Shetland Nature

Wildlife, Birding & Photography Holidays

Scottish Tourist Board 5 Star Wildlife Experience
Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2017
Call: +44 (0)1595 760 333

Discover Shetland

Holiday overview at a glance:

  • Eight nights all inclusive accommodation
  • Featuring expertise and leadership of three Shetlander guides
  • Maximum of ten guests
  • Experience the finest accommodation and local cuisine
  • Explore the amazing geology of Geopark Shetland
  • Visit Shetland’s main star-wildlife attractions
  • Enjoy the islands unique history and cultural heritage
  • Late-night excursion to see Storm Petrels
  • Boat trip to a world-renowned seabird colony
  • Endemic and alpine plants

An invitation to Discover Shetland…

There is something very special about visiting remote islands and the many charms of the Shetland Islands are now renowned World-wide. Our remote northern archipelago, which attracts visitors from all over the World, was designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2009. Some visit us to see our wildlife and natural history, some to experience our unique cultural heritage, others to learn about our history and archeology or to marvel at our unspoiled natural beauty and many just for the sheer excitement and adventure that island hopping holidays offer.

From your visit you will see why the Shetland Isles feature in so many natural history documentaries and why ‘Lonely Planet’ exalted Shetland as one of its Top 10 regions in the World to visit in 2011, stating that “this might just be the last untamed corner of the United Kingdom”.

Our Discover Shetland holiday offers our most comprehensive, wide ranging and informed insight into all aspects of the Shetland Islands and offers an amazing connection with an outstanding natural environment. In your tour through our islands you will be guided by three highly regarded leaders, each offering their own area of expertise.

Designed by a native Shetlander and renowned naturalist Brydon Thomason, this holiday showcases a truly unrivaled island experience, offering a unique insight into the islands that no other tour company can offer…

Day one

  • Meet & Greet: Sumburgh Hotel
  • Overnight accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel

Our week begins on Sunday evening when we meet and greet you at the Sumburgh Hotel. Over dinner as guests and guide become acquainted we enthuse about the exciting adventure ahead and this is the perfect time to learn about the islands, the wildlife and indeed life in general in Shetland. This is something we feel plays a very important role in your Shetland experience and with all our core season team of guides being resident Shetlanders we take pride in this.

Day two

  • Guide: Martha Smith
  • Locations/excursion: Sumburgh Head and Mousa RSPB nature reserves
  • Overnight accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel

We begin our voyage of discovery on South Mainland at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Sumburgh Head reserve. This is the summer home of thousands of breeding seabirds, including Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Shags and our first Puffins! Sumburgh is the ideal setting in which to start to get to know some of Shetland’s breeding birds, with everything close at hand.

Continuing with the first-day theme of birds and RSPB reserves, for the afternoon we take a boat trip for the first of two visits to the wonderful little island of Mousa to explore its many charms. We will return later in the week for an unforgettable evening excursion to absorb the atmospheric presence of the Storm Petrels. On approach to this beautiful island you will see how special a place it is including your first sight of the magnificently preserved Mousa Broch, a towering circular stone built structure standing at 13m tall and dating back over 2000 years (c.300BC to 200AD) to Shetland’s Iron Age.

Ashore we will enjoy a leisurely walk around the RSPB reserve taking us along cliffs that are favoured nesting places for many seabirds. On the cliff-top you will see a high-level storm beach were large slabs of flagstone have been plied up by giant waves generated by the great storm of 16th February 1900. On the walk we will observe lagoons that are a well-known haul out for both Common and Grey Seal. The final highlight of our visit to the island will be to explore the magnificent Mousa Broch which is the best preserved of these enigmatic and uniquely Scottish Iron Age structures.

Day three

  • Guide: James Tait
  • Locations/excursions: Jarlshof, Croft House Museum, Quendale Mill and St Ninians Isle
  • Overnight Accommodation: Saxa Vord Resort

With the leadership of James Tait of Island Trails, today we journey through Shetland’s cultural heritage as we visit some sites of historic importance in the South Mainland. We will learn what life was like for the people of Shetland in both the near and distant past as they struggled to survive from the resources of the land and the sea. James comes from the Bigton area and grew up in a crofting family so is well placed to explain about traditional life on the land.

We begin the tour at the world famous Jarlshof prehistoric settlements. This is a timeline through 4000 years of human habitation from Shetland’s Stone Age to the 17th Century and is a great place to tell Shetland’s story and that of the different people that lived here over the millennia and how they survived. Moving on we visit the Dunrossness Croft House Museum which shows how a Shetland crofting family lived in the late 1800s and how their lives were closely tied to the rhythm of the seasons and the natural world. Many people find the croft house to be a peaceful place away from the many distractions of the modern world, so take a moment to sit before the open peat fire and imagine yourself in a time long ago.

