Wild & Woolly: Shetland with Kate Humble

Holiday Overview:

  • Featuring Kate Humble, co-led by resident naturalist guides
  • Seven-night full board accommodation spanning eight days
  • Meet local farmers, musicians, craft and knitwear designers
  • Unique Shetland experience celebrating cultural & natural heritage

Join Kate Humble and the Shetland Nature team for a truly unique Shetland experience. The islands are world famous for their wildlife and their cultural heritage – a heritage borne from the unique circumstances of the islands’ position in some of the richest fishing waters in the northern hemisphere, a place where the traditional Scottish crofting life was changed irrevocably both by the turning of the seasons and the call of the sea.

Life in Shetland evolved over the centuries to become something unique, with breeds of livestock on the croft adapted to the sub-Arctic climate. Shetland’s colourful, hardy sheep shaped the landscape and the lives of those who worked the land when they weren’t at sea. That landscape became a place where wildlife thrived on the crofts and the hills, where otters and seabirds abounded on the coastal fringes and, inland, a rich biodiversity of upland waders, wildfowl and flora was to be found.

Throughout the week Kate is joined by resident Shetlander, crofter and nature writer Jon Dunn, who will co-lead the itinerary During the week they will also be joined for a day by native naturalist and company founder, Brydon Thomason to share an insight into the life of Shetland’s Otters. Adding a uniquely authentic insight you will meet the crofters who care for the land, the designers, knitters and lace-makers who make the finest garments from Shetland wool, and the wildlife that lives alongside them in the islands – and, of course, the Shetland sheep themselves!

We will sample the delicious local food from land and sea, hear stories of traditional life and folklore, and enjoy the company of the very best folk musicians the islands have to offer. This will be a tour unlike any other – a wild and woolly exploration of Shetland’s heart.

2024 Dates:

  • Saturday 4th May to Saturday 11th May, 2024

The Itinerary

Day One Saturday – meet and greet

Having arrived and settled in we will meet for a pre-dinner drink and enjoy the chance for guests and guides to get acquainted. Over dinner, we enthuse about the exciting week that lies ahead from the places we will visit, walks we will take, people (and animals!) we will meet and, of course, the wildlife we will see.

Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel

Day Two Sunday – South Mainland

We begin our week with a gentle coastal walk from the hotel to the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, where we will find a kaleidoscope of breeding seabirds, including the popular and characterful Puffins. From here we will travel north just a few miles to meet local historian and storyteller James Tait for a fascinating insight into our cultural heritage and an introduction to crofting on these wild and windswept islands. On James’ family croft and home he will share his knowledge of how Shetlanders have worked these lands over the centuries to the present day – and, of course, we’ll be meeting our first Shetland lambs of the week! In the afternoon we’ll enjoy a walk out to the picturesque St Ninian’s Isle, joined to the Mainland by a narrow sand spit forming a dramatic geological feature known as a tombolo. It was here that a beautiful horde of Pictish silver was found, many years ago – we may not find Pictish treasure, but in James’ company we will unearth some gems about Shetland’s past! Over dinner in the evening James will give an insight into Shetland’s fascinating history and heritage.

After our time with James we head north up through Shetland’s Mainland to Hillswick in the north west where we spend the next few nights at The St Magnus Bay Hotel.

Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel

Day Three Monday – North Mainland

Leaving Shetland’s southernmost point we journey north to the rugged and remote north western extremity of the Shetland Mainland, Northmavine. To begin exploring this spectacular landscape we start off with a coastal walk from the Eshaness Lighthouse. For the afternoon, safari-style, we will visit some of this area’s lesser known sites where we spend time searching for iconic wildlife and hopefully our first chance of the elusive otter. In the evening we enjoy the hospitality of Andrea Manson, proprietor of the St Magnus Bay Hotel, as she shares her passion for traditional Shetland food.

Overnight: St Magnus Bay Hotel

Day Four Tuesday – In search of otters

Today we join Brydon to learn about the lives of Shetland’s Otters. It was this very species that sparked the idea of this collaborative venture with Kate, after Brydon featured in her Channel Five documentary ‘A Country Life for Half the Price’, sharing his love and knowledge with Kate and the Cook family, through an otter filled day. Today, we set out to do the same and spend the day learning about Shetland’s otters and the fascinating lives they lead. During the day Brydon will share with us some of his favourite otter territories whilst, along the way, learning where and when to find them as well as sharing his 30 years’ experience and passion for these charismatic and remarkable animals.

Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel

Day Five Wednesday – A day at the top of Britain

Today we journey to the very top of the British Isles, with a day on Unst. Island hopping via two ferry crossings we arrive on this magical island mid-morning. We begin by enjoying a trail walk across the moorland of Hermaness National Nature Reserve. Here, we take in the sights and sounds of some of the most dramatic seascapes and Gannet colonies in Europe. Following the coast a short distance we will also enjoy views of the iconic Stevenson-built Muckle Flugga lighthouse and surrounding sea stacks. Known at the time as the Impossible Lighthouse, it is said that Robert Louis Stevenson based the characters in Treasure Island upon the people he met in Unst! Walking across the moors we will be serenaded by Skylarks and the calls of Dunlins and Golden Plovers. At the cliffs, soaring effortlessly in the updrafts Fulmar are always a delight whilst on the moorland Great Skuas will be staking breeding territories. This walk allows us to easily see the uplands of Shetland, a place where only the hardiest wildlife and sheep can be found.

In the afternoon we visit Unst Heritage Centre where we meet the island’s lace knitters and learn about life on this remote island, both past and present, as well as visiting Viking Unst project. During this visit, for those with a botanical interest, we’ll have an optional visit to the Keen of Hamar with Jon. An esteemed botanist, this is a particular favourite of Jons where he shares his knowledge of this unique area of serpentine fellfield habitat that boasts a wildflower found on Unst and nowhere else in the world – Edmonston’s Chickweed. While we search for this rare flower, we should also find the first orchids to flower in Shetland every spring

Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel

Day Six Thursday – Shetland Ponies and working sheepdogs

Staying local in the North Mainland, we spend the day with local crofter, sheep farmer and renowned collie handler and trainer, David Murray and partner Isla Sutherland who together have diversified their knowledge, expertise and crofting heritage into a fascinating visitor experience.

David is one of Shetland’s most accomplished dog handlers who has competed and won at trials with his collies at National level, as has Isla. Impressively, David is the first Shetlander to compete as a Scottish team member at the international championships and that qualified them to compete World Championships- unfortunately however, the Pandemic got in the way, the event has yet to have been rescheduled. Together they will showcase their dogs at work and share their expertise on training, trials and especially, their relationships with their dogs.

David is a man of many talents, and in the afternoon we will join him, along with Sue White (Peatland ACTION Project Officer for Shetland), for a fascinating insight into one of Shetland’s Peatland Restoration projects. Here we will see the work that David and his team have done to mitigate the impacts of climate and grazing on Shetland’s blanket bog. We’ll learn about the importance of this habitat, not only for Shetland’s unique biodiversity, but also in the global effort to combat climate change.

Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel.

Day Seven Friday – Shetland Knitwear & visit to Shetland’s capital town

Island hopping today, but not by ferry! Today, via Trondra, we are bound for the beautiful islands of Burra. Linked by a bridge from Mainland to Trondra and then Burra. Here we visit Joanna Hunter, founder of local knitwear producer Ninian. This brand is at the very cutting edge of Shetland knitwear today, sourcing their own yarns, making their own products in their studio to create a unique collection of contemporary knits with traditional Fair Isle themes throughout. Close by, we visit neighbouring knitwear craft brand, Burra Bears, who make ‘the original Shetland Teddy Bear’ from recycling Shetland knitwear. If you have an old Fair Isle jumper that needs a new home, perhaps you could commission a Burra Bear all of your own?

For lunch we travel into Shetland’s capital town, Lerwick, where we set aside time for you to browse and enjoy the shops at your leisure before we rendezvous at on Victoria Pier in the town centre- from here we embark on an exhilarating voyage onboard with Shetland Seabird Tours to the spectacular Noss National Nature Reserve. Here the sights and sounds of Shetland’s second largest Gannet colony, alongside the many other species of seabirds nesting on the spectacular cliffs of the island are a fitting finale to our outdoor adventures.

Returning to Shetland’s South Mainland once again to where our week began, we check in to the Sumburgh Hotel for our final night. But in true Shetland style, we treat you to an evening of Shetland fiddle music with some of the islands’ most renowned folk musicians, Maurice Henderson and Ewen Thomson, who not only entertain us with their tunes but also the stories behind them.

Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel

Day Eight Saturday – Departure Day

Over breakfast on the last morning guests have time to reflect and discuss the highlights and spectacles of the holiday before transfer and departures after.

Booking – Holiday Dates

Fitness Level Required

Easy to Moderate
Walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain

Price: £2,325

2024 Dates
Saturday 4th May to Saturday 11th May, 2024 One Place Remaining

Contact us for more information and to register your interest.

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.

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