Boarding the small Loganair plane, the excitement for my mini fly-drive visit to Shetland really kicked in. Surprisingly, despite being the northernmost region of the UK, the flight was only 1 hour 10 mins from Glasgow. I got to enjoy amazing views as the plane landed at Sumburgh on the southern end of the mainland – dramatic cliffs, greenery and glorious sunshine awaiting me.
Taking advantage of being in the south, I drove the short distance to Sumburgh Head, crossing over the small airport runway on my way. The cliffs here are ideal for birdwatching with chances to see puffins (in the summer months) and is also home to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Shetland, built in 1819. After spending some time exploring the area, I then set off for the archaeological site of Jarlshof – a series of settlements dating from the neolithic period, the iron age and Viking times. It really was like taking a step back in time, with this picturesque site greatly enhanced by the backdrop of hills, white sandy beaches and vibrant blue skies.
The next morning was very foggy, making for an atmospheric and eerily quiet drive to East Burrafirth. I wanted to see the Original Cake Fridge on my way to Aith and was surprised to be met with the biggest ‘honesty box’ I’ve ever seen. Full of freshly made cakes and bakes, this honesty fridge is open 24/7 and restocked daily. Reaching Aith Marina, I boarded the boat with a local guide to get a feel for the dramatic scenery of the west coast of the mainland. Passing Papa Little and Vementry, we made our way up to the tip of Stenness, before heading over to the rare sight of the Ve Skerries as the weather was so favourable.
The Ve Skerries are a group of rocky islands three miles north of Papa Stour, notoriously dangerous to passing ships with many shipwrecks taking place over the years. Although, the sombre atmosphere didn’t seem to put off the herd of seals sunbathing on the rocks. Next, we disembarked at Papa Stour to have a look at the hidden gem archaeological sites and wander round the island which is home to fewer than a dozen people. I even ended up in one of the locals houses for a cuppa!
On the way back to the airport I took the opportunity to visit the small town of Scalloway as well as the beautiful St Ninian’s Isle. I had to wait to get into the small carpark as there was a huge herd of sheep getting ushered off the beach – such an amusing sight to round off my trip. I’m keen to visit Shetland again in the future and see more of this fantastic part of Scotland, especially the islands like Yell and Unst.
Words & Images by Keira @ McKinlay Kidd
McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Shetland, including fly-drive, self-drive and small group guided tours.
If you’re interested in an escorted experience, why not reserve your place on our Orkney & Shetland Guided Small Group Tour. If you’d prefer the chance to get right under the skin of the Shetland Islands at your leisure, check out our longer self-guided See Shetland Differently holiday or combine your time with the neighbouring Orkney Islands on our Complete Orkney & Shetland trip.