We move outdoor for a walk at St. Ninian’s Isle, one of the islands most iconic vistas. This sand tombolo is the best example of its kind in Europe. The Island is also famous for the “St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure” a hoard of silver objects discovered in 1958. The treasure was found under the floor of an early Christian church and was most likely hidden there from Viking raiders as long ago as perhaps 800AD. The Island boasts some magnificent coastal scenery with many species of seabirds nesting around its cliffs. James’ family have lived in this area for generations and he will weave local history, stories and anecdotes into the walk including some of shipwrecks and smugglers

The final visitor attraction of the day is the Hoswick Visitor Centre situated in a former weaving shed. Amongst the many fascinating artefacts and attractions on display is one featuring one of the pivotal events of the late 1800s which became known as the ‘Hoswick Whale Case’, a landmark court battle at a time of great social and economic change between the ordinary people of Shetland and Scottish landowners (Lairds) who had controlled Shetland’s economy for hundreds of years.

Late afternoon we journey from end to end of Shetland from Sumburgh in the south to Unst, the most northerly island in Britain. Upon reaching Unst, we check in to The Saxa Vord Resort, (the most northerly full board accommodation in the UK). Renowned for their hospitality, comfort and cuisine this is the perfect base for us to explore Britain’s most northerly and neighboring islands of Fetlar and Yell’.

Day four

  • Guide: Martha Smith
  • Location/excursions: Hermaness and Keen of Hamar National Nature
  • Overnight accommodation: Saxa Vord Resort

We begin our North Isles experience by savoring the rich flora and fauna of Unst and head out onto Hermaness National Nature Reserve. Setting out on foot through the heart of the reserve, we can guarantee ‘up close and personal’ encounters with Great Skuas, known locally as Bonxies, which nest in large numbers on the moorland interior. Reaching the spectacular cliffs on the west side of the reserve, we will be greeted by perhaps the most captivating and charismatic birds of the trip, some of the 25,000 pairs of Puffins which make Hermaness their summer home. Breathtaking views of Muckle Flugga and the most northerly lighthouse in Britain are a further distraction, whilst the surrounding stacks and cliffs boast over 17,000 breeding pairs of Gannets, the largest colony in Shetland. As well as seabirds, we shall be serenaded by other moorland species during our walk, from bubbling Curlews and cryptic Golden Plovers to the parachuting song-flight displays of Meadow Pipits and the ubiquitous Skylarks.

Later in the day we visit the Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve, one of the UK’s most remarkable botanical sites, where the desert-like landscape of serpentine rock, collection of Arctic Alpines and an endemic plant, Edmonston’s Chickweed (found nowhere else in the world), make this a firm favourite. We shall also take time search for species such as Frog Orchid, Moonwort, Norwegian Sandwort and Northern Rock Cress and others.

We will also take time to explore Skaw and Lamba Ness, the former boasting a beautiful secluded beach with the backdrop of Britain’s most northerly house. Lamba Ness is the most easterly point of Unst and if the weather conditions allow we may spend time on a cetacean watch.

Day five

  • Guide: Martha Smith
  • Locations/excursions: Fetlar, ‘the garden of Shetland’
  • Overnight: Saxa Vord Resort

Island-hopping once again, we leave Unst and take the 25-minute ferry crossing to the neighbouring island of Fetlar. For an introduction to the island there can be few better placed as Martha having lived and worked as a warden for the RSPB for several years on the Island.

From late May to early August the island is home to one of the nation’s rarest breeding birds, the Red-necked Phalarope, for which the island is renowned. These compelling creatures are elegant and dainty, with complex breeding roles and unusual feeding behaviour. Fetlar supports over 90% of the British population of this stunning Arctic wader, although in recent years they have become increasingly more elusive. With patience, persistence and our local knowledge we hope to connect with this charismatic and nationally very rare breeding wader.

The island is also home to some of the highest densities of moorland breeding birds anywhere in Britain, with nationally important numbers of Whimbrel and the wonderfully evocative Red-throated Diver. Good numbers of Arctic Skuas, Golden Plovers and Dunlins are among the many species which abound on the isle. With this rich density of breeding birds and wild flowers it is easy to see why the island is known locally as the ‘Garden of Shetland’.

Day six

  • Guide: Robina Barton
  • Location/excursions: Mavis Grind, Collafirth Hill, Ronas Voe, Eshaness lighthouse
  • Overnight accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel arrive 1900.

Saying a fond farewell to Unst we travel back to Mainland for our remaining three nights. Today we will explore the magnificent and rugged north-western part of Mainland with geologist and tour guide Robina Barton. Our journey will take us past Europe’s largest oil terminal at Sullom Voe to meet Robina at Mavis Grind.

Mavis Grind is Shetland’s narrowest land-mass between the North Sea and the Atlantic where you can take Britain’s shortest coast-to-coast walk of just 80 metres! Here Robina will explain the local history of the area and describe the fascinating geology of Northmaven using Geopark Shetland’s geowall.

From Mavis Grind we travel north through a superb glacially moulded landscape hewn from contrasting red granite and grey gabbro rocks to ascend Collafirth Hill for superb all round views across an Alpine-style landscape. The adjacent Ronas Hill is Shetland’s highest at 450 metres and has been dramatically cut by glacial ice to form the fjord of Ronas Voe, our next destination. At the old herring station of ‘da Blade’ we discuss Shetland’s ‘boom and bust’ herring industries of the 19th and 20th centuries.

