Shetland Things To Do

This is not a full list of everything to do in Shetland; there are far better sites that do that, including the official website, VisitScotland’s listings, and the Shetland Visitor.

Instead, this is just my own ‘top 10’ of things to do in Shetland. Maybe it will act as a bit of an inspiration for planning your own trip. Some of them are well known – with good reason – others maybe less so.

1 The Shetland Museum

Shetland Museum by Lis Burke -

The Shetland Museum in Lerwick should be right up there in the places to visit. Housed in a large new purpose-built building just on the edge of the town centre, the museum provides a great introduction to the history of the islands, from prehistoric times to the present day, giving good context for the rest of your trip.

The museum can easily fill a few hours, but here’s a tip: if the sun is shining in Shetland, make the most of it on some of the outdoor options! (Note: the museum is next door to Mareel, the main cinema and theatre in the isles, which offers other options for a wet weather day, or for the evenings.)

Click here for location.

2. Visit St.Ninian’s Isle

St.Ninian's Isle

Shetland has some absolutely beautiful beaches for wandering along, with clean white sand and clear waters. Whilst the water temperature will normally be far too cold for anything beyond a quick paddle, take in a beach anyway!

My personal favourite – as with many people – is the sand tombola that connects St.Ninian’s Isle to the mainland. It’s the one you see on many postcards (and with good reason, it is stunning), but don’t let that stop you exploring many others. Burra, Yell and Fetlar also have particularly superb beaches, but wherever you are in Shetland you’ll never be far from the sea.

Click here for the location of St.Ninian’s Isle.

3. wildlife Watching

Sumburgh Head puffins by Liz Gray -, 3154778

Part of the draw for many visitors to Shetland is wildlife, be that seabirds, otters, marine mammals or others… (I’m not counting the Shetland ponies here, you’ll find them pretty much everywhere!) Oh and, of course, puffins, which you are most likely to see between May and July.

If you want to get the most out of your trip to Shetland then it really is recommended to take one of the specialist wildlife tours. There are a wide number of these to choose from (for example, some specialise in otters), and many are listed on, or call into the Tourist Information Centre. More than once I have taken the Seabirds and Seals boat trip, which has always been excellent.

4. Go for an (indoor) swim

Clickimin Leisure Centre by Mike Pennington -, 1922671

Along with its well-built roads, Shetland has invested in a good range of leisure centres over the years. On days when conditions limit outdoor options it can make good sense to use these, especially if you’re visiting with children who need to burn off energy.

There are eight centres spread across Shetland, all of which have swimming pools. The largest is at Clickimin on the outskirts of Lerwick, and boasts flumes, splash pools and a 25m main pool.

Click here for the location of Clickimin leisure centre

Click here for the location of Scalloway Swimming Pool

5. Bressay Parkrun

Bressay Parkrun, near the turnaround point

For the uninitiated: Parkrun is a free weekly run organised by volunteers on Saturday mornings, covering 5 kilometres. There’s no pressure; just go as slow or as fast as you can manage. All you need to do is sign up and print off your own personal barcode at the Parkrun website – you can then use this to take part in any Parkrun anywhere around the world.

Now, there aren’t many Parkruns where the race instructions say “Catch the 9am ferry from Lerwick, Marshalls will meet you off the boat“…! Shetland’s Parkrun is on the Isle of Bressay, just a 10 minute ride across the Sound from Lerwick. The Parkrun is a mostly level route along the island’s roads, with some lovely views across towards Lerwick as you jog/charge along. Great coffee and snacks afterwards at the Speldiburn Cafe too, where the run finishes. It’s even been mentioned on BBC news!

Click here for directions to the Bressay Parkrun.

6. a game of golf At the ASTA

Asta golf course

There are three courses on Shetland – the popular 18-hole Shetland Golf Club near Lerwick, the 9-hole Asta Golf Course near Scalloway, and the 18-hole Whalsay Golf Club (the most northerly in the UK).

I personally like the Asta course because of its setting in the lovely Tingwall valley. The course is alongside a small loch and usually sheltered from the worst of the winds. Quite often you may find you have the course to yourself! (Which is thankful if you’re as rubbish at golf as I am…)

Click here for location of Asta.

7. The Scalloway Museum

Scalloway Museum by Oliver Dixon,, 3586979

Chances are the weather won’t stay fair for the whole of your visit. Well, this is Shetland, so perhaps more than likely! That’s when you should take in one of the smaller museums or galleries dotted around, and get under the skin of the isles. These range from the visitor complex at Sumburgh Lighthouse to the Bonhoga Gallery (nice cafe), the Old Haa on Yell, and many others.

A personal favourite is the excellent Scalloway Museum. This has a detailed section on the heroic WW2 “Shetland Bus” operation, which the little town became the base for. Indeed, the museum was opened by the Prime Minister of Norway, and you can visit the Shetland Bus Memorial further along the little town’s main street. (Scalloway itself is well worth visiting or staying in, and I can recommend the nearby Cornerstones Cafe.)

Click here for the location of the Scalloway Museum. To be honest, it’s difficult to miss – it’s right next to the Castle!

8. Go for a walk

A walk across Burra Isle

Whether you enjoy wildlife, archaeology, geology or just scenery, the views are always going to be one of Shetland’s biggest draws. There’s not many waymarked paths like in England and Wales, but there are still a wide range of options available, both on- and 0ff-road, ranging from coastal strolls to taking in Ronas Hill, the highest point in Shetland.

With great views all round, one of my favourites is that from Burra Isle across to Kettla Ness, taking in Banna Minn beach on the way, which takes me 2-3 hours. But do find your own – pick up a book of walks from the Shetland Times bookshop or the Tourist Office.

Click here for the rough location of this walk (but please do remember to take a map with you!)

9. Old Scatness

Overhead view of Old Scatness dig by Steve Jone, 355975

Jarlshof is probably Shetland’s most famous archaeology site (justifiably so); Mousa Broch is the most stunning and intact site; and Clickimin Broch the most accessible. All these are essential places to visit if history is your thing, or even if you just want some ‘classic’ photos of Shetland. And there’s many more!

But Old Scatness is very much an evolving attraction: an iron age village and broch, with much excavation work recently completed. It’s open during the summer, often with costumed guides who really get into character and give you a lot more insight into ‘what it all means’.

Click here for location.

10. Take in ‘the furthest north’

Taking the boat further North to Unst

Having come as far as Shetland, it would be a pity not to tick off the “furthest north” list of things that you will find on the island of Unst: The furthest north point of land, beach, shop (with friendly cafe), castle, museum…

To get to Unst, you have to drive to the north of Mainland, catch a ferry to Yell, drive across Yell, then catch another ferry. The entire journey can take 2 hours or more. You can do it as a day trip, but best advice would be to stay for a day or two exploring this remote but lovely island, which has a vibrant community. (Taking more time means you could also fit in a visit across to its beautiful small neighbour that is Fetlar).

Click here for the Visit Unst website.

Page updated, 06/02/22