An archipelago of islands, the Shetlands are around 160 km (100 mi) north east of Scotland’s mainland and their total area is 1,468 km2 (~567 mi2). The islands have a unique mix of Scottish and Scandinavian cultures. Only 16 of them are inhabited, the majority residing on the largest island, Mainland.
Located in the track of Atlantic Depressions the islands have long, mild winters and short cool summers, with very little variation in temperature. Being so far north, it has up to 19 hours of daylight on summer days.
There are several nature reserves on Shetland with outstanding bird watching at Sumburgh Head, home to thousands of nesting sea birds including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes. Boat trips to Noss, a small rocky island, make for a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle as gannets and great skuas dive-bomb into the sea in search of fish. Boats trips are also available to go whale watching, and on a walk around the Island, a chance to see seals and otters at play.
Shetland holds many opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and diving. In winter, there are many fire festivals, dating back to Viking times. The most famous of these is Up Helly Aa, a superb 24-hour celebration of Shetland culture with Viking costumes, processions, music, dancing which all culminates of the burning of a replica longship on the shore.
The islands are rich in prehistoric sites and beyond; and there are in the region of 5,000 archaeological sites of interest altogether.
Catch the ferry from Aberdeen in mainland Scotland to Lerwick, the capital and main port of the Shetlands, or fly into Sumburgh airport. Local ferries also operate between islands.