The Shetlands are a group of subarctic islands located about 110 miles north of mainland Scotland. One of the jewels of the archipelago is the Isle of Noss, a National Nature Reserve and Special Protection Area. Here we enjoy a splendid ship cruise along the coastline where towering sandstone cliffs have been weathered into horizontal ledges, making perfect nesting sites for thousands of seabirds including gannets, puffins, guillemots, shags, black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills and fulmars. This is also a great place to spot seals and otters in the water.
On the uninhabited island of Mousa we find the famous Broch of Mousa, the finest preserved Iron Age fortification in the British Isles. At over 40 feet tall, this 2,000-year-old round tower is the tallest broch still standing and is among the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe. The island itself supports a rich diversity of plant life and is also known for grey and common seals, Arctic terns, and a significant colony of storm-petrels.
We come alongside at the port of Lerwick on Mainland, the largest of the Shetland Islands. On a walking tour of this historic town we visit the award-winning Shetland Museum to learn all about Shetland’s fascinating heritage and culture. From here we take a scenic overland coach ride through the fertile countryside of Dunrossness to discover Shetland’s best destinations. Birders will relish the opportunity to visit the historic lighthouse at Sumburgh Head, the southernmost point of Mainland Shetland. These rugged cliffs attract thousands of seabirds and the grassy slopes above are particularly great for enjoying close encounters with puffins amongst beautiful wildflowers. Also on the itinerary is Jarlshof, one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the British Isles. Here we discover beautifully preserved stone structures spanning 5,000 years of human settlement, including Bronze Age oval houses, Pictish wheelhouses, an Iron Age broch, a Viking longhouse and a mediaeval farmhouse.
On Fair Isle—an isolated island of rolling moorlands and rugged coastlines—one is easily enchanted by historic crofts, picturesque lighthouses, and friendly locals. Here we find the internationally renowned Fair Isle Bird Observatory. The island is famous among birders for its abundance of British birds and for its numerous records of eastern rarities and migrants. Fair Isle is also one of Europe’s best places to watch seabirds, especially puffins, at close range. Additionally, the island is notable for the abundance and diversity of its wildflowers. Seals are also commonly seen in its bays. Finally, during our visit it will be possible to see and purchase articles hand-knitted in the intricate and distinctive style for which Fair Isle has been celebrated for hundreds of years.