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26 Great Things to Do On Your Shetland Holiday

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Considering a Shetland holiday?

Is Shetland Good for a Holiday?

If you are looking for somewhere with a very distinctive culture, great wildlife, scenery, food, and drink along with a fascinating history then Shetland is a great holiday choice. The people are very friendly and welcoming and there is a lot to see and do.

It’s a fantastic place to visit, with its own unique character. There is something about Shetland – whether that’s the people, the scenery, the wildlife, or the weather. It gets under your skin.

Here are 26 things you might like to see on your Shetland Holiday.

Shetland Holiday

1. Sumburgh Head

Whatever of year you are thinking of taking your Shetland holiday there is something to see at Sumburgh lighthouse.

The views from Sumburgh Head are dramatic. Set on top of steep cliffs and overlooking the point at which the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet there is generally always something to see. That might be wildlife including huge numbers of seabirds, or views across to Fair Isle 26 miles away.

The museum at Sumburgh Lighthouse explains the history of the lighthouse and also the natural history of the area. It has great displays and interesting exhibitions dotted around the buildings. You can also sound the foghorn which is always guaranteed to make unsuspecting visitors jump. The wildlife seems totally oblivious to it!

If you like military history then you have to see the radar station at Sumburgh Head. It played a pivotal role in the Second World War and prevented what could have been a catastrophic attack on Scapa Flow. The story of the radar station is really interesting.

Sumburgh Head is also an amazing place to see puffins. They nest in Shetland from April to August, so timing your Shetland holiday for these months gives you the best chance of seeing them. They nest very close to the lighthouse and further down the cliffs and hills. It is incredible to be able to get so close to them.

(For a puffin spotting themed Shetland holiday why not also visit Hermaness right at the top of Shetland? It has huge cliffs, thousands of puffins and it’s the most Northerly point in the UK.)

If you are interested in wildlife themed Shetland holiday then check out which has a guide to the best wildlife spotting places and trips.

Here’s my video of a puffin taking a good look out to sea. It’s taken from the road just beside Sumburgh Head lighthouse. It was taken on my mobile phone.

A fabulous feature of Sumburgh Head is Katjas Unken Kaffee. It has amazing German style cakes and filled rolls and definitely one of the best views of any cafe anywhere. It is wonderful to sit inside eating and drinking something delicious enjoying views across Shetland from the panoramic windows.

Check out my video of the view below!

If you are a fan of the TV series Shetland then you will recall some scenes at Sumburgh Head too. The cafe is where Jimmy Perez has a drink with a colleague from the mainland. It was the ‘Lighthouse Hotel’. Later in the series she gets stabbed in one of the hotel rooms, with outside shots being filmed around the lighthouse buildings.

If you are interested in having a Shetland holiday themed around the Shetland TV series there are lots of details on the website of filming locations, and also locations in Ann Cleeves’ books.

Check out the view from Sumburgh on the Cliff Cam

Here’s the link for the Puffin Cam ready for when they return to land to nest in Spring

Want to hear the foghorn? Check out this great video which shows all the workings of the foghorn too.

Shetland Holiday

2. Jarlshof

Jarlshof is, in my view, one of the best archaeological sites to visit anywhere. The site has been inhabited for over 4,000 years. The remains of houses from each period are on one site, enabling you to walk through history. There are so many fantastic details to enjoy.

You can stand in the remains of a house and see the stone that the inhabitants used to grind flour or the pile of shells they threw away when eating shellfish. You can go inside the wheelhouses and see the cubby holes where people stored their belongings. You can see the remains of the broch and even the 17th Century Castle.

It’s an extraordinary site. The audio guide, which is included with entry, is fascinating. It really helps with understanding what exactly you are looking at. It also has lots of extra content to give you an understanding of the daily life of people who have lived there.

Jarlshof is located close to Sumburgh Head so it’s easy to combine the two.

Check out this great video of Jarlshof from above.

shetland holiday mossy hill

Shetland Holiday

3. Mossy Hill Forward Scatter Station

Mossy Hill can be easily identified when you drive up the main road from the South. As you drive up the A970 you will see the turning to the left for Scousburgh. Behind the junction, as you head North sits Mossy Hill which has some metal structures on top of it. There is a tiny road off the A970 heading up the hill. If it’s a fine day it’s worth going up there. The road is pretty rough in places and not suitable for anything bigger than a minibus or van.

