Scenery

Shetland's scenery is surprisingly varied for such a small area - and often spectacular. The islands offer everything from rocky crags and heather hills to fertile farmland, from sand dunes and pebble beaches to stupendous cliffs.

From five miles up, on a jet flying between Europe and the west coast of North America, the islands look like a child's jigsaw scattered over the ocean, a delicate fretwork of rock, heather and water.

The prospect from sea level has been likened to the half-submerged skeleton of a huge dinosaur and, indeed, Shetland is formed by the sunken stumps of the ancient Caledonian Mountains which once (long before the dinosaurs) stood as high as the Himalayas.

Aeons of erosion and repeated glaciations, followed by the sea flooding the valleys, have worked on the complex geology of Shetland to create long ridges of hills and an extraordinarily indented coastline. It's water, water everywhere - nowhere is more than 5km (3 miles) from the sea and the landscape is studded with thousands of freshwater lochs, large and small.

Fantastic reception. Beautiful people! Beautiful place!

Because the coastline's so very long and winding, you're sure of finding a sheltered spot with a stunning view and peace and quiet. In the unlikely event that your chosen beach does have half a dozen people on it already - just move to the next one along. You'll probably have it all to yourself!

The network of well-maintained roads makes most of Shetland's scenery easily accessible to the visitor but it's well worth exploring off the main routes. For the motorist and cyclist, the side roads of Shetland are a special delight in spring and early summer when the verges are festooned with wild flowers.

The settlement pattern is fairly scattered outside the urban centre of Lerwick, with many croft houses in seemingly remote valleys still inhabited. There are numerous picturesque hamlets, usually at the edge of one of the long 'voes' or sea lochs that penetrate far into the land. The larger villages, such as Voe, have a shop and post office.

Driving or walking in Shetland, you come on unexpected new landscapes around every corner. The only place to see all of the islands at once, however, is the Ward Hill, Bressay. The track up to the TV masts is only suitable for 4WD vehicles but the reward for a brisk walk to the 226m (742') summit is a superb panorama, from Fair Isle in the south to Unst in the north, and from Foula in the west to Out Skerries in the east.

Of course, Shetland's scenery doesn't end on land - there's plenty to see under the water as well, with diving trips and tours.

Find out more:

Top 30 Shetland Viewpoints

(*accessible by car)

  • Hermaness, Unst
  • Vallafield, Unst
  • Breckon, North Yell*
  • Neapoback, South Yell*
  • Westsandwick, Yell*
  • Uyea, Northmavine
  • Eshaness Lighthouse, Northmavine*
  • Ronas Hill, Northmavine (at 450m - 1476' - the highest point in Shetland)
  • Mangaster, Northmavine*
  • Hams of Roe, Muckle Roe
  • Hill of Swinister, Delting*
  • Hill of Bellister, North Nesting*
  • Wormadale Hill, Whiteness*
  • Scord of Sound, Weisdale*
  • Westerwick, Skeld*
  • Huxter, Sandness*
  • Watsness, Walls*
  • Scord of Scalloway*
  • The Sneug, Foula
  • Ward of Clett, Whalsay*
  • Housay, Out Skerries
  • Gletness, South Nesting*
  • Ander Hill, Bressay
  • Fladdabister*
  • Levenwick*
  • Bigton (St Ninian's Isle)*
  • Scousburgh*
  • Fitful Head
  • Sumburgh Head*
  • Ward Hill, Fair Isle
Absolutely gorgeous scenery, friendly people, vast amounts of wildlife and more than enough to see and do.
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