Shetland Cruise Ship Day Tour Safaris
Shetland has steadily become a must-stop visit for Cruise Ships over recent years. Each season we see more and more guests choosing our tours whilst visiting off these ships. Our tours offer visitors a much more personalised visitor experience compared to the larger coach-tour itineraries. These tours are designed for small, single figure groups and those looking to get away from the crowd for a day to enjoy our wonderful islands, wildlife, scenery and cultural heritage.
To help facilitate this growing market and make sure visitors get the best possible Shetland experience in the short time frame they have to work within, we have tailored itineraries to include the very best you can expect to see in the time you have.
We have three tour options specially designed for Cruise Ship visitors:
Sumburgh & South Mainland Safari: Puffins, ponies & prehistoric settlement
Tour from the main town of Lerwick to the southern tip of Shetland mainland, Sumburgh Head. Here on this beautiful headland we enjoy access to one of the island’s most important nature reserves, managed by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB). Amongst the species of seabird expected here, the star of the show is the Atlantic Puffin, their dapper plumage, ornate and brightly coloured bill and indeed their character easily make them one of Shetland’s most popular species. Here atop the cliffy headland is situated the iconic Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre.
Access and viewing platforms around the walled perimeter allow for fabulous views of the seabird colonies and over the surrounding ocean. With luck we may even see cetaceans offshore; Harbour Porpoise, Minke Whale and Orca are among the species often seen through the summer months.
From Sumburgh, we set out to explore the beautiful southern sights of Shetland Mainland, with next stop 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. Here we will also meet some of Shetland’s best known faces – Shetland Ponies!
Continuing north, our route takes us around one of the islands’ largest freshwater lochs, the RSPB’s Loch of Spiggie reserve, which is surrounded by some of the most fertile agricultural land in Shetland. Driving safari style along the single track round which parallels the loch we look for wildfowl and wading birds that breed there.
Just north of Spiggie, we search seal haul outs before a stop off at St Ninian’s Isle, undoubtedly one of Shetland’s most picturesque views. St Ninian’s Isle is connected to the mainland by a spectacular sandy beach, or ayre, which is well-known as one of the finest active tombolos in Europe. As well as shore birds that we may see, we will watch for the elegant Arctic Terns feeding in the bay before we begin our return journey back to Lerwick, along the way savouring the wonderful sights of Shetland’s South Mainland Tour.
North Mainland Sight Seeing & Safari – The road to Ronas & Eshaness Lighthouse
Leaving Lerwick harbour we travel north, on route taking a slight detour into the central west Mainland through Kergord valley and Shetland’s closest example of ‘forest’ landscapes, consisting of many shelter belt plantations situated around stunning pasture land in this sheltered valley. Leaving the valley we cross into heather moorland countryside, where we spend time searching for Mountain Hare and Red Grouse.
Passing through the picturesque settlement of Voe, we soon reach Brae, the gateway to the North Mainland. Just to the north of Brae, the road passes the impressive Mavis Grind, a narrow arm of land where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean are but a stone’s throw apart.
Before we explore the magnificent, remote and rugged scenery of the North Mainland, we take a break at the quite magnificently situated Breawick café, looking out over the dramatic sea stacks known as the ‘Drongs’ and, if arranged, we can enjoy lunch.
Our afternoon begins with yet another different seascape, this one at the north-western edge of the Shetland mainland, from Eshaness lighthouse. Here we take the opportunity of a gentle stroll along the cliffs to appreciate once again Shetland’s seabirds, flowering plants and coastal landforms.
The final leg of our journey takes us to the foot of the red-granite massif of Ronas Hill, the highest point in Shetland at some 450 metres. From here, there is one more panorama to take in at the end of a marvellous trek across Mainland Shetland, this one stretching north across the islands of Yell and, in the far distance Unst, while to the south we can look back across those areas of mainland we have spent the day exploring. On our journey back to Lerwick we keep a keen eye out for the wildlife we might see on the last leg of our tour.
The Shetland Otter Experience
Otter watching is widely regarded as one of Shetland’s most popular wildlife attractions. In fact, watching otters in Shetland recently came out on top in a poll of global wildlife experiences in a Travel Magazine! This is our signature species, and we were proud to be listed as the go-to company in that very article.
Generally speaking, this is an experience best arranged around the rhythm of the tides as otters in Shetland tend to be most active during low tide. Usually when arranging this tour, we start and finish in accordance to when the tide starts to fall and rise. The set arrival and departure time of your ship may not fit perfectly into these times, however we still have a very good chance when running this experience on cruise ship days – we just feel we like to be very honest – especially given our unparalleled reputation as the go-to team to see these fabulous mammals.
To work within the timeframes of the ship we will structure our day to search the easily accessible sites that time allows, where the tour takes something of a ‘field course’ angle, as we teach you about otter’s lives, daily routines and ecology, learning where they forage, rest and sleep. As we search, we will look for the tell-tale signs of their presence; crab remains on the shore, spraint points where they mark their territory, the bathing pools needed to wash the salt from their pelts, and the ‘runs’ they follow to and from their holts.