A taste of the Isles

Photo: SIC Economic Development Zoom Photo: SIC Economic Development You’ve made it to Shetland, found somewhere to stay (if not, have a look at our Accommodation search pages), and the other necessity is eating. Shetland’s ‘larder’ contains a surprising selection of the freshest and tastiest produce. Whether buying to cook for yourself or letting the professionals do it for you in a variety of eating-out establishments, you’re sure to find something tasty to set you up for the next exciting day of your holiday.

For an appetising dining experience there’s everything from modern café bar venues to award-winning fish and chip shops and hotel fine dining to eastern takeaways. Fresh, local produce is used by eateries throughout the islands and there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy a relaxing meal or a quick coffee and cake.

The clean, clear seas provide an almost never-ending supply of the freshest and tastiest of fish and shellfish, caught by a modern fishing fleet and processed by an equally modern seafood industry. Complementing the wild catch are farmed products including salmon and mussels; all have a reputation among professional ‘foodies’ for their quality. Photo: SIC Economic Development Zoom Photo: SIC Economic Development

On land, the natural wilderness provides a perfect rearing ground for sheep and other livestock as well as an expanding choice of vegetables and produce. Shetland-bred lamb includes seaweed-fed and hill-fed and is distinctly tasty. An increasing range of local pork, beef and poultry is also available.

Some island specialities to look out for are ‘saat herrin’ and tatties, ‘reestit mutton’ soup (and pies), ‘saat beef’ with ‘bannocks’ and ‘sassermaet’ rolls!

The Taste of Shetland food fair held in late autumn presents a great promotional opportunity for the islands’ food and drink industry to show off its wares. The popular, annual ‘cooking challenge’ competition finals are also held at the event.

Fresh milk from the local dairy herds, artisan cheeses, preserves, fruit and vegetables, confectionery and bakery goods, beer and gin… all are produced in Shetland and available from shops and at occasional farmers’ markets and food fairs. You will also find roadside honesty boxes and cake fridges throughout the isles.

Most districts have a well-stocked general store, many selling everything from bread and milk to fuel and fancy goods. The local shop is also a good place to find out what’s going on around the area and the assistants will always be happy to chat and offer information. Also look out for pop-up cafes in halls, churches and community centres during the summer months.

Photo: SIC Economic Development Zoom Photo: SIC Economic Development An experience not to be missed in summer is a ‘Sunday Tea’. These fundraising teas, held in community halls, are something of an institution in Shetland and you’re welcome to pop in for tea, coffee and a choice of treats from the delicious spread of sweet homebakes and savoury snacks on offer. Most events are held in aid of charities or voluntary groups and they’re a great place to mix with the locals and to sample or buy local produce and crafts. As summer departs you’ll find the Sunday teas replaced by equally tasty soup and sandwich lunches or fish and chip supper nights.

To wash down a good meal partake in a dram or two in some of the local bars, try the popular ales from the local brewery or even some award-winning Shetland gin, distilled in Unst. You can listen to some traditional, and not so traditional music, dance off the calories in the nightclub, or just have a chat or a game of pool to end your evening.

Check The Shetland Times on Fridays for all the news, views and events.


Visit The Shetland Times Bookshop for a great selection of cookery and food books


All premises with food available to purchase are part of the Food Hygiene Information Scheme run by Shetland Islands Council and the national Food Standards Agency, so consumers can make an informed choice beforehand on what to buy and where to eat.

Alcohol: The legal minimum age for buying or consuming alcohol is 18 years. A local bye-law prohibits the public consumption of alcohol within the Lerwick Community Council area (some excepted dates/circumstances apply).

Smoking: It is illegal to smoke in public buildings, bars, restaurants and enclosed public spaces.