A quick introduction
Bressay shelters Lerwick harbour from the North Sea and for many centuries Bressay Sound has been a port of refuge for shipping, since long before Lerwick was founded in the 17th century.
Vikings landed on Bressay in the 800s, taking shelter in the shallow inlets of Leira Voe, which translates as 'muddy creek'. A few centuries later, in the 1400s, the Dutch used Bressay as their main harbour. Each June, up to 2,000 busses (twin-masted fishing boats) would visit Bressay Sound for the herring fishery. It was said that at times you could cross from Bressay to the Mainland by stepping from boat to boat.
The success of the herring fishery saw Lerwick establish itself as Shetland's main town, succeeding Scalloway as the islands' capital. While Lerwick's population grew, Bressay remained a rural community. Today, it is home to around 360 people.
Noss, meanwhile, is thought to be a relatively new island. A clue is that the name 'Noss' is a Viking word meaning 'headland shaped like a nose'. If it had been an island when the Vikings arrived in the 9th century they would certainly have called it 'Nossay' - 'island shaped like a nose'.
The island has been settled by people for at least 4,000 years and has considerable archaeological interest. Today it is uninhabited except during the summer when wardens live on the island.
How to get to Bressay and Noss
The Bressay ferry sails from Albert Buildings in the centre of Lerwick every hour, with later sailings scheduled on Friday and Saturday nights. See the ferry services website for a full timetable.
There are two ways to experience Noss: excursion boat from Lerwick or the ferry from Bressay.
A boat trip is the best way to view most of the seabird nesting sites at close range (and the only way when the island is closed to visitors) but it doesn't include a landing on Noss. Wheelchair users are welcome on many of the boats which operate excursions, taking guests safely into the coves, right alongside the lower cliff ledges and, in calm weather, into the Cave of Noss. Find out more on our Trips and Tours page.
Or, if you're on Bressay, you can take the three-minute Noss Sound ferry, which operates Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (weather and sea conditions permitting) from May to late August. The ferry to Noss only operates on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (weather and sea conditions permitting) from May to late August. Booking is essential and you should call 07774 160931 to make a reservation. Please note that the booking line is only open Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm.
You can book a slot to take you onto the island from 10am to 12pm. There is no need to book a return slot – but you must be off the island by 5pm. To avoid disappointment, you should call the Noss Information Line (+44 (0)800 107 7818) on the morning of your booked trip to confirm that the ferry is running. Please note, the inflatable boat is not suitable for dogs.
Where to stay
Bressay has a hotel and a range of self-catering accommodation available to book. There is no accommodation available on Noss.