Sturdy Lerwick is the friendly capital of the 100 islands and islets of the Shetland Islands. The bustling, cosmopolitan seaport is the islands’ only town, and its wonderful natural harbour is a joy to explore.
Until the 1600s, Leir Vik – Norse for a muddy bay – was little more than a few huts. However, conflict between the British and Dutch (whose fishing fleet fished for herrings off the islands) led to the building of a permanent settlement. This included Fort Charlotte, which once overlooked the harbour but has now been enclosed by the town following land reclamation.
Despite the wealth created by North Sea oil, modern Lerwick retains many fascinating small shops and historic buildings. Wandering along atmospheric Commercial St. is a delight, and the Böd of Gremista – a “fishing booth” built in 1780, is now a fascinating museum. The ground floor has the salt store and the kitchen, where herrings were hung to dry. Outside the town are the well preserved remains of the Broch of Clickimin, a small Bronze-Age settlement excavated in the last century.
Ancient Settlements Lerwick
The Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse settlements in Shetland are one of the most important archaeological sites in Scotland. Jarlshof is located at Sumburgh Head near the southern tip of Mainland Shetland. This extraordinary site has a complex of ancient settlements, which cover more than 4,000 years of human history. You will be amazed to find such a range of archaeological treasures in one place, including late Neolithic houses, a Bronze Age village, an Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, a Norse longhouse, a medieval farmstead and a 16th century laird’s house.
Head Visit these cliffs during the summer and you'll be privileged to witness the amazing spectacle of thousands of breeding seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, shags and fulmars. Sumburgh Head is also a great place to watch for whales and dolphins, particularly minke whales and orcas.
Shetland’s world-famous small ponies can be seen throughout the island. Appearing to roam wild, the ponies are owned and tended to by local crofters. They stand up to 42 inches, or 107 cms high at four years or older. From the 1840s, Shetland ponies began to be used in British coal mines as new laws forbade the employment of women,
girls and, later, boys. Hardy, resilient and very strong for their size, the ponies made ideal substitutes as they were able to pass through low underground tunnels hauling truckloads of coal.