Shetland is so far removed from the rest of Scotland it can only be shown as an inset on maps. In fact, it is easier and quicker to get there from Norway than it is from London. This seems entirely appropriate, for Shetland is historically and culturally closer to Scandinavia than Britain. Many of its place-names are of Norse origin, and people here still celebrate ancient Viking festivals, such as Up Helly-Aa.
Modern-day visitors tend to come by plane rather than longboat, and usually bring binoculars, for Shetland is a birdwatchers' paradise. It is home to countless bird species, many of them seeking refuge from the madding crowds. And, let's face it, there's no better place than here to get away from it all.
Travel Directions to Around Lerwick
Getting to Shetland
Air Shetland has good air connections with the rest of the UK. There are regular flights to and from several mainland airports which are operated by British Airways' franchise partners Loganair and British Regional Airlines, Tel. 08457-733377. Shetland's main airport is at Sumburgh 25 miles south of Lerwick, Tel. 01950-460654. There are direct daily flights from Aberdeen (4 Mon-Fri; 2 on Sat and Sun), which has frequent services to all other major British airports. There are also direct flights from Glasgow (daily), Edinburgh (daily except Sun), London Heathrow (daily), Inverness (Mon-Fri), Orkney (daily except Sun), Wick (Mon-Sat) and Belfast (daily except Sat). There are also international flights to and from Bergen and Oslo (Norway) on Thu and Sun.
Flying to Shetland is expensive. From Aberdeen a special return fare costs £110-180, and a standard one-way ticket is around £125. A special tourist fare of £80-90 return is available between Orkney and Shetland.
Boat P&O Scottish Ferries, Tel. 01224-572615, www.poscottishferries.co.uk, operate car ferries to Lerwick from Aberdeen and Stromness (Orkney). There are sailings from Aberdeen once a day Mon-Fri; the journey takes 14 hrs. Passenger fares for a seat with no accommodation cost from £58 one-way (return costs double), depending on the times of year. Cars cost from £179-188 return. Children aged 4-14 travel for half price and under 4s go free. There are also ferries from Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Isles.
Air There is a regular scheduled inter-island service from Tingwall Airport near Lerwick, with Loganair, Tel. 01595-840246, to the islands of Foula (£42 return), Fair Isle (£74 return), Papa Stour (£32 return) and Out Skerries (£36 return).
Boat There are regular daily car ferries between Lerwick and Bressay (5 mins), East Mainland and Whalsay (30 mins), North Mainland and Yell(20 mins), Yell and Unst (10 mins), and Yelland Fetlar (25 mins). Fares on all these routes are £1.20 per passenger and £2.90 per car. There's a less frequent car ferry service between East Mainland and Skerries (Mon, Fri, Sat and Sun; 1 hr 30 mins), and Lerwick and Skerries (Tue and Thu; 2 hrs 30 mins). Fares on these routes are £2.10 per passenger and £2.90 per car. Bookings are essential. There's also a passenger/cargo ferry service between West Mainland and Papa Stour (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun; 40 mins), West Mainland and Foula (Tue, Sat and alternate Thu; 2 hrs), Scalloway and Foula (alternate Thu; 3 hrs), South Mainlandand Fair Isle (Tue, Sat and alternate Thu; 2 hrs 30 mins), and Lerwick and Fair Isle (alternate Thu; 4 € hrs). Fares on these routes are £2.20 for an adult single and bookings are also essential.
Road Shetland has around 500 miles of good roads, and an extensive public bus service links Lerwick with all towns, villages and tourist sights. There are several bus operators. For detailed information on all bus services, call Tel. 01595-694100 (Mon-Sat 0900-1715). A Shetland Transport Timetable, published by Shetland Islands Council, contains details of all air, sea and bus services throughout the islands. It is available from the tourist office in Lerwick.
The best way to explore the islands is with your own private car. It is cheaper to hire a car in Lerwick rather than at the airport. Cycling is a good way to experience the islands, though most places are very exposed and the winds can be strong. Hitching is also a feasible way to get around and is relatively safe