The great outdoors
Photo: Cathie Henry Shetland’s natural landscape and its surrounding seas offer ample opportunity for outdoor pursuits and water-based activities. Walk the coastline or hike the moorland and hills, fish for hard-fighting trout or record-breaking ling, kayak around stacks and in caves, play golf on the cliff tops, have a leisurely sail with seals and dolphins, dive interesting shipwrecks, cycle, bowl, swim, climb, beachcomb, go for a pony trek or try some geocaching… the list is endless.
If you do need to get indoors for a spell you can spend time at one of eight leisure centres and swimming pools at locations across the islands.
Shetland is an excellent place for walking. From challenging treks over rough, hilly moorland (did you know there are 19 Marilyns to climb?) to gentle strolls along the coastline, there is certainly plenty of scope for walkers of all abilities. Cyclists are pretty spoilt too, with the openness of the countryside providing great cycling, often with nothing but the sounds of nature to accompany you.
Photo: Steve Birrell.
Shetland Classic Walks is a new publication containing revised information on a selection of 30 favourite walks from Peter Guy’s popular series of books, Walking the Coastline of Shetland. Books are available at the Shetland Times Bookshop (shop.shetlandtimes.co.uk) or on a visitor's ticket from the Shetland Library.
More walk suggestions, routes and leaflets can be found at www.shetland.org/visit/do/outdoors/walk.
Guided natural history and wildlife walks are arranged by Shetland Field Studies Group (advance booking with Visit Scotland essential), Shetland Amenity Trust Ranger Service, RSPB, NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) and independent tour operators.
Photo: Kim Rendall If you’d prefer a walk around a golf course, the Asta course near Scalloway is a picturesque nine-holes (www.astagolfclub.com) and there are challenging 18-hole courses at Dale, just north of Lerwick (www.shetlandgolfclub.co.uk), and at Skaw on the island of Whalsay (www.whalsaygolfclub.com) – visitors are welcome at all. A free nine-hole course is sited at the Knab in Lerwick where you’ll also find a skatepark to amuse those, perhaps younger, family members.
The bowling green in the Jubilee Flower Park, between King Harald Street and St Olaf Street in Lerwick, is open from mid-May to September and visitors are welcome. The park also has a tennis court and putting green available for public use. Ask park gardener for details or check with the Islesburgh Complex across the road. The adjacent King George V playing park is ideal for younger members of the family and traditional playparks are located throughout the isles, often in school playgrounds, but mostly accessible year round.
Photo: Rosa Steppanova Other favourites with youngsters, and the not so young, are the community gardens at Michaelswood in Aith and at Da Gairdins in Sand, while horticultural enthusiasts should visit Lea Gardens at Tresta, all on the Westside. More ‘open gardens’ through the isles welcome visitors, usually for a donation to charity.
Another recent publication, aimed specifically at youngsters, is Shetland for Bairns. Compiled by young David Cockayne and his mum, Jayne, the book is crammed full of interesting facts, ideas and activities to keep bairns occupied for hours on end.
On the water...
Photo: Martin Smith Shetland’s isles and sheltered voes have attracted cruising yachts since the 19th century although the islands’ seafaring traditions go back much further. Anchor in a remote bay, enjoy the silence and view spectacular sunrises and sunsets; or tie up in Lerwick, Scalloway, Brae, or one of the rural marinas with visitor berths to enjoy the local delights (www.shetland.org/visit/do/outdoors/sail).
The sea may not be the warmest but it is mostly clean and clear, and sailing, yachting, rowing, kayaking and angling feature prominently in the summer calendar. There are hundreds of beaches and coves around the coastline, from white sand tombolos to boulder-strewn geos; many are safe for swimming, and ‘wild swimming’ has become a popular pastime, but be vigilant of tides and currents.
Sea fishing for cod, halibut, ling and mackerel is always exciting, and often record-breaking. Most boat trip operators can arrange charters for angling trips and gear can be hired. For more details contact Visit Scotland or see www.shetland.org.
...at the loch side
Photo: Joe Barrie Shetland has over 300 trout lochs ranging from rich limestone lochs to dark, mysterious, peaty pools, sprinkled all over the mainland and main islands. This is truly a trout fisherman’s paradise and local experts can be called on to guide you to the hot spots. Be prepared for hard-fighting, wild trout in wild places, where your only fishing companions may be otters and herons.
Shetland Anglers’ Association’s Trout Fishing in Shetland leaflet carries useful information while details on fishing permits and other news can be found at www.shetlandtrout.co.uk.
- Brown trout season runs from 15th March to 6th October.
- Sea trout* season runs from 25th February to 31st October.
*It is illegal to fish for sea trout on a Sunday.