Shetland, an archipelago located at the farthest reaches of the British Isles, offers an enchanting blend of remote beauty and rich cultural heritage. With over 100 islands (15 of which are inhabited), Shetland presents an array of properties from traditional croft houses to modern seaside properties.

In our regional guide, we delve into the unique charm of Shetland known for its wide-open spaces, awe-inspiring cliffs, abundant wildlife, and vibrant local arts scene. We will provide useful insights for living in Shetland, covering aspects such as local history, landmarks, leisure activities, residential areas, schooling, and transport connections.

History of Shetland

Steeped in history and folklore, Shetland has a rich, Viking past. The islands were inhabited long before the Viking invasions, with the first settlers being the Picts in 3000 BC. However, it was the Vikings who left the most pronounced mark with their influence palpable in place names, local dialect, and festivals like Up Helly Aa. By the 15th Century, Shetland was ceded to Scotland as part of a royal marriage pact. The discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s brought significant economic growth, transforming the islands into a thriving business environment.


Shetland is home to some strikingly unique landmarks. Top on the list is the Mousa Broch, one of the best preserved Iron Age towers in the world. Next, Jarlshof, near Sumburgh Head, is a multi-period archaeological site featuring remnants from the Neolithic period to the 17th century. Last but not least is Eshaness Cliffs, formed by a volcano approximately 350 million years ago, they offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Landmarks we love

  • Scalloway Castle, Scalloway: Built in the 1600s, this impressive castle provides a substantial glimpse into Shetland's turbulent past. Wander around the ruins and feel the sense of history seeping from its walls.
  • Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Sumburgh: This working lighthouse doubles as a popular seabird viewing point and houses a visitor centre chronicling Shetland's natural history.
  • Shetland Museum: Located in Lerwick, it's a must-visit with a wealth of exhibits on local heritage and culture, making it fascinating for both locals and newcomers alike.
  • Clickimin Loch: A leisurely stroll around Clickimin Loch offers calming views, a diverse range of birdlife, and the intriguing Clickimin Broch which is a testament to Shetland's ancient roots.
  • Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village: This archaeological site unravels the mysteries of Iron Age Shetland with an array of excavated artefacts and reconstructed buildings to explore.

Top 10 things to do in Shetland

  • Up Helly Aa: Experience Shetland’s famous Viking fire festival which takes place annually in January. Witness the procession of fiery torches and marvel at the spectacular burning ship finale at this unique celebration.
  • Nature Boat Trips: Embark on a nature boat trip to watch seals, seabirds, and possibly orca whales in their natural habitats.
  • Unst: Visit Britain’s northernmost island, Unst, to explore its pristine beaches, thriving birdlife, scenic walking trails, and the Shetland Pony Stud.
  • Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary: Visit this sanctuary to understand and appreciate the dedicated work being done to care for injured or stranded seals and otters.
  • Shetland Textile Museum: Delve into Shetland’s rich knitting traditions by learning about Shetland lace and Fair Isle patterns at this museum.

Our recommended areas to live in Shetland

  • Lerwick: As Shetland’s capital and main port, Lerwick offers a lively town centre with a mix of modern and traditional housing, reputed schools, excellent healthcare, and diverse leisure facilities.
  • Scalloway: Known for its historic charm and seaside beauty, this former capital has a tight-knit community and a bustling harbourfront. The scenic village offers a peaceful lifestyle with access to local amenities.
  • Brae: Ideally placed for oil industry workers with its proximity to Sullom Voe, Brae has excellent facilities including a high school, leisure centre, and various shops.

Best schools in Shetland

Shetland offers high-performing schools with modern facilities. The Shetland Islands Council runs primary and secondary schools with a good reputation for academic standards. Anderson High School in Lerwick is one of the leading schools in Scotland. It boasts impressive facilities including a well-stocked library, modern classrooms, sports facilities, and a theatre. Shetland College UHI offers further and higher education including degree courses and vocational programs

Transport links in Shetland

With its remote location, Shetland is well served by air and sea connections. Shetland has two airports, Sumburgh and Tingwall, offering regular flights to mainland Scotland and beyond. NorthLink Ferries provide daily overnight services to Aberdeen. Local transportation comprises buses servicing all areas of the mainland with Inter-Island ferries enabling easy commute between islands. Shetlanders usually own cars due to the expansive rural landscape.

In conclusion, Shetland offers an exceptional lifestyle filled with serene beauty, a vibrant community spirit, and a strong sense of history. Calling Shetland home means being part of a supportive community, surrounded by unspoiled nature and enjoying a slower, yet fulfilling pace of life. From great schools and leisure activities to efficient transportation links and a choice of residential areas, Shetland truly is an island paradise waiting to be your new home.

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