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.

The walker has the rare opportunity to discover ancient historical sites dating back to Neolithic times and to observe a wonderful array of wildlife - flowers, birds and mammals. Shetland's amazing geology has brought the isles Geopark status, and walking is by far the best way of appreciating the extraordinary landscape.

You're welcome to walk over most of our heathery hills and 1697 miles of spectacular coastline (there's even a guidebook by a man who knows - Peter Guy has tramped all of it!)

We had our best summer of walking. We have many friends who'd love this place.

The landscape is open and access remarkably easy, the scenery superb with the extra thrill of rich archaeology and spectacular wildlife. Whether young or old, there is something for everyone, maybe even too much! There are so many amazing things to see and so many stunning places to visit, that a lifetime would be needed in order to do them all justice. Weather rarely stops keen walkers and sometimes the poorest days create the most spectacular sky effects.

There are common threads to every walk, and yet each one is unique, with endless untold stories of endurance and adventure, locked within each stretch of coastline or hill, each ancient site and crumbling ruin. Shetland is more of a collection of small worlds rather than islands. Its natural and human history has combined through the ages, to create a mesmerising multi-sensory experience of time and place.

Whatever type of walking you enjoy, from a short stroll to a trek through wilderness areas, Shetland offers many superb locations. When you're out, look for our wonderful wildlife, such as otters and seabirds. Seeing them in their indigenous habitat is a fabulous experience! Take some time to admire the scenery and stop awhile to explore our fascinating cultural heritage.

If you want to tackle some exhilarating challenges, or simply explore a stunning landscape then a walking holiday in Shetland is the perfect choice.

Find a walk

Select from the options below to find your ideal walk.

Areas

Difficulty Level

  • Easy Walks: under 4 kilometers, usually suitable for majority abilities.
  • Moderate Walks: under 8 kilometers, usually suitable for most abilities. Walks surface may be loose, uneven and muddy. Sensible footwear required.
  • Longer Walks: over 8 kilometers, usually suitable for those with a good standard of fitness. Walks surface likely to be more challenging, loose, uneven and muddy. Stout waterproof footwear with ankle support required.

Outdoor Access Code

Shetland has always had a traditional freedom of access to the open countryside.

In February 2005, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code came into operation which sets out public access rights and responsibilities and allows everyone to enjoy a statutory right of responsible access under the Land reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This legislation also applies to other activities including canoeing, horse-riding, wild camping and mountain biking. As a result of the Act, Shetland Islands Council has developed a plan of core paths throughout the isles. Should you have any queries regarding the core path network you can contact Kevin Seginson the council’s Outdoor Access Officer.

Crofting Land

Shetland has many small crofts, which mean that there can be many field boundaries to cross and fields to cross through. Always walk around the edge of the fields where possible and use the stiles and gates provided. Always avoid livestock and do not disturb them, especially during the lambing time (mid-April until late-June).

If you are a walker with a dog we ask you to follow a few simple rules for your safety.

  • Dogs should be kept on a lead
  • Where possible choose a route that avoids taking your dog into fields with animals
  • Dogs should not be taken into fields with young animals
  • If passing cattle which become agitated, for the safety of yourself and your dog, it is best to unclip the dog from it’s lead and calmly make your way to the nearest exit from the field.

Safety

When walking in Shetland, follow these tips:

  • Get a local weather forecast and listen to local advice.
  • If you are going on a long walk allow plenty of time for your route and leave details of your party, route and return time either with someone or displayed with your vehicle.
  • Shetland’s weather can change fast. Be properly equipped – use several thinner layers rather than one think one and take waterproofs, fleece, hat and gloves. Good boots are essential.
  • Carry the appropriate OS maps for the route you are walking and know how to navigate.
  • Take a rucksack containing drink, food, torch, whistle, survival bag and first aid kit. Mobile phones can be useful however don’t rely on them.
  • Cliffs can be dangerous, stay well clear of the edge

Know The Code Before You Go ...

Enjoy Scotland’s outdoors responsibly! Everyone has the right to be on most land and water in Scotland. These access rights and responsibilities are explained in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The key things to remember are:

When you’re outdoors:

  • Take personal responsibility for your own actions and act safely;
  • Respect peoples privacy and peace of mind;
  • Help land managers and others to work safely and effectively;
  • Care for your environment, take your litter home and don’t disturb wildlife;
  • Keep your dog under proper control and on a lead, and where possible avoid choosing routes that require you to take your dog into fields with other animals;
  • Take extra care if you are organising an event or running a business.
  • When parking on country roads do not obstruct access roads or access to fields. Park further away if need be.

