Douglas Henshall: “When you go somewhere like Shetland, you realise what quiet sounds like”

When he's not playing Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, Henshall likes to explore Shetland on foot

Douglas Henshall, Shetland

What do you enjoy most about filming on Shetland?

The peace and quiet. Living in London you forget how much sensory violence is done to you. When you go somewhere like Shetland, you realise what quiet sounds like.


Did Shetlanders have any reservations about letting the BBC film there?

There had been a TV crew before us who were very patronising so people were understandably wary. Once they realised we weren’t trying to show them as crazy highlanders, they took to us and now they can’t do enough for you.

Can you recommend somewhere to stay?

The Scalloway Hotel is fantastic. That’s where I stay. Peter and Caroline who run the place are fantastic, the rooms are great, the food is really good. Scalloway is really nice and quite picturesque.

If you want somewhere more secluded or if you’ve got a family, then the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse is spectacular. It’s a self-catering place and it’s got the best equipped kitchen I’ve ever seen.

How do you spend your downtime?

Walking. I’ve been going there for six years and I keep discovering new nooks and crannies. I’d recommend St Ninian’s Isle – it’s connected to the mainland by an amazing tombolo beach and the cliffs feel like the edge of the world.

St Ninian's Island
St Ninian’s Island

Have you visited many Scottish isles?

Loads. I think my favourite place in the whole of Scotland is Skye. There’s nowhere like it. It was part of a volcano that erupted and has been edging its way over from America for millennia. That’s why the Black Cuillin mountains look like the dark side of the moon.

Edinburgh or Glasgow?

Glasgow. I grew up in Barrhead, on the outskirts – the centre is only 15 minutes away. All my best memories are around Glasgow, that’s where I started working in the theatre and became an adult.

Glasgow's Clyde Arc bridge (also known as Finnieston and Squinty Bridge)
Glasgow’s Clyde Arc bridge (also known as Finnieston and Squinty Bridge)

How would you spend a Saturday in Glasgow?

I would walk through the Necropolis, go to the Citizens Theatre and eat at Mother India, which is a Glasgow institution.

Glasgow’s restaurant scene has exploded in recent years – do you have a favourite?

Ox and Finch is probably my favourite restaurant in Britain. The staff are really enthusiastic about what they’re doing. It’s not fancy-schmancy – it’s just very clever.

Where else is close to your heart?

I have such warm memories of days out to the seaside town of Largs as a kid. We’d go to the amusements, go to Nardini’s for knickerbocker glories, go out on a little wooden boat, walk along the front, eat fish and chips and then go home.

Where next?

I really want to cycle the North Coast 500 – the road that loops around the far north of Scotland. It goes through the majestic, intimidating mountains of Wester Ross, which get closer and closer and closer and closer until they’re right on top of you.

Shetland is on Tuesdays on BBC1 at 9pm