Discover Shetland:
Follow Jimmy Perez’s footsteps

Here you can find out about the real Shetland, the show’s locations, the books by Anne Cleeves and much more.

If you are one of the millions of people around the word fascinated by Jimmy Perez and his crime-solving adventures in Shetland, we think you'll love the real place, - which is every bit as spectacular and fascinating as on TV, but with one of the lowest crime rates in the world!

Scroll down to discover what Shetland is really like, tour the locations where the show was shot, and meet Anne Cleeves, author of the books ’Shetland’ is based on.

And remember - Shetland really is thrilling - but it’s also one of the safest, most crime-free places on the planet.

About Shetland - the series

New Season 4

Shetland: Season 4 - BBC One


Featuring characters from the novels by award winning crime writer Ann Cleeves, and acclaimed worldwide, Shetland follows DI Jimmy Perez and his team as they investigate crime within the close-knit island community.

Amid spectacular scenery, in an isolated and fascinating environment, the team have to rely on a uniquely resourceful style of policing.

Watch series on BBC BBC iPlayer

The books: Ann Cleeves, author

Shetland is based on the Jimmy Perez series of novels by Ann Cleeves, with the first two seasons using plots from her novels. This series and the previous one were written for the screen and are not based on the books, though the main characters are the same.

Ann is an award-winning crime writer who has published five novels set in Shetland featuring police detective Jimmy Perez.

Her most recent Shetland book, Cold Earth, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2016. Ann has a long association with Shetland and confesses to being in love with the place.

Her relationship with the archipelago began in 1975, when she took a job as assistant cook at the Fair Isle bird observatory. She told the Daily Telegraph: “I’d dropped out of university – I was studying English at Sussex and arrogantly thought I could read books anywhere. I was 19, looking for adventure and was running away from a proper job.”

On Fair Isle Anne met her late husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist, and it was on a return trip that a single stark image provided inspiration for her first Shetland novel.

“There were lots of ravens, very black against the snow. So, because I’m a writer, I thought, ‘What if there were blood as well? And would ravens eat a body?’ I checked with Tim, who said they would.

“Initially it was going to be a short story, and my editor said it would stretch credibility if I wrote more than one novel. But after the good reviews and winning the Dagger, we decided we could stretch to a series. My research in Shetland now is just sitting in croft kitchens, chatting and drinking lots of tea. I have such good relationships there, and I know they offered amazing support for the TV production.”

“My first visit to Shetland was a time of dramatic change in the islands. Oil was being extracted from the North Sea for the first time, and the big terminal at Sullom Voe in North Mainland was under construction. On my rare visits to Shetland Mainland, Lerwick – the islands’ biggest settlement – had the feel of a gold-rush town. There was an influx of people who saw the chance of making money; I bumped into suited executives, contractors and oilmen on their way to the rigs.

Shetland has a history of people arriving from outside, though, and I think it managed the time of transition well. It still welcomes visitors with grace and hospitality, whether they’re tourists desperate to experience the fire festival of Up Helly Aa or a BBC film crew. I enjoy writing about the islands just because they are dynamic, changing and energetic. Don’t come to Shetland imagining a Viking theme park, a place fixed in the past. History is important here, but the community looks to the future...”

More about Ann Cleeves

• Ann has published her own beautifully-illustrated book about the isles. Called Ann Cleeves’ Shetland, you can read a longer excerpt on her publisher’s website.

• Ann has also produced a ‘murder mystery game’ based on the Shetland series, set at one of the isles’ legendary Sunday teas. It’s called Bannocks and Blood, and can be downloaded for free here.

Daily Telegraph interview.

• A sound and text interview with Ann from the point of view of Californian TV station KCET.

• Ann Cleeves’ own website, with full details of the books.

Ann Cleeves Books

Raven Black begins on New Year's Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.
Buy Now from Shetland Times Bookshop /
Borrow from Shetland Library

The electrifying follow up to the award-winning Raven Black.
Raven Black received crime fiction's highest monetary honor, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award. Now Detective Jimmy Perez is back in an electrifying sequel.
Buy Now from Shetland Times Bookshop /
Borrow from Shetland Library

When an elderly woman is shot in what appears to be a tragic accident, Shetland detective Jimmy Perez is called to investigate the mystery.
Buy Now from Shetland Times Bookshop /
Borrow from Shetland Library

Inspector Jimmy Perez takes his fiancé home to Fair Isle, the tiny island he comes from, to meet his parents. The island is a magnet for bird watchers, who congregate at the local inn and lighthouse. When a local married celebrity, who had an eye for the lads, is murdered, Perez discovers that the suspects are very close to him indeed.
Buy Now from Shetland Times Bookshop /
Borrow from Shetland Library

