They say “west is best”, well why not find out for yourself whether that's true or not? Tours around the west and central mainland of Shetland vary from other parts of the islands. Here we can impress you with a castle, Shetland ponies and heroic tales of the Shetland Bus, a clandestine war operation which took place during World War Two.
Scalloway Castle was built in 1600 by Earl Patrick Stewart. By all accounts, Earl Patrick wasn’t a very nice man and the castle is said to have been built with slave labour.
It now lies in ruins, but it is still possible to see inside to the kitchen, storeroom and great hall. There are interpretative boards on the ground floor, meaning that you can explore the castle at your leisure.
Scalloway Museum is based next door to the castle. Inside, there is a whole section dedicated to the Shetland Bus, which was an undercover operation that took place during World War Two. There are various other displays to do with the local history, geology and witchcraft. Believe it or not, there is also a homemade airplane inside the museum. There is a gift shop and refreshments are available for purchase.
Carol Fullerton has been breeding Shetland ponies her whole life. Both her mother and grandmother were Shetland pony breeders before her. Carol’s Ponies is a convenient stop in the Tingwall Valley if you simply want to get some photos and hear more about these loveable little ponies. Carol is happy to tell you about how they are bred and how they live.
The main islands closest to Scalloway are the islands of Burra. Hamnavoe is a cute and picturesque fishing village, where it is worth stopping for a quick walkabout. Nearby, there are some stunning beaches, popular with visitors and locals alike.
There are also two makers on the Shetland Craft Trail in Burra. Red Houss is a small art studio. Here, the owner Mike Finnie, does watercolour art prints and makes silver jewellery, all inspired by Shetland. Close by is Burra Bears. Wendy Inkster will take your old, knitted garments and turn them into cute little bears to have as a keepsake.
Also in Burra, is The Shetland Pony Experience. Here, there is the opportunity to get much more hands on with the Shetland Ponies. The owners will show you how to brush and look after your ponies, walk with them to the nearby beach for photos and learn more about their history from an interesting display in the arena.
If you would like to add any of these options onto your scenic tour, then please discuss this with us.
Uradale Farm is an organic farm located between Scalloway and Burra. Here the owner will give you a talk about the native breeds of animals kept on the farm: Shetland sheep and Shetland cows. Uradale Farm also produce their own organic wool, which is loved by knitters around the world.
Shetland Jewellery have their workshop on the westside of Shetland. Here you can watch the jewellery makers at work and hear more about the processes they use to create this incredible jewellery. Inspiration for the jewellery comes from Shetland’s wildlife, folklore, Scandinavian and Scottish heritage and landscapes. There jewellery is on display in the showroom, along with other gifts, and refreshments are also available for purchase.
Bonhoga is located inside the former Weisdale Mill, used as a mill until the early 1900s. Now it is run by Shetland Arts and used as an art gallery and showcase for local artists. The café at Bonhoga uses a lot of local produce in their cooking and is a great place to stop for a coffee or some lunch.
Westerwick and surrounding areas
There is much to see when you continue further west but for me, one of my favourite places is Westerwick. This hidden gem gives you stunning cliffs, gorgeous sea views and a lovely stone beach. If you'd like to walk around this area, sturdy footwear is a requirement. I’m happy to discuss adding this as an option to your Shetland adventure.View our West & Central Mainland Tour for small groups