On a clear day, there are views all around including across to St Ninians. Mossy Hill has an interesting history too. Previously it was used as part of a communication network set up by NATO running 8,000 miles through Europe. The towers bounced radio signals up and down the network as part of the monitoring during the Cold War.

Shetland Holiday

4. Hoswick Visitor Centre

Tucked into the centre of the village of Hoswick is the visitor centre. It’s home to a cafe, some interesting displays and a shop. It’s also close to a few craft businesses such as the jewelers across the road, and a wool shop just down the street.

Hoswick Visitor Centre is a great stop if you are in the area. It’s got nice toilets, lovely soup, sandwiches, and cakes too. It’s run and operated by members of the local community which makes it that extra bit special.

If visitor centres and museums are of interest for your Shetland holiday find all the details on the site including croft houses, a textile museum, and more.

Shetland Holiday

5. St Ninians Beach

St Ninians beach is a tombolo – where the sea comes in from both sides. It’s a sandy strip that gets wider in the summer and disappears in the winter with the stronger tides. The beach is a lovely spot to take a stroll, kick through the waves, and just admire the loveliness that is Shetland. The colours of the sea are always lovely here too.

There is a longer walk on St Ninians island itself – although I have never had time to do this when visiting with groups. Hopefully, you will have.

St Ninians has also been featured a couple of times in the Shetland TV series, including in the episode when a young boy finds drugs washed up on the beach.

If you are are interested in having a Shetland holiday which includes lots of beaches check out this guide to all the beaches on They are generally extremely quiet too!

Check out this lovely drone footage of St Ninians Beach

Shetland Holiday


There is lots to see and do in Lerwick so here are my top picks and favourites.

shetland holiday perez

6. Jimmy Perez’s House

The Lodberrie that stretches into the water from the shore near Bains Beach in Lerwick will be familiar to viewers of the Shetland TV series. It’s a private home so you can’t go inside but it is probably one of the most photographed spots in Lerwick. The interior shots were actually filmed in Glasgow anyway.

Why not recreate the final scene with Douglas Henshall on the wall outside the cottage?

7. Shetland Times Bookshop

This is a fantastic independent bookshop that has a great selection of Shetland books, obviously, but just great books anyway.

There are some great books highlighted by the staff with a wide selection of non Shetland books too. It’s very hard to get out of the shop without spending some money!

8. Jamiesons

This shop always seems to have great window displays, with everything made of wool. If you are interested in wool or knitting then you really need to visit this shop.

You can buy Shetland wool here which makes a great gift if you have friends who like to knit.

If you want to theme your Shetland holiday around wool and knitting why not visit during Wool Week?

9. Tourist Information Office

Fans of the Shetland TV series will recognise the facade of the Tourist Information Office which sits close to the market cross. The staff are always helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. It’s also a good place to pick up Up Hellya items.

Check out the view of Lerwick Centre on the Tourist Information Centre webcam

10. Peerie Shop and Cafe

Set looking over the harbour the Peerie Shop has a great selection of gifts and Shetland related items including cookery books. It’s my go to shop if I want a nice gift for someone.

The cafe is cosy and features lots of local produce – it’s well worth a visit whatever the time of day. They also do some local dishes including a Shetland lamb soup.

Take a look at the harbour view on the Victoria Pier webcam

11. Fort Charlotte

If you want some great views across to Bressay and over Lerwick then the short walk up to Fort Charlotte is worth it. Look out over the guns, which have never been used, and imagine Bressay Sound full of ships when Lerwick was a busy fishing port.

It was said there were so many ships that you could walk across to Bressay by going from ship to ship.

12. Museum and Archives

Set on the edge of Lerwick this museum is really fantastic. It is free, has lovely toilets and also a cafe and a cute shop. Everything is laid out really well, with easy to understand displays. The upstairs exhibition area has a fascinating film about the Sullom Voe oil terminal produced by BP which shows the construction of the huge site. The staff at the museum are friendly and helpful.

Don’t miss the pieces of sculpture outside that look like speakers on poles. These art installation features sounds of Shetland and the sounds change depending on wind speed and direction.

13. Mareel Arts Centre

The Mareel Centre is a wonderful building set close to the water’s edge. It has a great cafe as well as a theatre and cinema inside. There is always an interesting program of events, including a film about Shetland Sights and Sounds during the daytime.

