Lerwick to Scalloway
This tour begins in Lerwick, where visitors start the experience by driving to Scalloway via the north or south road. We will pass Tesco and Clickimin Broch on the south road before joining the A970 heading south. At Gulberwick (three miles from the town centre), turn right on to the B9073 towards Scalloway and follow the road signs for a further three miles until you reach the village of Scalloway.
Scalloway is the former capital of Shetland – although the ‘welcome’ sign will tell you it’s the ‘ancient capital’. This is a fallacy. Scalloway was the administrative capital of Shetland until fairly recent times (1838), when Lerwick overtook it as the islands’ economic – and legislative – centre.
Scalloway is on the west coast and was a natural choice for a settlement. Sheltered from the wild North Atlantic, the village sits at the foot of a fertile limestone valley. It has a wide, natural harbour, is close to rich fishing grounds, and has a good supply of fresh drinking water. Scalloway has been inhabited since Neolithic times and is only a mile or so from the Viking and Norse parliament site, or Ting site, in the Tingwall Valley.
Today Scalloway is a picturesque and welcoming village with a population of about 1,200. The village is a thriving fishing centre and has excellent local amenities, including a school, swimming pool, shops, cafes, and a fascinating museum.
As you come into Scalloway, you’ll see that the skyline is dominated by the roofless ruin of the Scalloway Castle. This is our first filming location, a key stage for the unfolding drama of series five that saw a ring of people trafficking engulf the islands’. The castle played backdrop when a then suspended Sandy discovered the suspected murderer as he guided school children around the historic site. Of course, a fight and chase ensued, leading to the harbour and one of the local fishing boats.
Scalloway Castle is one of only two substantial castles in Shetland, and it has played host to its very own infamous villain from times past. Scalloway Castle was completed around 1600 and built by tyrant Earl Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney & Lord of Zetland [Shetland]. Earl Patrick, known as ‘Black Patie’, was detested in Shetland, and despite spending much of his reign in Orkney, he retained residences in Shetland, including Scalloway Castle. This was a time of great suffering, punctuated by oppression and harsh, iron-fisted rule. Many of the stories of Black Patie are veiled with sinister speculations, and it isn’t easy to decipher what’s true and what’s legend. Yet his name has gone down in history, and he’s often pegged as one of the most wicked villains in Shetland’s history. Scalloway Castle was used as the county court from 1600 until the early 1800s when powers moved to Lerwick (before this, the Ting site in Tingwall was used).
Park the car at the Scalloway Museum and spend a few hours exploring the castle and museum. The Scalloway Museum is located beside the castle and has fascinating displays about the Shetland Bus Operation. The Shetland Bus was one of the main threads of the plot in series one; ultimately, the murder is linked to the Shetland Bus, an event dating to the Second World War.
Scalloway was the base for the Shetland Bus operation throughout the Second World War. The village continues to celebrate its Norwegian ties and is still a place of great importance for those who had family members involved in the dangerous operation.
In 1940, Nazi troops invaded Norway, and from that moment until the war ended in 1945, Shetland became central to the resistance movement. The Shetland Bus operation involved small wooden fishing boats that plied across the North Sea in winter, under cover of darkness, carrying refugees from Nazi-occupied Norway and supplying weapons and agents to assist with the resistance movement within Norway.
For the greater part of the war, this operation was conducted from Scalloway, a quieter base than Lerwick with a slipway for carrying out essential repairs to the boats. A dangerous and daring operation, ships often sank. The Shetland Bus Memorial – found along the village’s Main Street, outside the Church of Scotland – commemorates those lost to the Nazis and the North Sea.
After you’ve seen the castle, museum and war memorial, continue along the street towards Prince Olav Slipway, where you’ll see the base of the operation, where boats were repaired before they made the perilous crossing back to Norway.
After lunch, make your way back towards the pier (beside the castle and museum) and have a walk around the area. Scalloway has an excellent natural harbour and is the main fish landing port on the west of Shetland. Scalloway’s new state-of-the-art fish market opened in 2020, and it’s in the fish market’s vicinity that many of the scenes of series five were filmed. One of the local fishing boats was used when filming scenes investigating people trafficking – it was a local boat that also provided the getaway after Sandy’s altercation in the castle.