Scalloway, Shetland's ancient capital, lies at the heart of the area known as Central Mainland, which covers Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale, and for the purposes of this guide, the islands of Trondra and Burra.

A quick introduction

The Central Mainland is lush, fertile and steeped in history.

The village of Scalloway (meaning 'the bay of the booths') was Shetland's ancient capital until 1708. Today, it is the second biggest settlement on the Mainland after Lerwick.

In Norse times, Scalloway was the landing place for delegates attending Shetland's annual parliament or 'Ting', held on the Lawting Holm in Tingwall Loch, two miles north of the village.

West of Tingwall lie the communities of Whiteness and Weisdale. Whiteness' main feature is the long, narrow peninsula that gives the area its name. From the main road, there are spectacular views over Whiteness, Strom Ness and the islands that lie beyond.

The main road continues northwards through Weisdale, another of the valleys that run north to south through the Central Mainland. The view is dominated to the west by the steep slopes of Weisdale Hill but mellowed by Shetland's largest tree plantations at Kergord, towards the north end.

South of Scalloway are the islands of Trondra and Burra, accessible by car bridge. Trondra is a long, sparsely populated island which you pass through on to the way to Burra. Burra is, in fact, two islands, East Burra and West Burra; again, joined by a bridge.

The main settlement in West Burra is the village of Hamnavoe with its pretty harbour, boat marina and fishermen's cottages. East Burra is more sparsely populated but has plenty of attractions, including arts and crafts studios, horse riding and Shetland's only wallabies!

How to get to the Central Mainland

This area of Shetland is easily accessible by car. There are also regular public bus services to Scalloway and Burra (services 4 and 5) and to Tingwall and Weisdale (follow the routes to the West Mainland). See the ZetTrans website for more details.

Where to stay

There are plenty of self-catering and bed and breakfast accommodation options for visitors in the Central Mainland. See our Accommodation page for a list of useful websites. There's also Nesbister camping bod in Whiteness and Bridgend Outdoor Centre and Caravan Park at Bridge End, Burra.

Useful information
  • There are grocery shops at Scalloway, Hamnavoe, Whiteness and Weisdale.
  • There are fuel pumps at Burra and Weisdale.
  • There are public toilets at Hamnavoe and Meal beach in Burra and at Scalloway on the seafront.
  • There are moorings for boats at Hamnavoe and Bridge End in Burra and at Scalloway.

Things to do

Scalloway Museum

This is a fantastic little museum telling the history of Scalloway from its early settlers right up to the present day. The highlight is the story of the Shetland Bus, the clandestine wartime resistance movement between Shetland and Norway. There's also a well stocked gift shop, cosy cafe and toilet facilities.

Scalloway Castle

Looming large over the village of Scalloway is its iconic castle. Built for Earl Patrick Stewart, earl of Orkney and Shetland, who was notorious for his oppression of the people of Shetland, it's a fine example of a late 1500s tower house. The castle is situated next to the museum and is unlocked when the museum is open. Access is free.

Explore Burra's beaches

Burra has two beautiful sandy beaches, Meal in West Burra and Minn in East Burra. Meal beach is particularly popular with families as it's easily accessible and has a car park and toilet facilities, not to mention a gentle slope to the sea – ideal for paddling. Minn, meanwhile, is at the southernmost end of West Burra, set along the west side of a stunning tombolo leading out to the Kettla Ness peninsula. The peninsula beyond the beach gives enjoyable walking above a wild coastline. See our Beaches page for more information.

Easthouse Crofthouse

Run by the Burra History Group, this is a wonderfully restored croft house at Papil in East Burra. The croft houses a heritage exhibition showcasing the history of Burra and its people. Easthouse is also available to hire for events at a reasonable rate. Read more on the Shetland Heritage website.

Burland Croft Trail

If you want to experience what a working croft in Shetland is like, then Burland Croft on Trondra is the place to go. Popular with families and school trips, you'll get the chance to meet native Shetland breeds of sheep, cows and ponies, as well as other farm animals. The croft also has a restored watermill and herb rich pasture. See the croft's Facebook page for more details.

Golf at Asta

Between Scalloway and Tingwall in the Tingwall Valley is a nine-hole golf course at Asta. It's a picturesque spot with the chance to spot plenty of wildlife as you play. See our Golf page for more details.

Woodland walks at Kergord

Shetland isn't known for its trees so the woodland at Kergord is a real delight. Most of the trees were planted at the beginning of the 20th century and include sycamore, alder, whitebeam, horse chestnut, birches, holly, laurel, Japanese larch, rowan and copper beech, plus some spruce and pine. Find out more about this area in our Woodland Walk blog. For more walks, in the Central Mainland, see our Walking section.

Loch fishing

There are plenty of freshwater lochs in this area for trout fishing. The lochs of Tingwall and Asta are almost joined together and are popular with local anglers. If you are keen on walking, the chain of hill lochs to the west of Tingwall makes an enjoyable day out. See our Angling page for more information on fishing permits and places to go.

Bonhoga Gallery

Bonhoga (which means 'my spirtual home' in Shetland dialect) is an art gallery, cafe and gift shop housed in Weisdale Mill, a picturesque watermill on land cleared for sheep farming in the 19th century. The upstairs gallery showcases works from Shetland-based artists and craftmakers, as well as touring exhibitions from national and interationally-renowned artists.

Read more about this area