It’s also the most Northerly cinema and arts centre in the UK.

You could visit the most Northerly cinema, the most Northerly shop, the most Northerly fish and chips and the most Northerly point in the UK on our Shetland holiday if you wanted to!

14. Livestock Mart

To the North of Lerwick is the auction mart. This has a busy program of sales throughout the year including sheep and Shetland ponies. There is a cafe on site too.

Visiting an animal auction might seem like an odd thing to do on a Shetland holiday. It’s a great insight into a bit of daily life in Shetland that most visitors wouldn’t normally see. It’s also a good insight into some local smells too!


Bressay is the long island that sits across from Lerwick and protects the harbour from the full force of the North Sea. It’s reached by a ferry which runs regularly through the day, taking 7 minutes to cross Bressay Sound.

Bressay is well worth a visit. It’s very rural and different from Lerwick

If you want to do some island hopping as part of your Shetland holiday check out this guide from

15. Garths Croft

If you want a real insight into what it is like trying to run a croft (small farm) in Shetland then you need to visit Garths Croft and meet Chris. Chris is one of those annoyingly uber-talented people. He’s an archeologist, military historian, dry stone waller, crofter, and all round lovely person. Spending time with him on his croft is a great way to learn more about daily life in Shetland, with all its challenges too.

Chris has a great selection of native Shetland sheep, which have a huge range of colours. He also has some friendly chickens, a couple of pigs, a polycrub (Shetland polytunnel), and a lovely sheepdog too.

For the vast majority of the US guests that I took over to visit Chris’s croft this visit was a real highlight of their Shetland holiday.

Want to look at the croft now – take a tour with Chris in this video.

16. Speldiburn Cafe

For something to eat on Bressay, you really need to head to Speldiburn Cafe. It’s in what was the local primary school. Not only does the cafe has some of the best soup and scones ever, it also has amazing cakes too.

It’s a lovely spot, with a warm and friendly welcome. There is a small charity shop and local crafters are based in the buildings too. Check out the toilets with the little washbasins – just as they were for the primary children!

I think you could easily make a wonderful Shetland holiday themed around cakes!


Scalloway is set on the West Coast of Shetland and was, for a long time the capital of Shetland. It’s now a very important fishing port, with a big shiny new fish market.

17. Scalloway Museum & Shetland Bus Memorial

Scalloway Museum is a paid museum, and well worth visiting, particularly if you are interested in Shetland Bus history. The Shetland Bus was an operation to send Norwegian army volunteers back into Norway to sabotage the Nazi occupation there, as well as help people escape from Norway. Fishing boats were used as transport.

It’s a fascinating piece of World War 2 history and was hugely important in convincing Hitler to leave thousands of troops in Norway, thereby contributing to the success of the D-Day Landings. There is a huge archive of material at the museum and a steady stream of visitors from Norway.

In the village of Scalloway, there is also a touching memorial to those killed in the operation. The rocks in the memorial are from the hometown of each of the men remembered.

If you are a fan of the TV series Shetland then you may remember that it featured in the first series as part of the storyline. Also in Scalloway is the ruin of Scalloway Castle which again featured in Shetland – a group of school children were visiting in the episode as they tried to apprehend a suspect.

If you want to know more about the Shetland Bus check out this video.

18. Cornerstone Cafe

The Cornerstone Cafe is a great spot for something to eat and drink. It’s very popular with groups and locals alike. The service is always warm and welcoming. There is a great selection of cakes, soups, sandwiches, toasties, and meals such as fish and chips available too.

19. Carols Shetland Ponies

5 minutes away from Scalloway is Carol’s Shetland Ponies. Carol runs the Ramnaberg Stud and has been breeding Shetland ponies for many years. Her ponies are visited by tour groups and cruise ship guests, all of whom come to learn more about this famous pony breed.

Here’s a video featuring Carol and her ponies

20. The Original Cake Fridge

Shetland has a collection of cake fridges and what a brilliant idea they are. Cakes, are available at any time! The Original Cake Fridge is out on the road between Bixter and Voe. The cake fridge sits by the roadside and is always stocked with a great selection of cakes as you would expect. There is also a hot drinks machine and some local gifts – just pick what you want and leave the money. It’s open 24 hours a day!

