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.
Shetland has good air connections with the rest of the UK. There are regular flights to and from several maniland airports which are operated by FlyBe/Loganair.
NorthLink Ferries, Tel. 0845 6000 449, NorthLink Ferries operate the ferry route to Shetland from the Scottish mainland. This daily service sails between Aberdeen and Lerwick and takes 12 hrs. From Aberdeen, a single passenger fare costs from £20.80 and a single car fare costs from £84.70. Cars should be booked in advance.
NorthLink Ferries also operate a ferry that stops in Orkney before traveling onwards to Shetland. Tel. 0845 6000 449 for further details of timetables and prices.
Shetland has around 500 miles of good roads and an extensive public service links Lerwick with all towns.
The main tourist office is in Lerwick. Websites such as www.visitshetland.com and www.shetland-tourism-co.uk carries links to events, transport, accommodation and local operators.
Getting around Shetlands
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).
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.
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