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We are more than happy to help you plan your time on the island and look forward to looking after you in this special place on Shetland. Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions, and here are some information and websites to start you off on your journey.

Shetland offers something for everyone…

Birdwatching

Shetland is a bird-watchers paradise…there are more species of seabird breeding in Shetland than anywhere else in Britain.

If you want close-up views of tens of thousands of breeding Gannets, alongside Guillemots, Puffins, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, head for Sumburgh Head, Noss or Hermaness nature reserves. These three large seabird colonies are easily accessible, Sumburgh Head especially so. On Noss and Hermaness, and on coastal moorland elsewhere, you’ll probably encounter Great Skuas ('Bonxies'), famously rare and aggressive, gull-sized birds, which are fond of dive-bombing hill walkers. More than half the world's population of this species breeds in Shetland.

Sumburgh Head RSPB reserve is the most accessible seabird colony in Shetland and is particularly good for less able people. The Sumburgh cliffs are home to thousands of seabirds in the breeding season, with Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Shags easily viewed. It is also one of the best places in Shetland to watch for sea mammals. The Sumburgh Lighthouse Visitor Centre contains a superb natural history exhibition and many aids to interpreting what you can see on the cliff edges.

Sealife

Shetland is a brilliant place, all year round, to watch sea mammals. The species you're most likely to see are: Common Seal (Phoca vitulina); Grey Seal (Halichoerus gryphus); Otter (Lutra lutra); and Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena).

Grey Seals tend to spend more time on the exposed, outer coast and Common Seals in more sheltered water but they often haul out alongside each other. Common Seals bring out their pups in June, usually on secluded small islets, and Greys usually pup in November, commonly on north-facing shingle beaches at the base of the cliffs. Common pups have very dark coats and can swim almost immediately, whereas the Greys are born with a creamy-white baby coat and can't swim until they have shed it, when they are about three weeks old.

Some of the Shetland seals are extraordinarily tame, thanks to their habit of following fishing boats in hope of a free meal. Lerwick Harbour is one of the best places in the world to see both species at close range and from the deck of a wildlife tour boat you can get right alongside them. Occasionally, rarer seals turn up in Shetland waters. There are records of Bearded Seals, Ringed Seals and Harp Seals, all wanderers from the Arctic

Otters were probably introduced to Shetland by humans hundreds or even thousands of years ago. There are no large rivers and so they have had to adapt to living by the sea. But their holts are always next to fresh water so they can wash the salt off their fur when they come ashore. You're most likely to find them on low-lying shores and within easy reach of a stream. They do fish in fresh water lochs and burns but find most of their food in the sea.

About 1000 live in the isles, making this one of the otter's main strongholds in the UK. Because of the long hours of summer daylight, Shetland otters have become used to going around in daytime. In most other parts of Britain they're nocturnal.

There are frequent, almost daily, sightings of Harbour Porpoises. Their numbers are much reduced from 10 years ago - partly because of food shortages and partly because thousands of porpoises and other small cetaceans have been killed by modern designs of fishing net. Even so, in mid to late summer your chances of seeing a porpoise are still quite good in Mousa Sound, from the ferries to Fair Isle, Whalsay, Yell, Unst and Fetlar, and around Bressay and Noss.

We cannot guarantee that you will see dolphins and whales but between May and August you may be lucky enough to see Orcas ('Killer Whales') hunting seals close inshore, or a school of White-sided Dolphins chasing a shoal of fish or even a Minke Whale. Other species seen occasionally are Pilot Whales, Sperm Whales and Risso's Dolphins.

ARCHEOLOGY

Not only does Shetland boast spectacular monuments such as the well preserved Mousa Broch and the internationally renowned sites of Jarlshof and Old Scatness, but the unspoilt landscape has ensured that Shetland’s past can be read in every hillside. Shetland is a treasure trove of the past, with ancient houses, burial chambers, standing stones, ancient chapels, forts and brochs around every corner. The Old Scatness Broch and its surrounding ancient buildings is the best preserved iron age village in Britain.