When the body of a journalist is found, Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted from outside to head up the investigation. Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his local knowledge is needed in this case, and he decides to help Willow.
Buy Now from Shetland Times Bookshop /
Borrow from Shetland Library

Latest News

Steven Robertson: "The series can only be a good thing for Shetland"

In an interview with The Shetland News, actor Steven Robertson, who plays Detective Constable Sandy Wilson, said the TV series was bound to help Shetland tourism:

"You get an hour a week for six weeks...every time the camera swings across a beach or looks out over a cliff, that is Shetland. That is the scenery and in my opinion it can only be a good advert for Shetland."


The show’s popularity, “has a lot to do with how beautiful it is,” says Alison O'Donnell

In an interview with The Scotsman, Alison O'Donnell ('Tosh' in the series) reveals that the Shetland landscape contributes massively to the show's success.

Filming this time we were very aware of how many people were there as a result of the show. I was in the hotel breakfast room one morning and there was a Swedish couple and an Australian couple talking about it and I was sitting there with my glasses on and no make-up, thinking they’re never going to spot me, thank goodness. So, it’s the scenery definitely, but also good stories and characters.



A-Z Shetland

Simon King's Shetland

Gavin Bell in Unst

Nick McCaffrey's Shetland

Mike Guest Folk Festival promo

Ryan Leith: Stormy run around Breiwick

Shetland Wool Week (60 North TV)

Tom Morton Cycling in Shetland

Christine (De Luca) speaking Shetland dialect

Wild Camping in Uyea

St Ninians Isle Beach Shetland

Up Helly Aa 2018 - your 4 minute mini-tour


Top Shetland Locations Featured in The Series

Da Lodberrie, Commercial Street, Lerwick Appears in almost every episode as the quirky and quaint home of Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez


Features in virtually every episode of the show so far! This spectacular example of a traditional waterside merchant’s store, shop, workshop and house was ‘the most photographed building in Shetland’ long before it began playing Jimmy Perez’s home. Privately owned, but exterior selfies are welcome!

Da Lodberrie, Lerwick. Jimmy Perez's house (in the TV series)


Shetland Museum and Hay’s Dock Café, Lerwick Where Jimmy Perez meets Val Turner, archaeologist, in Series Two

The Shetland Museum and Archives with its spectacular boat hall is a superb introduction to Shetland history, geography and culture. The museum's Hays Dock café is where Jimmy Perez meets (real life) archaeologist Val Turner in the televised version of Red Bones. It has fantastic views of Lerwick Harbour and, in fine weather, you can sit on the balcony.

Shetland Museum and Hay's Dock Cafe. Where Jimmy met Val


Fair Isle Series two of ‘Shetland’ led Jimmy Perez to Fair Isle and all kinds of nefarious affairs, after the death of a scientist.

Lying about halfway between Sumburgh Head in Shetland and North Ronaldsay in Orkney, Fair isle, reached by ferry from Sumburgh or daily flights from Tingwall, is legendary, and not just for providing Jimmy with his origins (the name ‘Perez’ , teases Ann Cleeves, is meant to come from an ancestor who was a Spanish sailor, wrecked on the island from the galleon El Gran Grifon). There is also, of course, the knitwear. Did those famous diamond patterns come from Perez’s ancestors?


Sumburgh Head Lighthouse Willow Reeves' hotel in Series Two

Features in the background of many shots, but the wonderful Sumburgh Head visitor Centre masquerades as visiting pathologist Willow Reeves’s hotel lounge in Series Two. In fact, there is luxury self-catering accommodation available within the centre, and you can lounge around like Jimmy and Willow in the Stevenson Centre, enjoying the panoramic views (puffins galore when it’s the season) along with coffee and homebakes.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. Willow's hotel in Series Two


Hillswick, Northmavine Central to the plot of Series Four is the Wildlife Sanctuary at Hillswick in Northmavine - which really exists.

Series Four centres on activities at the Wildlife Sanctuary in Hillswick - and there really is a wildlife sanctuary there, at the ancient Hanseatic trading ‘bod’ known as The Booth. Run by Jan and Pete Bevington, visitors are welcome and there is the possibility of seeing some of the rescued sea mammals the couple care for. The Ness of Hillswick also offers spectacular walks and the St Magnus Bay Hotel is next door to The Booth.

