Sports and Leisure

With a huge range of facilities, clubs and training opportunities, plus endless open space and fresh air, Shetland is a sportsperson's paradise

When it comes to sports and recreation, Shetland’s got it covered. With six leisure centres, eight swimming pools, four golf courses, sports pitches, tennis courts, football, netball and rugby leagues and a thriving network of clubs and trainers in just about any sport you fancy, Shetland is unrivalled in sport and leisure provision.

Whether you’re taking advantage of our long summer days to exercise outdoors, or using one of the many sport and leisure facilities that dot the isles, Shetland is a great place to get be active.

Facilities

The high level of sports provision across the isles just shows how seriously Shetlanders take sport. Shetland Recreational Trust operates eight leisure facilities, spread across four islands, each with an impressive array of clubs, classes, equipment and training opportunities.

There are six main leisure centres, located in Lerwick (Clickimin), Aith in west Mainland, Brae in north Mainland, and in the islands of Yell, Unst, and Whalsay. Each contains a swimming pool with comfortable family changing facilities, and indoor courts for badminton, netball, squash and football, as well as a gym containing state-of-the-art cardiovascular and weight training equipment, overseen by friendly and experienced trainers.

The larger centres, such as Clickimin and West Mainland (Aith), have extra facilities such as health suites (featuring saunas and steam rooms), climbing walls, trampolines and carpet bowls.

The gyms are well equipped, and you only need a short induction to start using them. Clickimin also offers the chance to have your fitness assessed for free by a qualified instructor, who can also put together a tailor-made exercise programme to suit your goals and abilities.

The leisure centres each have at least one outdoor pitch for hire (Clickimin has several, as well as an all-weather pitch). There are also community pitches in various locations, maintained by local organisations – you’re never far from one!

The centres host a wild variety of different activities- spinning, rollerskating, and archery to name but a few, with courts available to rent at your leisure. Shetland Recreational Trust offers a whole range of fitness classes, from Aqua-Zumba and Fatburn Extreme to Senior Spinning and the high-intensity Metafit.

In addition, there are also two dedicated swimming pool facilities, found in Scalloway, in central Mainland, and Sandwick, in the south end of the islands, both running a varied programme of lessons and classes, from family friendly fun sessions to adults only swims. They are also very popular locations for parties!

Football

Football is the most popular team sport, managed by the 99-year-old Shetland Football, the UK’s most northerly football association. A dozen teams from all across Shetland play in two leagues, with nearly 10 cups and shields to play for.

As well as the local scene, Shetland Football manages the Shetland county team, which represents the isles in the bi-annual Island Games and the annual intercounty matches against Orkney- a friendly sporting rivalry which stretches back a hundred years.

In addition, there is a thriving ‘works’ league’ of workplace-related teams, and nearly 20 local football associations, which run five-a-side and junior teams and leagues in all corners of the isles, so wherever you are, you’ll be able to find a kick-about.

Netball

Netball is another of Shetland’s most popular sports, with 21 teams playing in a league run by Shetland Ladies’ Netball Association. The SLNA also organised the Shetland Netball Squad for matches in the annual Scottish Cup, as well as the Island Games and the traditional intercounty against Orkney.

There are also netball clubs in Aith, Unst, and Whalsay, along with the Shetland Junior Netball Development group, which promotes and organises the sport amongst young people in the isles, with under-13 and under-15 leagues, and coach and umpire development training also available.

Rugby

Rugby is one of Shetland’s oldest sports, with Shetland Rugby Club starting up in 1878. Shetland Rugby organises teams and leagues for men, women and juniors, as well as training new players and running the Shetland squad for intercounty and national fixtures.

Women’s rugby is increasingly popular, with teams for over-18s, under-18s and under-16s.

Their Fair Isle-inspired strips are real head-turners, too.

Sports

There’s a good chance you’ll find your sport in Shetland- from football to clay-target shooting, Shetland has something for you whether you’re an experienced practitioner or looking to get started.

Racquet-sports are very common, with badminton, squash and short tennis courts in most of the leisure centres (where you can also rent equipment), 14 multicourts and a beautiful open-air tennis court in the Jubilee Flower Park.

Martial arts are well catered for, with fencing, karate, kung-fu, tai-chi, MMA (mixed martial-arts) and even medieval armoured combat all available to seasoned pros and beginners. More studio-based sports include a range of yoga classes and clubs, jazzercise and even vertical fitness.

Fencing

The Shetland Fencing Club offers a fast-paced but slightly more genteel combat sport for the last 30 years. Affiliated with Scottish Fencing, the club runs regular sessions in Clickimin, as well as satellite sessions in various areas. There are Shetland-based competitions and the fencing team travel to national events, as well as an annual Summer School in Orkney. Open to beginners and veterans, can provide training and equipment to get you started.

Swimming

Shetlanders are passionate swimmers- and very good at it! Shetland regularly brings home trophies and medals from intercounty, national and even international competitions. With swimming clubs in every area of Shetland with a pool (and a couple without — just use the sea!), swimming is popular with all ages, and all levels of ability. The Shetland Swimming Association acts as an overall body to organise interaction between all the clubs and arrange Shetland’s participation in the off-island events.

Sporty Kids

There are also plenty of opportunities for children and young people to stay active with a wealth of classes and clubs for just about every sport, from toddlers to teenagers.

There are football classes, dance classes, trampolining, gymnastics, baton-twirling, roller discos, as well as soft play facilities at Clickimin and Islesburgh Community Centre, mini-golf in the flower park, and an astonishing 74 play areas across the isles.

Many of the adult sports associations, such as football and rugby, organise training, and children and young people’s leagues, too.

Even babies can get in on the fun, with a number of activities aimed at young toddlers such as Gym Tots, Baby Gym and Peerie kickers.

