Shetland’s geology

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  • The cliffs of Da Nort Bank, Foula
    Da Nort Bank, Foula
  • The natural arch of the Gaada Stack at Da Ristie, Foula
    The Gaada Stack at Da Ristie, Foula
  • The Sea cliffs at Nebbfield and Da Scrodhurdins, west coast of island of Foula
    The Sea cliffs at Nebbfield and Da Scrodhurdins, Foula
  • St Ninian's Isle connected to the mainland by a tombolo of sand at Bigton
    St Ninian's Isle

Shetland’s incredible geology spans almost 3 billion years and is amongst the most varied in the world.

Shetland’s beautiful scenery of imposing rock formations, undulating hills and silvery inlets is a legacy of its dramatic geological formation. Explore an unpredictable landscape hewn over 3 millennia by shifting glaciers, sea and wind, and see for yourself why these magical islands have been bestowed a European and Global Geopark status.

Lonely Planet recommends Shetland as one of the seven best places in the world to watch the sun rise. The travel guide says Shetland's remote beaches offer the ideal spot to sit and enjoy this daily moment in early spring or late autumn.

Walk across an ancient ocean floor at Hamar National Nature Reserve on Unst and find delicate, rare flowering plants sprouting through its rocky surface.

Explore on foot the remnants of an extinct volcano on the peninsula of Eshaness on a self-guided trail and see a stunning coastal landscape of cliffs, stacks, blowholes and arches. Take a boat trip around the jagged cliffs of Bressay and Noss, ancient desert sandstones sculpted over time by fierce storms and rapidly rising sea levels into towering cliffs that now reverberate with the roar of tens of thousands of sea birds. Cruise right up to the magnificent sea arch of the Giant’s Leg or sail out to St Magnus Bay to see The Drongs, four immense granite pillars which resemble a fleet of ships in the distance. 

Visit the Back Sands beach behind the village of Ollaberry and you can walk along a massive fault line, part of the Great Glen Fault, which was created by enormous earth shifts that occurred millions of years ago. For stellar views, climb to the rubble strewn summit of Ronas Hill where you’ll find geological evidence of Shetland’s Arctic past – shattered granite created by the continual freezing and thawing of water.

In the south of Shetland, at St Ninian’s, you can set foot on one of the most impressive sand tombolos in Europe – a natural causeway of beach with sea on either side – and reach a chapel where silver Viking loot was discovered.

A place of unparalleled natural beauty and history, you’re sure to find almost every geological wonder possible in Shetland.