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Where is BBC crime drama Shetland filmed?

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

Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland
BBC
Published: Wednesday, 17th August 2022 at 12:25 pm
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BBC One crime drama Shetland is back on our screens with its seventh series, which is set to bring Douglas Henshall’s Shetland journey to an end.

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The new season follows Jimmy Perez (Henshall) and his team of detectives as they investigate the disappearance of a vulnerable young man who has just landed in Shetland.

But it's not just the gripping plot capturing viewers’ attention in the new outing – it's also the series’s dramatic landscapes.

The new season started filming back in August 2021 and the series is already confirmed to be returning for an eighth outing sans Henshall, so it looks like there's much more to come from the detective drama.

Read on for all you need to know about the key locations used for filming on Shetland.

Where is Shetland filmed?

Douglas Henshall in Shetland on BBC One
Douglas Henshall in Shetland on BBC One BBC One

The majority of filming takes place in the archipelago 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.

When asked about filming this upcoming season and what makes the Shetland Isles so special as a whole, Henshall said: "After going there for nearly ten years, I’m still discovering places to go and see. There are so many nooks and crannies that are absolutely beautiful and the wildflowers in the summer are truly stunning.

"I loved the pace of the place. I really loved the sea, I loved how stark it could be, I loved the weather in all its glory. I loved the drama of the Shetland Isles. I also met some really nice people there who were fabulous, kind, generous and funny. There aren’t many places like Shetland - it’s very much of itself. It’s unique and I’ll miss that.

"I think that people were slightly suspicious of us at the beginning, in terms of who we were and what we were going to do, but as time has gone on they have seen we’re a force for good, they’ve really taken to us. They have been incredibly helpful and we couldn’t make the show without their help."

Is Shetland filmed in Shetland?

Yes, as detailed above and as the name implies, BBC crime drama Shetland is set on the Shetland Islands. But how much of the drama is actually filmed there?

Producer Eric Coulter previously explained to 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 explained: "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 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."

More like this

Where is Lerwick police station filmed?

Shetland - police station

"We use the real police station in Lerwick," Coulter revealed. "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 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.

Previous Shetland filming locations

Where is the beach where the arm is discovered in season 5?

Shetland - the beach where the arm is discovered

In one of the opening shots from season 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 was the MacBay Hotel filmed in season 5?

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 was the fish factory filmed in season 5?

Shetland - fish factory

The fishing industry is a huge part of life in Shetland, and in season five a fish factory becomes 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 season 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 season 5 episode 5, the "very, very spectacular" Eshaness Cliffs plays a starring role.

"Eshaness Cliffs are dramatic cliffs on the mainland of Shetland – a very famous, spectacular location," Coulter said.

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

Spiggie Beach in Shetland

Shetland season 7 begins on Wednesday 10th August 2022 at 9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Ann Cleeves's Shetland novels are available to buy now.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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