Shetland Islands Anyone?

May 6th, 2017, 12:47 PM
  #1  
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Shetland Islands Anyone?

Hello Scotland experts,

Last year I got great Highlands advice here for a trip we never took. Am hoping you'll indulge me again as I still haven't gotten Scotland out of my head.

I'm reviving my Scotland plan and shifting to a solo trip mostly for hiking (moderate difficulty), island life with nature and scenery, and wildlife. (So no golf, whiskey or fancy country inns required.)

I've found some vacancy at two Shetland hotels for early July (most are fully booked already). This is the timeframe I hope for. I could take up to 12 days or so as needed.

Any experience with Shetland? Can I get by without renting a car?

The hotels Ive found are in Scalloway and Sumburgh.

I could be persuaded elsewhere in Scotland that may be easier to reach from NYC metro area but when I look at photos, Shetland feels right.

Thanks for bearing with more questions from me.
gruezi is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 12:59 PM
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Watch Shetland on Netflix.
Bedar is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 02:02 PM
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It's been a long time, but good on ya.

Definitely Scalloway and not Sumburgh. Sumburgh is at the extreme south end of the main island, Mainland, and basically there isn't much more there than the airport. You'd be a long way from everything else. Scalloway, on the other hand is much better located, close to Lerwick (the main town) and the northern part of Mainland, as well as bridges over to a couple of the other islands.

You'll definitely want a car. Everything is quite spread out and the weather comes sideways; it's not a place to wait outside for a rare bus to come along.

As much or more as anyplace in Scotland, Shetland merits some solid research before you visit. It's a unique place, as much Norwegian as Scottish, and the Shetlanders are insanely proud of their independence. The story of the islands since oil was discovered in the North Sea is remarkable - they took on (and arguably beat) the big oil companies in terms of local benefit from multinational industry without overly sacrificing their fishing industry or their way of life. To get a glimpse of that lifestyle, google "Up-Helly-Aa," Shetland's midwinter fire festival.

You'll also want to be sure your accommodations come with blackout curtains. In July it simply doesn't get dark; you're at the same latitude as much of Alaska.

12 days might be a bit much; you might combine Shetland with the Orkney Islands, or any of the main Scottish cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen. Note there's a ferry that goes overnight from Aberdeen to Shetland if you don't want to fly. Flights operate from all three of those airports and from Inverness via Orkney.
Gardyloo is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 02:05 PM
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I've always wanted to visit the Shetland islands, and Gardyloo has just made it seem necessary to my well-being.
bvlenci is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 02:12 PM
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Gardyloo has given you great advice. Deffinitely ditto to >>12 days might be a bit much; you might combine Shetland with the Orkney Islands, or any of the main Scottish cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen. <<

With 12 days total I'm assuming 10 days on the ground -- right? I would seriously consider something like 4 days for Shetland and 4-ish for Orkney. You'll want cars for both but especially for Shetland. And two days for Edinburgh.

If you mean 12 days on the ground, then I'd maybe squeeze in 2 days in Aberdeenshire.
janisj is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 03:02 PM
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Probably for the first time, I'm going to have to strongly disagree with Gardloo in regard to his comment that there really is 't much more there than the airport. One of the largest and most impressive archaeological ( prehistoric ) sites Jarlshof is within walking distance to Sumburgh. It is certainly impressive. The ruins date from the Stone Age to the 17th century. There is a visitor centre and museum. Sumburgh is also the location of a lighthouse built by Robert Stevenson although I don't believe it's open to the public. By walking along the coastline from Jarlshof up to the lighthouse, you can see otters, seals and when I was there plenty of puffins as well as almost every kind of sea bird that frequents this area. There are fairly frequent buses to/ from Lerwick.

If you want to be a bit adventurous, take the ferry from Sumburgh to Fair Isle. I fell in love with this place when i was there. It's the scene of several of Ann Cleve's books. The island measures about 1 mile by 3 miles. It's isolated and very beautiful. A place for some nice walks and the people are wonderful. I will admit that getting to/ from the island can be tricky as weather can affect ferry crossing ( small ferry ) as welll as flights ( small plane only a few passengers ). There are a coup,e of places to stay. I would not recommend it as a day trip!

Renting a car willl be the eaiedt way to get around but there is a bus system to some areas. I've always found that taxi companies in these places are very good about taking you where you want to go too.

