if you fly there, You can take your own if you go by ferry but balance the cost of shipping it over against the cost of hiring. I think the break even point is about three weeks, but I could be wildly out and I'll correct the page when I find out.
Shetland has a long history of occupation and some fine
examples of early habitation so put a few days aside for the
Archaeology. If you fly in then make a point of staying at the Sumburgh Hotel, which has the advantage of being just next to the Jarls Hoff and the airport. Apart from that we were most impressed with the huge room we had, and I had a wander round Jarls Hoff before breakfast. Totally deserted. Great, but sadly not at all spooky, try it in a mist or fog and get as close to twilight as possible.
On the subject of Hotels, the Shetland Hotel is right opposite the Ferry to and from Scotland and, although it seemed at first a little gloomy in its room colour selection, we found it to have the most amazing menu (in it's own very good restaurant) and really helpful and useful staff. They have an arrangement with other hotels in their group where the food is equally good and we were able to eat there too. Well worth the visit. They organised a package deal for us Flights, Car, Food etc, Try the local ale, one is called Simmer Dim. Lovely. There are others I'll try next time. Here's a map I borrowed from the Dunter III site.
Shetland (and Up Helly Aa) 2007.
If I put all that we got up to in Shetland on one page, it would take ages to download. So I'll break it up a bit and put in the links below to specific bits
Now, on the face of it, heading to the most northerly bit of the UK in late January might not seem the most attractive holiday, but if you don't have a look, then you'll be missing a lot. There's loads of wildlife, the nicest bunch of people you'll meet anywhere, lots and lots of geography, big skys and a general feeling you've gone back somewhere between 30 and 50 years.
There's no doubt the islands have a fair reputation for being a bit windy on occasion, and it has been known to snow a bit. If your ideal holiday is sunbathing on a sandy beach and drinking pina-coladas, well....There is a sandy beach or two, but Orcas have made the seals a tad nervous occasionally so I'd give that a miss if I were you. Much better to go for a very reasonably priced trip around Noss on the Dunter III, seen here on the lower left. Dr Jonathan Wills (Skipper) will be happy to tell you if he's seen any unusually dangerous wildlife recently, and you'll learn about the local history, (human and natural) see under water using a remote camera and be thoroughly impressed by all the local wildlife and coffee mugs. Take a camera or kick yourself later. Click the button below for more of my pictures and the Dunter link for much more professional ones
We went to Shetland
for a number of reasons,
but the one that determined
the time of year was the yearly
fire festival "Up Helly Aa"
celebrating the start of Spring.
Specifically the one in Lerwick,
there are lots of others,
but this is the biggest and
most spectacular. It is held
on the last Tuesday of January.
It starts (after a full year's
preparation) with parades and
the display of the purpose-built
longships and goes on through
torch bearing processions,
boat burning, song singing and
all night general entertainment
till the last reveller falls asleep.
Usually about 48 hours later.
This little fiddly thing looked about right, here but I think it's Celtic rather than Pictish or Viking