Skerries

The dramatic scenery, historical interest, outstanding wildlife and, not least, the warm welcome of the Skerries folk make a visit to this mini-archipelago unforgettable.

On the map, Out Skerries looks almost too small to be inhabited, yet more than 70 people live on these two square miles (4km²) of rock and pasture. In Old Norse the name means 'the eastern islets' and indeed the Bound Skerry Lighthouse is only 164 nautical miles (320km) from the nearest light in Norway.

The first sight of Out Skerries is spectacular, either from the ferry entering the narrow harbour entrance with its imposing stacks or flying in to the tiny airstrip over scattered islands dominated by the lighthouse.

Thanks to two excellent natural harbours, Skerries folk make most of their living from the sea, although the small area of cultivated land and grazing land is intensively used. Fishing and fish farming are the mainstays, along with some traditional knitting and, perhaps surprisingly, a document-scanning company using the latest computer technology!

The scattering of islands known as Skerries is a sort of Shetland in miniature. Despite the islands’ diminutive scale, all the ingredients are there - rugged cliffs, arches, blow holes, stacks, sheltered inlets and beaches.

This is a lively community where visitors are always welcome. There's a thriving school and a new community hall where the famous Skerries dances are held - notably at the annual Lerwick to Skerries Yacht Race in August.

The two inhabited islands, Bruray and Housay, are joined by a bridge but the road is less than a mile (1.6km) long so much the best way to see Skerries and meet the islanders is to explore on foot.

From the top of Bruray and Housay there's a superb view over the rugged east coast of Shetland, all the way from Noss to Unst. Around the Skerries shoreline you'll find plenty of interest, from rocky coves where famous wrecks occurred (such as the 17th century Dutch East Indiaman De Liefde) to driftwood beaches and the abundant wildlife. In summertime Skerries has nesting flocks of Eiders, gulls, terns and other seabirds and waders. Seals are common and the sea around the islands is one of the best places in Shetland to see Harbour Porpoises and Minke Whales.

During the spring and autumn migrations Skerries can rival Fair Isle for sightings of rare birds, mainly because this is the first landfall after flocks leave Norway. Some of the local folk take a keen interest in ornithology and record their sightings, so there's often a second 'migration' of 'twitchers' from Mainland Shetland when something exciting blows in.

There's bed & breakfast accommodation on the island and 2 shops (located in Housay & Bruray) where groceries can be purchased.

The panorama of the east coast of Shetland, seen from the hill on Bruray, is unforgettable.

Getting There

Compared with some other small islands in Europe, Skerries is well-connected to the outside world.

A car ferry runs daily from the Shetland Mainland terminal at Vidlin (or Laxo if there are strong northerly winds) and twice a week from Lerwick. The journey takes 1½ hours from Vidlin and 2½ hours from Lerwick; booking is essential. If you study the timetable, you’ll find that a day trip is possible on certain days of the week.

Direct Flight operates scheduled charter flights from Tingwall Airport, seven miles outside Lerwick.

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