Where is BBC crime drama Shetland filmed?

The breathtaking Scottish landscapes are a key part of the BBC1 crime drama – check out our guide to some of the best locations

Shetland scenery

Half the appeal of BBC1 crime drama Shetland is in the breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, the windswept beaches and magnificent cliffs.

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And there is plenty more natural beauty as DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) returns for a fifth series, as well as the darker side of life in the Shetland Islands.

So where is the drama filmed? Here are all the key locations that you’ll see on screen.


Is BBC drama Shetland actually filmed in Shetland?

Shetland cast

As the name implies, BBC crime drama Shetland is set on the Shetland Islands, a group of islands at the northernmost part of the British Isles. Shetland is approximately 168 km from the Scottish mainland, and the current population is estimated at under 24,000.

So how much of the drama is actually filmed on the Shetland Islands?

Producer Eric Coulter tells RadioTimes.com: “Most of the exteriors will be in Shetland, and we’ll have some interiors in Shetland also, but we’ll do quite a lot of the interiors back in Glasgow.”

Out of 16 weeks of filming, the team spends six busy weeks in Shetland. Much of this is spent on the largest island, known as the Mainland. “It’s a joy filming there,” Coulter says. “People are genuinely supportive of the show.”

It is vitally important to shoot exteriors on location in Shetland, because they can rarely be replicated. The producer explains: “The landscape of Shetland is so particular that to try and match those exteriors is quite difficult. There is an area about an hour from Glasgow called Loch Thom which we do film as an exterior location for Shetland, but that’s really the only area we can use. Any kind of major exterior work really has to be Shetland.”

As for what makes Shetland so distinctive, Coulter says, “It’s got very few trees. It’s a very open, it’s quite gentle, the hills aren’t very high – and everywhere you look there is water. You’re never more than three miles away from water. So that undulating landscape and the water are really particular to Shetland and that’s very hard to match anywhere else.”


Where is the beach where the arm is discovered?

Shetland - the beach where the arm is discovered

In one of the opening shots from series five, a jogger’s idyllic morning run along the beach is interrupted when she discovers a young man’s severed forearm washed up on the shore.

This was filmed at Banna Minn beach on the island of West Burra in the Shetland Islands, a half-hour drive from the main town at Lerwick.


Where is Lerwick police station filmed?

Shetland - police station

“We use the real police station in Lerwick,” Coulter reveals. “The building itself is actually the courtroom, the procurator fiscal, and the police station.”

While the team uses the police station’s exterior in Lerwick (Shetland’s main town), the interiors are filmed on set in Glasgow.


Where was the MacBay Hotel filmed?

Shetland - the MacBay Hotel

DI Jimmy Perez stumbles across the MacBay Hotel on a drive back from where the victim’s remains were discovered. Though it has an absolutely spectacular view, the venue has clearly seen better days.

In reality, the property’s name is the Westings Inn, and it sits near the Tingwall airstrip on Shetland and about 20 minutes’ drive from Lerwick. Coulter tells us: “There was a hotel which was actually empty – it had previously been a hotel, and it had been closed for a year or two.”

The white-painted inn (which is sadly not expected to reopen any time soon) is located near the summit of Wormadale Hill, which explains the excellent sea views from the bar.


Where does Jimmy Perez live?

Shetland - Jimmy perez's house

Like the police station, Jimmy Perez’s house is “really two sets” – an exterior in Lerwick, and an interior filmed on set in Glasgow.


Where was the fish factory filmed?

Shetland - fish factory

The fishing industry is a huge part of life in Shetland, and in series five a fish factory will become a big part of the story.

“That’s all shot in Shetland,” Coulter says. “The exterior of the fish factory is actually an old fish factory, an unused fish factory, but the interior of the fish factory was a working fish factory in Lerwick.”

Exteriors were shot at a closed fish farm near Bixter on Shetland, while the interior scenes were filmed at Grieg Seafood in Lerwick – the largest salmon farmer in Shetland.


Where did Shetland series 5 film in Glasgow?

Shetland in Glasgow

Part-way through the series, the investigation takes Perez (Douglas Henshall) to Glasgow – which was pretty convenient for the cast and crew considering they already shoot a chunk of the drama there.

Fans familiar with the city will notice filming locations in various parts of the Scottish city, including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Henshall also shared this anecdote from filming on St Vincent Street in central Glasgow…


Where was the cliff-edge scene filmed? 

Shetland cliff edge

In episode five, the “very, very spectacular” Eshaness Cliffs will play a starring role.

“Eshaness Cliffs are dramatic cliffs on the mainland of Shetland – a very famous, spectacular location,” Coulter says.

The producer adds: “We also used another beach, a beautiful beach called Spiggie Beach, in episodes five and episode six.”

Spiggie Beach in Shetland
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Shetland airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC1


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