The Original Cake Fridge is also where you will now find a small cafe too. This is a pleasant spot to pause for refreshment and to say hello to the pygmy goats that are beside the cafe too.

The Original Cake Fridge is also featured in the Shetland TV series. You may recall that Jimmy finds his Dad sitting beside the fridge after his Dad gets a bit confused due to his worsening dementia.

There are several cake fridges around Shetland now including Picnic Press on the main A970 and a couple in Lerwick including a lady that makes Polish cakes. You could have a cake fridge-themed Shetland holiday!

Here is local lass Laurie Goodlad taking a drive out to the cake fridge.


Brae is situated on the West Coast.

shetland holiday frankies fish and chips
The sign on the outside of Frankies Fish and Chips at Brae

21. Frankies Fish and Chips

It’s home to the most Northerly Fish and Chip shop and restaurant in the UK – Frankies. They have a small restaurant and a very busy takeaway. The restaurant looks over the Voe (the sea). It’s lovely to sit outside and enjoy the view. Mussels are a popular choice here too. Outside on the wall by the car park is a great sign which gives you the distance from Frankies to various places around the world – it makes for a good photo.

You should of course try fish and chips at Frankie’s but try and eat some mussels while you are on your Shetland holiday – they are the largest mussels in the UK.

22. Busta House Hotel

Busta House Hotel is located just outside of Brae, tucked into a quiet spot overlooking the sea. It’s a brilliant hotel and well worth a visit, whether that’s to stay, eat or just enjoy a drink beside the fire. It also has the most amazing trees in the garden – something very special for Shetland.

Busta House Hotel is a great place to stay on your Shetland holiday if you want to explore the West Coast a little further.

Check out the gardens and the view across the Voe in this video.

(You might also like my 10 Reasons to Stay at Busta House Hotel which includes a video tour of the lovely Linga bedroom)

23. Sullom Voe Terminal

Sullom Voe terminal is quite close to Brae and if you have your own transport it’s well worth taking a drive out. At its peak, Sullom Voe was producing 70% of the oil for the whole of the UK. It’s a huge site and is still used today for oil and gas.

It may sound odd to go and look at an oil terminal on a Shetland holiday but its impact on Shetland has been monumental. There is some interesting military history in the area around Sullom Voe including the airfield.

24. Mavis Grind

Mavis Grind Mavis Grind is the narrowest point in the UK between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. It’s a spot where otters cross and previously where boats were hauled across to save sailing around the top of Shetland. During the Second World War, it was thought that it was at risk of attack by tanks so concrete tank traps were installed in rows to protect the area. Some of them remain today.


25. Clifftop Walk

The cliffs at Eshaness are dramatic in any weather. Catching the full force of the weather from the Atlantic Ocean the sea can really pound against the cliffs. It can also be difficult to stand up too! There is a wonderful clifftop walk with ever-changing views too.

Viewers of Shetland will also be familiar with these cliffs. They feature in the opening credits and also in an episode where someone in witness protection gets shot and falls to his death.

Whenever I have visited these cliffs it’s been on a guided walk with a tour group. It’s wonderful to have a guide helping you see and understand so much more about geology and landscape. Laurie Goodlad is one of the guides we have been lucky enough to have. She has an amazing podcast series that interviews lots of Shetland folk, including Chris from Garth’s Croft and Ann Cleeves who writes the Shetland and Vera books amongst other things. Listening to Laurie’s podcasts is a great way to get some background on Shetland before visiting. Check out Laurie’s website.

Check the view now on the Eshaness Lighthouse webcam

Why not take a walk along the cliffs with Laurie in this video?

26. Braerwick Cafe

This is a cracking cafe that looks out over the Drongs, sea stacks along the coastline. The cafe has big windows, friendly service, and nice toilets. There is also a great selection of soups, sandwiches, and lighter meals – ideal after a long walk along the cliffs nearby.

Check the view of the Drongs from Braerwick Cafe on the webcam

Other Articles You Might Like

If you have found this 26 Places to Visit on Shetland Holiday article useful you might also like;

10 Reasons to Stay at Busta House Hotel

Find more trip reviews and guides on my Travel Inspiration page

Watching the Shetland TV series is a great way to research your Shetland holiday. It’s available on Britbox and BBC I Player amongst others. You should also try watching it again after your Shetland holiday as you will recognise many more places in the program – it’s like seeing it with new eyes!

Further Reading

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