Managing the outdoors:

  • Respect access rights;
  • Act reasonably when asking people to avid land management operations;
  • Work with the Council and others to help integrate access and land management;
  • Respect rights of way and access routes.

Operators

If have never walked in Shetland before, using a guide is a great way to enjoy a safe introduction to walks which suit your ability. Guided walks are led by highly qualified and knowledgeable guides, who have an in-depth knowledge of the landscape, weather and points of interest which add so much to a walk. Using a guide is also a good way to gain new skills or update existing ones and packages are carefully put together by experienced professionals who thoroughly research all components of the holiday/break. Operators also provide continuity of care from the point of information to heading home after your walking adventure.

About Argyll Walking Holidays

About Argyll Walking Holidays offer high-quality, essentially personal guided walking holidays and hiking tours to Shetland. The holiday starts and ends in Glasgow and we travel by train and overnight ferry to Shetland. You will walk on Mainland, Mousa, Papa Stour, Fair Isle, Muckle Roe and Unst. The programme includes a return flight to Fair Isle and a boat trip around Noss. For more information, please visit: www.aboutargyll.co.uk

Shetland Field Studies Group

From April to October SFSG organises a series of guided walks for SFSG members and the general public. From November to March the group arranges monthly slide shows / talks. Details are available from VisitShetland on 01595 693434.

Shetland Geotours

Do you have a passion for the great outdoors? Shetland Geotours offer guided tours or walks with an emphasis on the diverse geology, landscapes and archaeology of Shetland as well as giving you the chance of close encounters with some wonderful wildlife. To book please contact VisitShetland on 01595 693434. For more information, please visit: www.shetlandgeotours.com

Shetland Ranger Service

Learn about Shetland's nature with a guided walk in the North Isles or South Mainland led by one of the rangers. For bookings and details please contact Shetland Amenity Trust on 01595 694 688. For more information, please visit: www.nature-shetland.co.uk

Shetland Walking & Wildlife

Shetland Walking and Wildlife offer small-group guided wildlife walks, wildlife photography days, and navigation courses for walkers throughout Shetland. They also have a number of accommodation partners, who they can recommend to clients. For more information, please visit: www.shetlandwalkingandwildlife.co.uk

Shetland Wildlife

Shetland Wildlife is an award-winning company specialising in week-long wildlife holidays with experienced local guides. The comprehensive service covers all travel and accommodation and their experts will ensure you get the most out of your time in Fair Isle, Mousa, Noss and the North Isles of Shetland. Wildlife holidays with Scotland’s award-winning eco-professionals. For more information please visit: www.shetlandwildlife.co.uk

Wilderness Scotland

Wilderness Scotland is the leading adventure travel company in Scotland, the only one to be awarded VisitScotland 5 Stars and voted by National Geographic as the No1 Adventure Travel Company in Europe. They run week long guided walking holidays that take you on an unforgettable journey round this beautiful archipelago, that is as much about the walking as it is about the mysterious history, island culture and rich wildlife. For more information please visit: www.wildernessscotland.com

Throughout Shetland you will find dedicated operators who offer imaginative and well researched guided and self-guided walking trips or holidays. So wherever you go you can rest assured that you'll be in good hands.

Core Paths

Shetland has over 1000 miles of coastline with scenery that is on par with some of the most beautiful areas in the world along with a unique culture and heritage.

There has been a traditional freedom of access across the isles with many places suitable to walk, cycle or horse ride, as long as you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and now The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, gives a formal right of non-motorised access to most land and inland water throughout Scotland.

However people often like some guidance on the best routes to points of interest. It is also useful for land managers to be able to suggest good routes across their land for land management and conservation reasons and so the core paths provide for that.

Core Paths form a basic network of paths across Shetland and linked with other access routes they are often the most popular paths and key routes that link communities and provide access to some of the best scenery. They have been agreed with land managers and local communities and the access is inspected and well maintained by Shetland Islands Council. Whilst each core path may not be suitable for all user groups, the core path system in Shetland as a whole will provide for people of all abilities and is in a constant state of development.