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, as featured in Series Four


Holes o’Scraada and Eshaness Cliffs, Northmavine Crucial to events in both Series Two and Series Three. Several of Shetland's most scenic locations are close together on the Eshaness peninsula.

The Holes o' Scraada is actually a collapsed sea-cave inland from the Eshaness cliffs with a subterranean passage leading to the sea. It has its own beach at the bottom of a steep 'inner cliff' and nearby is a series of old watermills and signs of ancient settlement. On a stormy day, watching the sea come through the underground passage is an unforgettable sight

The Holes o'Scraada and Eshaness is where Michael McGuire meets a grisly end in Series Three


Magnus Bain’s Beach, Northmavine Burnside Beach (Bugger's Burn) and Magnus Bain's cottage, on the road leading up to the Eshaness peninsula

In Series Two (Brian Cox plays Magnus Bain, whose cottage sits (privately owned but derelict) above the red sand of Burnside, also known locally as Bugger's (Bogart's) Burn). There is a fantastic view of the Hillswick Drongs and Breiwick, along with the little-known Heads of Grocken, which offer fantastic walking off the beaten track, and for the brave, access to hidden beaches.

Burnside - a fabulous beach but spookily overshadowed by the derelict Magnus Bain's cottage.


Crofthouse Museum The real-life Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Boddam, Dunrossness, didn’t have to act very hard to become the fictional Crofting Museum in the second series of ‘Shetland’.

Free to enter, and just outside Boddam in the South Mainland, the museum lets visitors step back in time to experience life in a typical thatched 19th century Crofthouse. It has been restored so its interior is a replica of how it looked in the 1870s with box beds, a peat fire and garden path leading to a watermill. Thatched roof and all.

The Shetland Crofthouse Museum is pretending to be The Crofting Museum in Series Two.


St Ninian’s Isle St Ninian’s Isle helped inspire Ann Cleeves’ Dead Water novel and was used for much of the second series of Shetland.

This sand causeway, the UK’s largest active sand tombolo, or double-sided beach, links the South Mainland with the Isle - where the famous St Ninian’s Isle Treasure ( a collection of priceless Pictish silver) was found - and is easily reached from the village of Bigton. Five hundred metres long, this beach, with its unique flat skimming stones and golden sand, was voted as one of the ‘best places to swim’ alongside those in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Australia by the magazine Travel.

St Ninian's Isle - helped inspire Dead Water and is Series Two


Busta House Hotel, Brae Another location used in Series Two of Shetland - and a hotel with its very own ghost, pier and vast selection whiskies.

This former Laird’s House is one of the North Mainland’s top hotels and features in Series Two of ‘Shetland’. Look out for the gargoyles rescued from the Houses of Parliament when they were being refurbished after World War Two bomb damage. There are gardens to explore, the historic Long Room for coffee and memories of Winston Churchill’s visit; there's an atmospheric bar and acclaimed restaurant.

Busta House Hotel, as seen in Series Two and one of the most important old houses in Shetland.


Bressay Easily reached from Lerwick by ferry, Bressay masquerades as Whalsay (as detailed in the book Red Bones) in Series One of ‘Shetland’, as it was easier for the BBC film crew to get there!

Bressay (pronounced Bressah) is a fascinating place and provides, during the summer, access to the uninhabited bird reserve of Noss. It is crucial to providing the shelter Lerwick Harbour depends on, and is the site of an important fish meal factory. The lighthouse keeper's cottage on Bressay is available to rent from the Shetland Amenity Trust for holidays.

Bressay lies just across the harbour from Lerwick and is served by frequent roll-on roll-off ferries.


Whalsay Whalsay - home to the biggest vessels in Shetland's deep-sea fishing fleet, and with its very own Hanseatic booth.

The 'real' Whalsay is reached by ferry from Laxo on the eastern mainland, and is known as the centre of Shetland’s deep-sea fishing fleet and is home to the UK’s most northerly - and truly demanding - golf course, at Skaw. A beautifully-restored Hanseatic trading booth sits at the harbour, near the legendary and very welcoming Boating Club.

Whalsay, which is portrayed by Bressay in the TV series, but is a fascinating destination in its own right.


...and of course there are many other parts of Shetland which feature in 'Shetland'. Including Hamnavoe in Burra, the Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale, the 'Halfway House' at the start of the Lang Kames heading north, the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and Lerwick's Knab Cemetery...

Locations Map

Did you know?

