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Discover a unique blend of Scandinavian and Scottish culture in this stunning archipelago of more than 100 islands, 200 kilometres off the north coast of Scotland.

Uncover ancient history combined with diverse landscapes, incredible geology, fascinating wildlife, world-renowned archaeology and many fantastic events and festivals. Shetland’s nature reserves offer a diverse range of creatures, from Shetland ponies grazing on hillsides to otters, bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and seals swimming in coastal waters, and vast colonies of seabirds.

The towering cliffs of the spectacular Noss National Nature Reserve are home to an extraordinary range of nesting birds – gannets, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes can be seen in spring and summer – with great skuas nesting inland. Britain’s most northerly point, Muckle Flugga, is overlooked by the remote Hermaness National Nature Reserve whose cliffs are home to puffins, shags and gulls, and whose moorland turns blue when the spring squill comes into bloom, before turning deep pink with the flowering of sea pinks.

The remarkable nature reserve on Unst more closely resembles a lunar landscape, but its apparent barrenness is misleading as it is home to a unique collection of specialised plants that have adapted to survive on the rare serpentine rock that constitutes the island. These include Edmondson’s chickweed, found nowhere else in the world.

Sumburgh Head is one of the best places to see wildlife in the UK; the cliffs beside the imposing lighthouse are crowded with seabirds, and a good spot to watch dolphins and whales, particularly minke whales, bottlenose dolphins and orca.

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Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: common seal, grey seal, harbour porpoise, otter, storm petrel
  • Where: Scotland, United Kingdom

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itineraries:

Scotland’s Wild Coast

From the windswept Hebrides to the intriguing diversity of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, this voyage visits remote crofting communities, picturesque villages and some of the world’s largest seabird colonies. Excursions by Zodiac allow you to get close to seals in waters patrolled by whales and dolphins.

  • When to go: Jun
  • Duration exc. flights: 11 days
  • Price exc. flights: From £5,245 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

The Shetland Islands

This small group trip explores the Shetland Islands from two bases: Sumburgh in the south and Baltasound on Unst – the most northerly populated island of the British Isles. Boat trips and daily wildlife walks, accompanied by an expert naturalist guide, reveal an astounding diversity of flora, fauna and marine life.

  • When to go: May-Jul
  • Duration exc. flights: 8 days
  • Price exc. flights: From £1,395 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour