Rugged, Beautiful Shetland

Shetland Islands | bettysliu.comPuffins. Shetland ponies. I think just those words should entice you for a visit to the Shetland Islands, but let me add a few more: mussels, seaweed, lamb, rhubarb. Are you convinced yet? I’m so glad I discovered these islands and cannot wait to return. The Shetland Islands are off the northeast coast of Scotland, and even if they’re seemingly small, there is so much to see and explore. The three days we spent were hardly enough. We explored the Scalloway/Lerwick area, ventured west for mussel farming, further north to see some epic cliffs, then down to sumburgh head to see the puffins before taking off. I honestly had no idea what to expect, except that I wanted to spot a few Shetland ponies, and if you like breathtaking, rugged scenery, fresh seafood and succulent lamb, and adventure, Shetland is definitely worth a visit.

Shetland Pony Epic Mane | bettysliu.comBoats in Shetland Islands | bettysliu.comPuffins in Shetland Islands | bettysliu.com

To get to Shetland, you can fly into Inverness and then take a smaller flight to Sumburgh. From there, we rented a car and drove around – my favorite way to travel. In many ways, this Shetland trip reminded me of Iceland: driving around, stopping frequently to gaze in awe (and snap a few photos) of awesome landscapes. This was exactly my type of trip, so if you liked Iceland, I think you could enjoy Shetland as well. What really struck me was the small-town feel of Shetland, even though it consists of a string of islands. We kept meeting people who knew other people, who knew we were coming because they knew our hosts. We felt welcome wherever we went, and their level of enthusiasm for their home was infectious! One afternoon we had tea with local artist Ruth Brownlee, who not only welcomed us into her home but also let us try some traditional Shetland shortbread cookies, and introduced us to her neighbor, who turned out to be an amazing bread baker, with dreams of someday building his own wood-fire oven and bakery (which needs to happen by the way!). A huge thanks to Promote Shetland for making this trip possible!

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Shetland Island Sunset | bettysliu.comShetland Islands | bettysliu.com

Shetland Mussels: The seafood in Shetland was to die for. Alex had their locally raised lamb and beef as well, but I stuck to seafood because I could not resist. Shetland is a group of islands, and because of its shape, it has an abundance of coastal lines, which means seafood is fresh and plentiful. There’s haddock, mackerel, halibut, salmon, and the mussels are some of the best I’ve had. One of my favorite activities there was going on a mussel farm tour. I absolutely love seeing the behind the scenes (see oyster farm tour here), and since mussels are one of my favorite shellfish to eat and cook with, I was beyond excited to see what a mussels farm consisted of. Shetland is well known for its mussels, exporting everywhere in the UK. We went with Shetland Mussels on their boat to visit their mussel farm. The mussels grow on ropes suspended in water, with no human interference or artificial enhancements. It’s a sustainable, natural process and has become a booming industry in Shetland.Shetland Island Mussels | bettysliu.com

Shetland Island Mussels | bettysliu.comShetland Island Mussels | bettysliu.comShetland Island Mussels | bettysliu.comMe, in my mussel boat gear:
Shetland Island Mussels | bettysliu.com

And this is Michael, who kindly showed us around. Shetland Island Mussels | bettysliu.com

{to eat}

Fjara: located in Lerwick with amazing views, this was definitely one of my favorites. shetland-bettysliu-32Shetland Island Fjara Cafe Lerwick | bettysliu.com

Shetland Fudge Company: Have you heard of puffin poo? It’s an amazing mixture of coconut, rice crispies, and marshmallow, and it’s divine. At first, I was just bemused because of its cute name, but after trying one, I could not stop. Nicole, who owns the company, was super sweet and sent us back with more puffin poo and her award-winning plum jam, which I can confirm is indeed amazing!

Shetland Island Fudge Company | bettysliu.comshetland-bettysliu-26shetland-bettysliu-27

Hay’s Dock Restaurant: this cool restaurant is in Shetland’s Museum & Archives in Lerwick. It’s beautifully located, by the water, and is definitely worth a visit.

Da Steakhoose: the name speaks for itself, right?

Frankie’s Fish & Chips: in Brae, and I’m SO sad we couldn’t try this! We did stop by, but when we did, it was the morning and they were only serving breakfast. I’d heard such great things about this place from multiple local Shetlanders, and I have to put this shack in this post, just in case you get to go and try it. Next time, I’m definitely going for lunch or dinner.

Scalloway Hotelwith impeccable service and an amazing restaurant. In fact, we got to chat and hang out with their chef, Akshay, who was going to take us on a foraging walk, but because of toxic levels in the sea, instead took us for a stroll on the unmarked path. We went down this secret cave, where the outside world ceased to exist for awhile. Also, the food at his restaurant was amazing! While he couldn’t actually forage due to the toxic levels, he told us about all the types of seaweed available there – I wish we could’ve foraged some!

Scalloway Hotel | bettysliu.com

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Shetland Island | bettysliu.comShetland Island | bettysliu.comShetland Island | bettysliu.com

Shetland Islands | bettysliu.com

{to visit / see}
To be honest, just drive around along the coast, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful scenery, coastal villages, ponies, lambs, birds, beaches, rocky landscapes… everything. There are camping options, diving, and many hikes to embark on. Just think, adventure.

St Ninian’s Beach: gorgeous spread of beach and a magnificent sand tombolo, which connects St Ninian’s Isle to mainland Shetland. It was pouring when we went, but this did not deter us from going.
St Ninians Beach Shetland | bettysliu.com

Scalloway Castle dates back to the 1600s, and maybe it’s my architecture background kicking in, but I loved walking through the remaining structures.  Scalloway Castle Shetland | bettysliu.comshetland-bettysliu-29Scalloway Castle Shetland | bettysliu.com

Quendale Farm, a dairy farm, and Transition Turriefield, a vegetable and fruit farm.

Eshaness Cliffs: gorgeous, majestic cliffs – definitely worth the hillwalking to get there!
Eshaness Cliff Shetland | bettysliu.comEshaness Cliff Shetland | bettysliu.comEshaness Cliff Shetland | bettysliu.comEshaness Cliff Shetland | bettysliu.com

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse: If you want to see puffins, THIS IS THE PLACE. You can hike all around, or just go straight up to the lighthouse. You will see puffins all around the side of the path. When I was in Iceland I had hoped to see some puffins, which were supposed to sometimes appear there, so imagine my delight and joy when I saw all these puffins, just chilling along the hillside.
Sumburgh Head Shetland | bettysliu.comSumburgh Head Shetland | bettysliu.comSumburgh Head Shetland | bettysliu.com

shetland-bettysliu-66shetland-bettysliu-64Sumburgh Head Shetland | bettysliu.com

lamb in shetland | bettysliu.com

Jarlshof: a prehistoric norse settlement near Sumburgh Head

Unst: next time, I’m definitely driving all the way up north to see Unst. It’s home to a wide variety of birds, including puffins, and it’s supposed to be truly amazing for hiking and seeing beautiful landscapes.

Burn of Lunklet in East Burrafirth – next time, we’re also stopping by here, which apparently is home to one of the few waterfalls in Shetland! Who can resist a good waterfall?:)

And of course, I’ll leave you with more photos of these adorable Shetland ponies.
Shetland Pony Epic Mane | bettysliu.comCute Shetland Ponies | bettysliu.comShetland Ponies in Shetland | bettysliu.com

A huge thanks to Promote Shetland for sponsoring this post! All opinions are purely my own. 

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  • So Scotland has been on my list for SO long, its crazy I haven’t been yet. Your photos are inspiring me even further- absolutely stunning! xxReplyCancel

  • As always, breathtaking pictures Betty! Especially love all the puffin pictures, they really are funny looking little guys 😛ReplyCancel

  • barry underwood debsky

    Love this place . . .SO photogenic . . .MAYbe a honeymoon place .ReplyCancel

  • I am speechless Betty. These photos, this place. You have a true talent for capturing the essence of the places you visit, and I am dying to go now too! If for no other reason than those cute little puffins ;). xxReplyCancel

  • Margaret Blundell

    Beautiful photographs , visited Shetland to trace my fathers family tree would love to visit again .ReplyCancel

  • I love these photos so much, I’d never be able to compose a shot as beautifully as you have done, again and again.
    I’ve been to Aberdeenshire, which I loved, but never Shetland, it’s on my list along with Skye!ReplyCancel

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