Until a time when core paths and access routes are recorded on Ordnance Survey maps it is recommended that you either print off the routes shown in the above links or transfer that information onto your own ordnance survey maps to help guide you on your walks.

Encountered Problems?

Should you come across any problems whilst using Shetland’s core paths or access routes please feel free to contact Shetland Island Council’s Outdoor Access Officer, Kevin Serginson via email or +44 (0)1595 744169 with the details and we will happily investigate the issue.

Shetland Marilyns

A Marilyn is a hill of any height with a drop of 150 metres (nearly 500 ft) or more on all sides. In other words, a Marilyn is a hill which is relatively high compared to its surroundings. There are 19 Marilyns in Shetland.

The full list is as follows:

NameHeight (Meters)Height (Feet)Map Reference
Dalescord Hill252827HU 39300 68400
Fitful Head283928HU 34633 13547
Hill of Arisdale201689HU 49500 84200
Mid Ward172564HU 32000 65200
Noss Head181594HU 55384 39886
Ronas Hill4501476HU 30529 83486
Royl Field293961HU 39594 28518
Sandness Hill249817HU 19171 55722
Saxa Vord285935HP 63121 16623
Scalla Field281922HU 38932 57260
Scrae Field216709HU 41790 36148
The Noup248814HT 95400 37500
The Sneug4181371HT 94780 39508
Valla Field216709HP 58462 07867
Vord Hill159522HU 62229 93521
Ward Hill217712HZ 20838 73402
Ward of Bressay226741HU 50287 38722
Ward of Scousburgh263863HU 38791 18803
White Grunafirth173576HU 27568 80731

Notes:

  • A 'sub-Marilyn' is a hill which just fails (by up to 10m) to qualify on the drop rule, i.e. drop of 140m to 149m on all sides.
  • The Marilyns are so-called by the list's compiler, Alan Dawson, after the more famous mountain list - the Munros.
  • You can learn more at the Marilyn News Centre website

Essential Information

Many walks in Shetland follow well-marked trails where little or no specialist equipment or experience is required. However, for longer routes and more challenging hikes, preparation is essential and adequate precautions should be taken.

The Weather

Before setting out on ANY trip, check a weather forecast. Weather in Shetland can change very quickly! If the weather does change for the worse, consider revising your plans. Weather forecasts can be accessed from the homepage.

Planning

Choose a walk which is appropriate to you or your group's abilities and the prevailing weather conditions. As a general rule, take children only on routes which allow for a safe and easy retreat and don't take them on long walks. Leave word of where you are going and remember to advise of your return. Consider turning back if someone in your group is tiring or getting cold.

In an Emergency

If one of your party has an accident and cannot be moved:

  • Treat any injuries as best you can;
  • Calculate your exact position on the map;
  • If possible, leave somebody to care for the casualty whilst others safely get help;
  • On reaching a telephone, dial 999 and ask for the police;
  • Report the map grid reference where you left the casualty and details of their condition.

What to Take

Clothing - Warm, wind and waterproof clothing is essential for most parts of your body depending on the time of year.

  • Cee & Jays, 5 Commercial Road, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 693025
  • Intersport Shetland, 167 Commercial Street, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 694959
  • JR Whites (mens clothing), 99 Commercial Street, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 693894
  • LHD Marine Supplies Ltd, Albert Building, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 692379
  • Smiths of Lerwick (womens clothing), 97 Commercial Street, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 695056

Equipment - For hillwalking, always carry a map and compass and know how to use them (Ordnance Survey maps scale 1:25,000 are recommended). Carry equipment for use in an emergency such as a torch, whistle, First Aid Kit and emergency shelter. The emergency signal is six blasts on a whistle or six flashes with a torch.

Footwear - Your footwear should provide good ankle support and have a firm sole with a secure grip. For rough terrain hillwalking boots are strongly recommended.

  • Cee & Jays, 5 Commercial Road, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 693025
  • DE Shoes, 147/151 Commercial Street, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 693902
  • Intersport Shetland, 167 Commercial Street, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 694959
  • LHD Marine Supplies Ltd, Albert Building, Lerwick. Tel: +44 (0)1595 692379

Food and Drink - Take ample food and drink for your group. Always take reserve supplies. Simple high energy foods are best as are hot drinks in cold wet weather.

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