GEOLOGY

In 2009 Shetland was awarded membership of the European Geoparks Network in recognition of its incredible earth heritage. With rocks of every era from the Precambrian to the Carboniferous, Shetland’s geology spans almost 3 billion years and is more diverse than any similar sized area in Europe. Where else can you walk on ancient oceanic crust, explore an extinct volcano and stroll across shifting sands in the space of a day?

Over the past 700 million years Shetland has travelled from a location close to the South Pole across the Equator to its current latitude of 60° north. On the journey it experienced oceans opening and closing, mountains forming and eroding, tropical seas, volcanoes, deserts, ice ages and ancient rivers. Evidence of these earth-shaking events can be found throughout the isles, including a number of unique geological features.

ACTIVITIES

Walking - Shetland offers some of the finest walking in Europe, at all times of the year. The combination of spectacular coastal scenery on both North Sea and Atlantic facing cliffs, quiet inland lochs, and gentle heathery hills is unsurpassed.

Diving - Exceptional underwater visibility makes Shetland perfect scuba diving country. Some of the most spectacular views in the islands are below the waves - submerged cliffs, stacks and caves of long-drowned shorelines.

Angling - Shetland is one of Europe's richest fishing grounds and that's reflected in the catches of mackerel, coley, ling and other ground fish landed at our traditional 'Eela' competitions. Taking a boat trip is a great way to see Shetland’s spectacular seabirds, marine life and coastline scenery, for all your boat trip needs:

Cycharters - www.cycharters.co.uk
Mousa Boat Trips - www.mousa.co.uk
Muckle Flugga Boat Trips - www.muckleflugga.co.uk
Sea Birds and Seals - www.seabirds-and-seals.com
Sail on the Swan - www.swantrust.com
Shetland Nature Cruises - www.shetlandnature.net

Kayaking - Shetland's extensive and accessible coastline offers a paradise for sea kayakers. There are hundreds of miles of cliffs and deserted beaches, countless sea caves including some of Europe's finest.

Climbing - The climbing in Shetland is about as varied as you could hope for. Apart from big mountain routes there isn’t much that’s not catered for.

Cycling - Shetland offers many quiet, relatively flat roads for cycle touring, and there are bike hire shops in Lerwick and Unst, with electric, road and mountain bikes available.

Sailing/Surfing - Shetland has nearly 1700 miles of coastline, 100 islands, natural harbours and crystal clear waters - perfect for sailing. Dinghy sailing is popular in Shetland, where sailing and rowing regattas are a big part of summer social life.

Golf - Fancy teeing off at midnight? No problem in Shetland's 'Simmer Dim' (midsummer twilight). Surrounded by beautiful scenery, our four island courses love to welcome visitors and offer a golfing experience out of the ordinary

ARTS, MUSIC & CULTURE

Shetland’s music culture – can be truly termed unique and stands apart from all others:

Some of the festival’s on offer in the isles are:

Shetland Guitar Festival

JAWS Festival, Fiddle Frenzy, Blues Festival, Shetland Folk Festival, Accordian & Fiddle Festival, Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival

The worlds largest Fire Festival takes place every January in Lerwick known as the Viking “Up Helly Aa”. "There will be no postponement for weather". That's a defiant boast by Shetland's biggest fire festival, considering it's held in mid-winter on the same latitude as southern Greenland. But it's true: gales, sleet and snow have never yet stopped the Up Helly Aa guizers of Lerwick from burning their Viking galley - and then dancing the dawn away.

Up Helly Aa is a lot more than a sub-arctic bonfire and booze-up. It's a superb spectacle, a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders' skills and spirit. This festival lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy. The biggest secret of all is what the head of the festival, the 'Guizer Jarl', will wear and which character from the Norse Sagas he'll represent.

Customer Reviews

My hosts were sincerely concerned that my accomodation was comfortable and convenient. They helped me with local information and services that exceeded my expectations and added value to my trip. I will definitely recommend them to others who might travel to Lerwick and, as for myself, if I am lucky enough to return to the Shetlands, I will book with Aald Harbour again.

Geoffrey Purcell   /   Aug 2016

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