Shetland Late Summer Experience

Holiday overview at a glance:

  • Seven nights’ all inclusive accommodation
  • Arguably the best hospitality & local cuisine
  • Led by resident naturalist guides who live and work in Shetland all year round
  • Dedicated Otter-tracking day – small group size offers unique insight
  • Boat trip to a world-renowned seabird colony
  • Small group size of just six to eight guests
  • This tour will include a short beach clean as part of our commitment to protecting Shetland’s natural environment

2024 Dates:

  • Saturday 27th July to Saturday 3rd August, 2024

Shetland in late summer is a very special place, marked by a heady cocktail of breath taking scenery, isolation and tranquility. The transformation between summer and autumn in Shetland is a subtle but special one which offers a wealth of stunning wildlife-watching opportunities. Although for a mere handful of species the brief northern breeding season is almost over, for the majority however this is a very special and busy time. Late summer is a particularly good time for cetaceans such as Minke whale, following the Mackerel and Herring which amass in our waters in this season.

This late summer itinerary has effectively been seasonally developed from our ‘Shetland Nature Experience‘ holiday, to suit guests for whom our core season dates are not suitable. Although the day to day itinerary remains similar the target species are specific to the season.

Designed by a native Shetlander, this seven day wildlife adventure showcases the Shetland Islands, its cultural heritage and, most of all, its outstanding natural environment like no other, offering a unique insight into the islands that no other wildlife tour company can offer.

Day One

Our week adventure begins on Saturday 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 Shetlander’s we take pride in this.

Day Two – From the Southern Tip of Shetland to Britain’s Northern Most Island

We begin our voyage of discovery in the South Mainland, at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Sumburgh Head reserve, with its thousands of breeding seabirds, including Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and good chance of 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. We will also keep a keen eye off shore as this is a good site for cetaceans such as Minke Whale.

From the southernmost tip of Shetland Mainland, we journey to Unst, the most northerly island in Britain. Along the way we will soak up the stunning scenery including such iconic vistas as Loch of Spiggie (an R.S.P.B. reserve), the stunning St Ninians Isle, which is joined to the mainland by a world famous sand beach tombolo, this combined with commentary from your guide throughout the journey, is an ideal way to adapt and become familiarised with the Shetland environment.

Day three – Unst, the Most Northerly Island in Britain

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 hope to 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. During these days and weeks as summer merges slowly into autumn, these adorable seabirds are already starting to leave the breeding grounds. With non-breeding birds returning to the cliff tops to practice their social skills, it can however often offer fantastic encounters.

Breathtaking views of MuckleFlugga 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.

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 will spend time on a cetacean watch.

Day Four – All About Otters

Unique to Shetland Nature, we will spend the day devoted to one of Shetland’s star wildlife attractions, the wild Otter! Otter watching is the signature specialty of our company, and we pride ourselves on our unrivalled otter encounters. We have yet to have a group leave disappointed and we have every confidence in our continued success.

Here is one of the many areas that our guests experience first-hand the benefits of our small group size and the leadership of local naturalists. Our approach is based on our unsurpassed knowledge of Shetlands Otters, where and when to stand the best chance of encounters and most of all how to search and observe without disturbance. We will visit some of the best sites in the islands to give you a unique insight into the secret lives of one of the nation’s most evocative and captivating animals.

Our sensitivity towards Shetlands Otters is as renowned as our success with guest’s encounters. We operate under a government legislation Schedule 2 license issued by Scottish Natural Heritage and are a corporate member of the International Otter Survival Fund.

Day Five – Fetlar, ‘The Garden of Shetland’

Island-hopping once again, we leave Unst and take the 25-minute ferry crossing to the neighbouring island of Fetlar. Known locally as the ‘Garden of Shetland’, the islands rich and fertile soils and serpentine heath is home to some of the highest densities of moorland breeding birds anywhere in Britain. During the summer months nationally important numbers of the wonderfully evocative Red-throated Diver can be found in good numbers along with Arctic Skuas, Golden Plovers and Dunlins are among the many species which abound on the isle. The islands star attraction is however the Red-necked phalarope. Although there is still a chance of this beautiful and charismatic little wader, the phalarope is the first of Shetlands summer breeders to leave and even by the first week in August, the majority will already have begun their journey south to winter.

On route to and and indeed on Fetlar is a good time to take a close look at the birds that are characteristic of the Shetland landscape – subspecies such as the Shetland Wren and the Shetland Starling are unique to the islands and will have become ‘part of the scenery’ in the past few days. These and other Northern specialties which we have so far failed to mention – from Tysties to Linties (Black Guillemots to Twites) – will all have been enjoyed at some point but today is designed as a day to take stock, make an effort to see anything that is missing but mainly just to soak up the whole Shetland Nature experience in its entirety.

Day Six – North Mainland

Today we will explore we explore the magnificent and rugged north-western part of Shetland Mainland. From a geological and landscape perspective, this remote corner of the islands is unique and there is much to admire. At 450 metres above sea level, Ronas Hill is hardly a mountain yet it is the highest point in Shetland. At Eshaness lighthouse, the breathtaking views of one of Shetland’s most iconic vistas are guaranteed, and an examination of a nearby blowhole is not for the faint-hearted. If the weather is good, we will spend time scanning for whales and dolphins out at sea. Risso’s, White-sided and White-beaked Dolphins, Minke Whales and of course Killer Whales have all be seen from here with a bit of luck and a keen eye. Harbour Porpoises are the most common cetacean and perhaps more predictable, and we should be able to find these at our regular sites.

