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Set adrift in the North Sea, the Shetland Isles are Britain's northernmost outpost, situated closer to Bergen in Norway than to Edinburgh. This rural, rugged landscape consists of about a hundred islands, fifteen of which are inhabited. The size of these islands vary, though much of their landscape is similar; the rolling hills and sloping green fields end in sheer cliffs, and are dotted with whitewashed farmhouses - and of course the Shetland's famous ponies.

In recent years, the Shetland Isles have developed a reputation as a tourist escape, and no wonder; with countless activities, numerous archaeological sites and a rich cultural heritage, there is much to delight the visitor. And with such a strong Norse influence, both geographically and politically, you leave with a feeling of having been farther than Scotland.

Lying close to the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland, Jarlshof is considered to be one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Europe. The oldest surviving signs of life here date from about 2500BC, but perhaps even more impressive is that the site gives a true cross-section of Shetland's inhabitants, from these Neolithic settlers to 16th century lairds. Each section of this fascinating microcosm had been buried by sand until it was discovered in 1925. Jarlshof, now exposed and partially restored, gives a wonderful insight into the evolution of life and living conditions throughout Shetland's history.

Scalloway Castle
Built in 1599 by Earl Patrick Stewart, the brooding Scalloway Castle was built to strengthen his position as Lord of Shetland in the islands' then-capital. At the time of its completion, the fortress was surrounded by sea on three sides, making it virtually impregnable - an essential requirement for the Earl as his legendary tyranny had earned him many enemies. The Earl was overpowered and executed eventually, and the castle was used for very little after Cromwell stationed troops there in the 1650s. The castle is now partially ruined and is much smaller than the original structure, yet today it remains as a mighty testament to the Earl's defensive power.

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1 result matching: Escorted Rail Tours to Shetland

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4.0 stars(60 reviews)
7 days from
£1,715 pp £1,665 pp
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  • DestinationScotland
  • Starts / EndsEdinburgh
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportCoach
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Our customers love our Shetland tours
Orkney and the Shetland Isles
MW Salisbury
5 stars
“Our hectic tour of Shetlands and Orkney was well-planned by GRJ and executed excellently by our outstanding guide, Carly, in a pleasant professional manner ably supported by excellent local guides. The exceptional benign weather and calm seas added to our pleasure and enjoyment of this most memorable trip. Personally, I thought that there was too great an emphasis on archaeology at the expense of the Northern Isles' 18th to 20th Century heritage. There are minimal lift facilities at Inverness Station and all ferry terminals and no lift faculties at the Brae Hotel, Shetlands, Standing Stones Hotel, Orkney; the GRJ brochure should give greater emphasis to the importance of all travellers being capable of handling all of their baggage up and down steps easily. Some of our reserved train-seats were beside a pillar rather than a window so they were unable to see the fascinating two-hour train journey between Edinburgh to Aberdeen with crossings of the Forth and Tay rail-bridges and views over the Firths of Forth and Tay as well as the Montrose Basin nor the views of the Moray Firth and Cairngorms on the four-hour train journeys between Thurso and Inverness as well as Inverness and Edinburgh. The trains to and from Inverness were overcrowded and lacked sufficient luugage space; the Thurso train had no onboard refreshment facilities. I would recommend that there should be the opportunity to see the WW2 'Shetland Bus' - Norwegian Special Forces artefacts in the Scalloway Museum - if necessary at the expense of driving past Scalloway Castle. It might be worth considering extending the tour to include a visit to the new Scapa Flow Museum on Hoy. This was a demanding and enjoyable tour ably led by an experienced guide; the shortcomings of the Scotrail train services appeared to be largely beyond the remit of GRJ. Photographs: 1. Scalloway - WW2 'Shetland Bus' - Norwegian Special Forces Secret Base. 2. Italian Chapel, Churchill Barrier, Scapa Flow. 3. Walled Garden, Castle of Mey and Pentland Firth.
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