BTW, how do you plan on getting there? Ferry or flight?
historytraveler is online now  
May 6th, 2017, 03:09 PM
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Really do need to proof read. In my first sentence, I'm referring to Gardyloo's comment about Sumburgh. I also want to make a plug for visiting the island of Mousa and the Mousa Broch. A nice place for walking too. Then there's St. Ninian's Isle. You can walk to the island from Bigton. Really there's plenty to keep you busy on the South Mainland.
historytraveler is online now  
May 6th, 2017, 03:33 PM
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Yeah, sorry; my comment sounded pretty dismissive, but I should clarify that I meant that Sumburgh wouldn't be my choice for a long stay, not that it should be ignored. And for sure, Fair Isle or Mousa Broch (and Foula for that matter) are still on my bucket list, but they're not easy places to get to. I think staying someplace closer to Lerwick, and having a car, would allow for plenty of options.
Gardyloo is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 03:51 PM
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I thought perhaps the poster was planning on dividing up their time between the two places. Certainly, Lerwick would be the best choice if staying in one place and there is availability.
historytraveler is online now  
May 6th, 2017, 05:15 PM
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I have no advice, gruezi, but I'm cheering you on!
GinnyJo is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 08:18 PM
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Thanks for all this help already.

Yes, I was thinking of splitting my time in the two locations. It looked to me as though Sumburgh did have some local attractions including Jarlshof. I'm also interested in the Stevensons and lighthouses so would surely make a point to stop there even if one could not go inside.

I'm actually glad to hear 10 days would be enough. I do not want to move around too often but would be interested in Orkney as another stop. If so, thoughts on a central area to base myself there?

Many thanks!
gruezi is offline  
May 6th, 2017, 08:42 PM
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For Orkney, Kirkwall is the best place to stay.
historytraveler is online now  
May 7th, 2017, 04:52 AM
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This might help you with orkney http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-in-orkney.cfm this was our second visit and while there are buses there are few, on our previous visit we did take ferries to much smaller islands and hire bikes at the "port" to ride around.
bilboburgler is offline  
May 7th, 2017, 07:14 AM
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Thanks for the Orkney tips!
gruezi is offline  
May 7th, 2017, 11:21 AM
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historytraveler - do you remember where you stayed on Fair Isle?
gruezi is offline  
May 7th, 2017, 11:42 AM
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I was there during 3/4 hour stop while on a National Geographic tour. We used zodiacs to get from our ship to shore. I became very interested in Fair Isle and subscribed to their local newsletter for several years and kept in touch via a blog. Several years ago, I planned another trip but was unable to make it.

There are two places I'd recommend. The Bird Observatory takes visitors. It's maintained by a young couple and their two daughters. This would be my first choice. Then there's the Old Laird's house where Tommy has two rooms he rents out. Meals are provided at both places as there are no restaurants or pubs on the island. I'll check websites for you and repost.
historytraveler is online now  
May 7th, 2017, 12:03 PM
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Thanks historytraveler. There is also lodging at the south lighthouse that looked interesting. The ferry is under three hours but of course isn't reliable given the weather. Some people go for 5 days or a week but I think it is a little too remote for even me for that long. I was thinking of one overnight.
gruezi is offline  
May 7th, 2017, 12:08 PM
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Here is the website for the Bird Observatory which rents rooms etc. www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk It also provides a lot of information on Fair Isle. Another good website is fair-isle.blogspot.com This website gives an up close and personal perspective on Fair Isle. Tommy who manages the website offers a couple of rooms at the Auld Haa, the former laird's house which is owned by the National Trust of Scotland and is a registered historic building. If interested in Fair Isle knitting which the island is famous for, have a look at Mati Ventrilon's website. She does absolutely beautiful things. www.mativentrillon.co.uk
historytraveler is online now  
May 7th, 2017, 12:22 PM
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If you visit Orkney and have a corner somewhere in your home or a fireplace where you like to sit, maybe splurge for an Orkney chair (with a hood and a drawer preferably.) Nothing short of wonderful IMO.

Examples, there are several makers -
http://www.scapacrafts.co.uk
http://www.orkney-chair.co.uk/
Gardyloo is offline  
May 7th, 2017, 12:29 PM
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I agree Gardyloo. I looked at them the last time I was there. They are unique and even comfortable. I'll be there again in June and will have another look. May have to bite the bullet and splurge a bit. They also do some very nice jewelry on Orkney.
historytraveler is online now  

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