In the afternoon Robina will guide us on a cliff-top walk along Geopark Shetland’s Volcano Trail on Esha Ness, the stunningly dramatic headland that featured on BBC TV series ‘Coast’. Described as ‘the best section through a volcano in the British Isles’ our walk will take us along the flank of an ancient volcano where flows of lava and eruptions of ash have been cut by the Atlantic storms into a myriad of sea-stacks, caves, goes and blow-holes. On the cliff-tops and at the mind-blowing Grind o’ da Navir we marvel in awe at the power of Atlantic storm waves.

From Esha Ness we will return to South Mainland for our overnight accommodation at Sumburgh Hotel.

Day seven

  • Guide: Robina Barton and Martha Smith
  • Locations/excursions: Central and west mainland; Scalloway, Tingwall, Scord of Sound viewpoint, Stanydale Temple and Culswick
  • Overnight: Sumburgh Hotel arrive 1845

Today we return to the historical theme with guide Robina Barton against a backdrop of stunning moorland and coastal scenery where there is always an opportunity to encounter our wonderful fauna and flora.

We will visit Scalloway, Shetland’s ancient capital, which is steeped in history from Viking times through the dark days of Earl Patrick and his castle to the Norwegian wartime heroes of the ‘Shetland Bus’. We continue through Tingwall with its green pastures and placid lochs to the supposed site of the Norse Law-Ting (parliament). A scenic climb and decent will take us through Whiteness and Weisdale where we stop at viewpoints to marvel at the drowned landscapes far below.

A short walk over moorland with wild flora and birdlife takes us to Neolithic (New Stone Age) settlements are and where we wonder at the form and function of their ‘Meeting House’ or ‘Temple’. Walls (pronounced “Waas”) is a village where we take a break before heading to the remote settlement of Culswick.

From Culswick we walk along a track through wild moorland and deserted crofts to the most stunningly situated Iron Age Broch site in Shetland. From the broch we follow towering red granite cliffs around headlands fringed by dramatic sea-stacks where Robina will recount a poignant tale of shipwreck and of Monastic settlements. We will return to Sumburgh via the old trading port and fishing village of Skeld.

In the evening we embark on a magical evening excursion when we once again visit the enchanting island of Mousa where during the twilight of the late evening, thousands of dainty Storm Petrels, our smallest breeding seabird, return to their nest-sites in the walls of the Iron Age broch. Watching the petrels fluttering like bats against the summer night sky and listening to their incredible purring song is a simply unforgettable experience! We will also provide an exclusive insight into the petrel’s behaviour, ecology and breeding success.

Day eight

  • Guide: Martha Smith
  • Overnight accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel

In the morning we travel north to Shetland’s capital, Lerwick, where we board MV Dunter for an unforgettable three-hour trip with the award-winning Seabirds-and-Seals crew. We are bound for the spectacular Noss National Nature Reserve to marvel at its breathtaking cliffs, which are alive with the hustle and bustle of one of the largest seabird colonies in the islands. The sight of thousands of Gannets wheeling around the boat and courting at their nest sites is one not to be missed! Good views of the many other seabirds in this spectacular ‘seabird city’ can also be expected here such as Guillemots, Puffins and Kittiwakes to name but a few. The crew will also give us a truly unique insight into life beneath the waves as they explore the depths with their underwater camera. After marvelling at the ‘Gannetries’ of Hermaness from above this exhilarating excursion compliments our visit to the cliff – tops wonderfully, as we enjoy a seabird city from a totally different perspective.

For the afternoon we will explore many of Shetlands lesser known and secluded side roads throughout the East Mainland. Enjoying a leisurely safari-style adventure, along the way whilst savouring the untamed beauty of the Shetland landscape and the crofting and fishing communities throughout, we will search of Mountain Hare, Red Grouse, Common and Grey Seals and with a bit of luck, Otters and much more.

In the evening over our last dinner together we take time to reminisce and enthuse over wonderful week of discovery before wishing everyone a fond farewell.

Day nine – DEPARTURE DAY

After dinner in the evening we bid you a fond farewell and your holiday comes to an end after Breakfast.

Our itinerary

Throughout the week, your guide will be fully in touch with the local grapevine and news of what is turning up throughout the islands. Circumstance such as weather conditions, tides and receiving news of Killer Whale sightings for example can all have an effect on the itinerary so we remain as flexible as possible to maximise our chances of enjoying Shetland’s stunning wildlife to the full. We will, however, ensure that the following key sites are targeted; your local guides are experts in when is the best time to do this.

Booking – Holiday Dates

Fitness Level Required
Easy to Moderate
Price: £1,445
Dates
Sunday 10th June to Monday 18th June, 2018 Available
Sunday 1st July to Monday 9th July, 2018 Available

Contact Us to Book

Contact us for more information or to enquire about alternative dates for your own exclusive/tailor-made holiday.

Email: info@shetlandnature.net

  • All boat trips are subject to weather availability
  • On booking please advise of any special requirements medical or dietary

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