To the west of Norway, more than 100 islands make up the Shetlands. Dramatic cliffs, raw farmland scenes and massive lochs await those tough enough to endure the area’s sub-arctic temperatures. But which isle is for you?
For walkers: Northmavine
Here visitors will find Ronas Hill, Shetland’s tallest mound – it reaches 1475 feet. Climb to the top for a prehistoric chambered burial cairn, unusual alpine foliage, an incredible view of freshwater lochs, little crofting settlements and the untamed hilly landscape beneath.
For bizarre landscape and beer: Unst
Britain’s most northerly inhabited island is seriously chilly. However, those willing to wrap up like an Inuit will encounter some geological wonders – including a sub-arctic, stony desert. This four-acre lunar-like area is made up of little fragments of rock and some of the rarest plants in Britain. More importantly, you can warm up at the Valhalla Brewery, where they brew six tasty ales.
For golfers and gardeners: Scalloway
Known as ‘The Ancient Capital’, Scalloway was the government’s base until the 18th century. There’s plenty of historic sites to peruse, including Earl Patrick Stewart’s Scalloway Castle, known for its large dungeon where witches in the 17th century were locked up before their trials. For those wielding golf clubs, the Tingwall Valley is the place to go. The colourful meadows here are home to various types of orchid; enjoy them from the two local courses.
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For nature lovers: Lerwick
The Shetlands’ waters are a haven for mammals. In these bitterly cold seas it possible to spot killer whales, white-sided dolphins and minke whales. Lerwick Harbour is a sure bet for grey and common seals. Hop on a wildlife tour boat from the harbour, and get up close to the blubbery beasts as they swim alongside the vessel.
For bird watchers: Foula
Zoologists flock to this ‘Special Protection Area’ to see the world’s largest colony of great skuas – the pirates of the bird world. Watch as this aggressive species hassles other birds and robs them of their prey. They share their territory with kittiwake gulls, arctic terns and red-throated divers. Take your binoculars and head to the cliffs. Kame, at 1,200 feet, is Britain’s second-highest sea crag. Puffins and black and while guillemots can be found near this sheer drop.