  1. During filming for Series Four, actor Alison O'Donnell (Tosh) was pregnant and so a number of costume alternations and visual tricks were necessary to disguise the fact. She told The Scotsman:

    "Yeah, the costume designer is brilliant… shirts with pleats at the back and things in three sizes, so they fit as I grow. But by the end of filming I was six months pregnant and pretty big so I start sitting down a lot, or I’m holding a folder. Classic stuff",

  2. In Series One, Perez utters the line, while seated on a wall near his home in the Lerwick Lodberries, "on a clear day, you can see Norway." He's joking, of course. Even with the strongest telescope, you can't see over 160 miles. And that lovely story (attributed to the late Jo Grimond, MP) that the nearest railway station is in Bergen, Norway is untrue: Both Thurso and Wick on the Scottish mainland are closer - even to Shetland's northernmost point.

  3. Steven Robertson, who plays Sandy Wilson, left school at 16 and worked milking cows before becoming an actor. He was also a violin maker and 'roadie and nannie' for the band Rock Salt and Nails

    "I was a roadie, but also looked after the children that belonged to the guitarist and keyboard player," he told The Herald. "They were married and had two kids. So, I was the nanny and the drum tech –all-round general gofer."

  4. Douglas Henshall (Jimmy Perez) has said that if he ever writes his autobiography, it will be called 'Inappropriately Dressed'. He told The Herald:

    As an actor you are never, ever wearing the clothes for the weather around you. On occasion I think ‘I’m fed up being cold, man’. But then when the director says, ‘Turn over’ I feel really happy.” Brought up in Barrhead, near Glasgow, the actor has found himself shooting several scenes there, with the Renfrewshire town masquerading as Lerwick.

  5. Shetland may be the most northerly part of the UK but its weather can be surprisingly dry and warm, especially in the long summers with the near-constant daylight known as the simmer dim. Because of this, bad weather had to be manufactured for some scenes during shooting and sprinklers were used to create fake rain.

  6. The series has left its own permanent visual mark on Shetland. The special signs made by TV designers and used to decorate the Wildlife Sanctuary in Series Four have been left in place at the real Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary and can be seen to this day - they have survived the winter gales without a sign of wear or damage.

  7. In the first three seasons of Shetland, there have been a dozen or so murders and that number could soar to 15 by the end of the fourth series, giving the isles a murder rate of 68.2 per 100,000 people — and, if these killings were real, making it 11th on the world’s most deadly places list.

    In fact, Shetland is one of the least violent, safest places on the planet. It is thought there have been only two murders in the last half century.

Shetlanders couldn’t have been nicer or friendlier or more helpful.
Douglas Henshall
as Jimmy Perez

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Life in Shetland: what’s it like?

Shetland has, for many, provided not just great job satisfaction, but a fulfilling and thrilling way of life for them and their families, in a unique island environment:

Welcoming, sociable people

Shetland has a long tradition of local friendship for folk who come to stay on the islands. There’s a real, warm sense of openness, community and belonging, with informal social events, a strong commitment to neighbourliness and a willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ for each other. You’ll always be welcome here.

Vibrant Culture

More than just vikings. Though we do like our winter fire festivals! Shetland is famed worldwide for its folk music traditions, particularly the fiddle, which are alive and flourishing. Art, design and crafts, especially knitting, attract international interest and our literature, theatrical and film making scenes are thriving. As for history - it’s spectacular and we have lots of it!

Clean Seas

Shetland’s North Atlantic and North Sea environment is among the cleanest in the world, offering access to some of the freshest and best seafood you’ll ever taste and unsurpassed opportunities for adventurous ocean play. But we like to keep our stunning, publicly accessible loch angling kind of secret! Wild swimming? There's none wilder.

Nature at its most abundant

The islands offer contrasts, from fertile seaside gardens - and yes, we do have trees - to the arctic tundra of Ronas Hill, the heathery wetlands, soaring cliffs and golden beaches. And the wildlife-viewing opportunities include world-class bird and whale and dolphin watching, seals by the supermarket car park and sometimes otters in your back garden.

Tremendous leisure opportunities

Shetland has thriving and competitive individual and team sports, from football, rugby and hockey to cycling, martial arts and badminton. Thanks to the wise investment of oil industry income, the isles have a phenomenal set of leisure centres for our 22,000 people - eight, all including modern heated swimming pools, gyms and much more. State of the art indoor and outdoor sports pitches too.

Excellent educational and social facilities

Our schools are modern - including the brand new Anderson High School in Lerwick and a range of courses at Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre, both part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. Mareel in Lerwick is an ultra modern cinema, music,recording and performance venue, and a network of community halls covers the island, offering a range of social events. Shetland is famed for its annual festivals, from folk to cinema.
A place where families and individuals can live life to the full.