On our way back we will we stop off at Urafirth to admire one of the few remaining mainland colonies of the beautiful and nationally scarce Oysterplant.

On returning to the South Mainland we shall take time to savor such iconic vistas as Loch of Spiggie (an R.S.P.B. reserve), the stunning St Ninians Isle, which is joined to the mainland by a world famous sand beach tombolo and the tops of Mossy Hill.

Day Seven – Shetland Mainland and Boat Trip to Noss ‘Seabird City’

In the morning we travel around Shetland’s Central Mainland making strategic stops to visit some of the more secluded side-roads of the East and West Central Mainland, enjoying a leisurely safari-style adventure in search of Mountain Hare, Red Grouse, Otters and much more. This being Shetland, there could also be the odd surprise in store for us!

After lunch we arrive in Shetland’s capital, Lerwick, where we board Ruby May for an unforgettable three-hour trip. 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! 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.

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

This is just a short note, on behalf of Jo and myself, to thank you for a marvelous time in Shetland recently.
We would particularly like to thank Gary for all he did for us and other members of the group. We found him to be the best wildlife guide we have ever been out with! His knowledge seemed inexhaustible – as was his patience. He went to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure that each group member had seen whatever he had identified. His ability to spot otters, orcas etc. at huge distances is uncanny! He ensured very quietly that everyone’s views were considered and they were able to get out of the trip what they were looking for.
The ‘Late Summer Experience’ has a huge amount to offer. I confess that when I first looked into these dates I got the impression that this might be a disappointing time to visit Shetland. Like many other teachers and their partners however, this was the only time we could come. Perhaps we were particularly lucky in what we saw but in my view, Shetland has a huge amount to offer at this time of year – some breeding birds still in residence (e.g. puffins, gannets, skuas, fulmars etc), some amazing residents, e.g. the otters but also unusual visitors we saw such as the Minke whales and Killer Whales and of course Two-barred Crossbills. For us, it was a truly wonderful and special trip.
Many, many thanks for this.

Roger Drew

Our Itinerary

Throughout the week, your guide will be fully in touch with the local grapevine and any news of what might turn up throughout the islands. Circumstance such as weather conditions, tides and receiving any exhilarating news of Killer Whale sightings for example (always a possibility!) can all have an effect on the itinerary- with this in mind we remain as flexible as possible and to maximize our chances of enjoying Shetland’s stunning wildlife to the full we may re arrange the days we visit certain sites and locations.

Booking – Holiday Dates

Principal Tour Guides
Fitness Level Required
Walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain
Price: £1,935
2024 Dates
Saturday 27th July to Saturday 3rd August, 2024 Available

Contact us for more information and to register your interest.

Private Tour Options: This holiday can also be arranged exclusively for private booing for couples, families or small groups.

Contact us for information and cost proposal for your own exclusive/tailor-made holiday. Email: [email protected]

Additional holiday information:

  • Read about the hotels we use – view our hotel providers.
  • All meals, accommodation, guiding fee’s and excursions as well as ferry fares and transport are included in package cost.
  • All boat trips are subject to weather availability.
  • Not included in cost are items of a personal nature or hotel bar tabs nor is travel to and from Shetland included.
  • No single supplement charged.
  • On booking please advise of any special requirements medical or dietary.
  • Throughout the holiday some of the activities will potentially involve walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain. A reasonable level of fitness is advised however this is run at a leisurely pace. We can also provide holidays at an even more leisurely pace; please contact us for details.
  • Please note that all itineraries are subject to change but guests will be advised in advance should it be necessary to make any major changes.

View Terms & Conditions for booking

So why choose us for your Shetland experience?

In a FAQ’s style summary we’d like to highlight the selling points that attract guests to us over other operators:

Your holidays appear to be more expensive than some others?

Yes, but for very good reason; you get what you pay for. All our core season ‘Shetland Nature Experience’ holidays are for group size of maximum of six as opposed to larger groups of anywhere from eight to twelve with other operators. This unique group size always proves to be one of the main attractions for guests who book this itinerary, that and of course the unrivaled Otter experience we offer.

However there is nothing wrong with larger groups, some of our other itineraries are for larger groups (however they will always feature multiple leaders) for example but we feel our guest to guide ratio ensures guests attentions are catered for to a higher standard on all levels; interacting out in the field, rapport with guide, hospitality with accommodation providers and naturally most of all – the encounters with wildlife. This is very important to our whole ethos as a wildlife tour company.

Will our guide be a resident Shetlander?

Yes all our core season holidays are led by resident Shetland naturalists who live and work here. We are extremely fortunate and grateful to have such ongoing support of the team we do. It perhaps sounds twee but one of the key factors in our success and continued development is built around a network of trusted friends.

Are our payments protected?

Yes all your payments are fully covered by Financial Conduct Authority in accordance with The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992.

Many of the larger tour companies who run holidays overseas and therefore include flights and travel to and from Shetland and beyond need to provide ATOL/ABTA cover. However we specialise solely in Shetland and do not include travel to or from the Shetland Islands and therefore do not require that cover.