Holidays are a great time for kids to get involved with the activities for all age groups at the leisure centres. There’s an incredible amount of holiday activities, including bouncy castles, pool inflatables, junior athletics and diving, as well as taster sessions for a number of sports such as football and dodgeball.

Shetland Islands Council also operates the Active Schools programme. This is part of a national framework run by Sports Scotland that lets kids try a wide variety of sports, so they’re bound to find something they can get their teeth into. With over 2,000 sessions across Shetland per year, Active Schools has been a great success, with 58% of children in Shetland taking part and trying new things.

Cycling

Shetland is a great place to cycle, with hundreds of miles of picturesque routes through town and country, and with friendly and careful local drivers. Shetland Wheelers, the UK’s most northerly cycling club, associated with the bodies British Cycling and Scottish Cycling. Supporting cyclists of all abilities, the group also organises time trials, charity cycles, and competitive cycling at various events across the UK and beyond.

Athletics

In addition to a number of athletics classes and clubs for young children, Shetland Amateur Athletics is the main body for the sport in the isles. The assosciation runs training for under-11s up to under-20s, adults and seniors (always welcoming new members), a number of large events (such as cross countries and the Simmer Dim Half-Marathon) and participation in the intercounty and Island Games contests.

The Island Games

The biennial Island Games are an international sporting contest for a number of European island communities. The first games, held on the Isle of Man in 1985, saw 700 atheles from 15 islands compete; in the 2017 games, over 2,300 athletes from 23 islands travelled to Gotland in Sweden to represent their isles. Shetland hosted in the Games in 2005, a fantastic success that saw 1,600 athletes come to the isles that summer. Essentially the Olympics for Islands, with athletes competing in 14 sports, including archery, judo, shooting and gymnastics.

In Gotland 2017, the Shetland team, managed by the Shetland Island Games Association, brought home 14 medals including 4 gold. Dozens of athletes are currently training for the 2019 games, which will be held in Gibraltar.

Getting Outdoors

With long summer evenings and incredible scenery, outdoor sport is incredibly rewarding in Shetland. Equestrianism has a large following, with several riding clubs that cater for all types, from youngsters learning on iconic Shetland Ponies, to experienced riders on unique and beautiful Icelandic Horses.

Horses aren’t for everyone; motocross is a high-octane way to take in the air, or parkour, if you’d rather stay in town.

Running enjoys significant popularity on the isles; you can hardly go down the road without seeing someone out for a jog! You can rent the outdoor running track at Clickimin, or head out on the road with Shetland’s large community of runners to see the sights. There are several fun runs, half-marathons and 5ks to keep you in practice, and a huge amount of amazing routes through the stunning landscape to take for an unforgettable run.

If your sporting tastes are a little more relaxed, you might want to hit the links and play some golf instead. Shetland can provide, with three clubs, two 18-hole and one nine-hole golf courses (plus a pitch and put). During the summer months the long hours of daylight, known locally as ‘Simmer Dim’ mean there are even opportunities to get a round in at midnight. All the clubs are incredibly picturesque and open to new memberships, with very reasonable fees compared to the mainland.

Bowls are a great way to enjoy the summer sun, with an immaculate bowling green in the Jubilee Flower Park open to both Bowling Club members and non-members all summer.

The Inter County

Everybody needs a friendly rival, and Shetland is no exception. Shetland’s southern neighbour, Orkney, provides a great opportunity for the two island communities to go head-to-head in a whole manner of sporting events. Most sports, in fact, will have an inter county contest (usually annually) against Orkney, and this is often the highlight of that sport’s calendar.

Useful Links and Information

  • Shetland Recreational Trust manage the 8 leisure centres and pools across the island, and host a wide range of classes, clubs and competitions - for anyone with an interest in sport their website is an essential source of information.
  • The Shetland Community Directory lists the names and contact details for a whole range of clubs and societies, from Archery through to Yoga. If you're wondering if Shetland has something for your sport or activity, this is the ideal place to find out!
  • Shetland Islands Council also manage a sports development programme, supporting atheletes, trainers and clubs across the islands.
  • In addition to the facilities available through Shetland Recreational Trust, there are a whole range of private clubs and facilities providing a range of services, from horse riding, to personal training. Details of these can be found in the Shetland Community Directory, or via the Shetland Times commercial directory.
  • Sport Scotland is the national body for sports development in Scotland. Their website has lots of resources about sports facilities and opportunities in Shetland, including where to find your sport, or how to access funding and training for development

Getting Wet

With 8 swimming pools and 2700 km of coastline, there’s plenty of water to go around. There are 9 swimming clubs with members young and old, and a vibrant (and brave!) community of sea-swimmers and surfers that take advantage of the clean seas.

Coasteering is a popular activity that really gets you up-close and personal with Shetland’s wild side. Scrambling up and along the rocks and cliffs of the coast, plunging into the crystal-clear waters and exploring the caves and inlets; coasteering is unforgettable fun.

If you’d rather be on that water than in it, kayaking and canoeing are great and leisurely ways to experience the isles. Rowing (for men and women) is a slightly more physical way to get out on the water, too, with several clubs across the isles if you want to row for competition, or just to keep fit. If you’d prefer a larger boat...

Setting Sail

With such a rich nautical history, it’s not surprising that Shetlanders love to sail. Enthusiasts are spoilt for choice; there are over 10 sailing clubs, several marinas and a number of regattas for you to drop anchor at. Young sailors are particularly lucky, with sail training available with most of the sailing clubs and Sea Scouts, as well as the locally-owned training vessel, The Swan, which regularly takes trainee sailors on incredible journeys across the sea.

And even in the unlikely event you can’t find the sport of your choice- you can always start it yourself! There’s no limit to the sporting opportunities in Shetland, and nowhere better to be active.

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