Norse culture in Shetland

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  • Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick
    Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick
  • The night time procession of Up Helly Aa in Lerwick
    The night time procession of Up Helly Aa in Lerwick
  • A member of the Uyeasound Jarl Squad with a replica Viking Galley
    A member of the Uyeasound Jarl Squad with a replica Viking Galley

The Viking invasion marked a vital turning point in the history of Shetland and the vestiges of their Nordic culture can still be seen and heard today. The extinct Norse language, Norn, survives in names like Tingwall, the setting of the ancient Viking parliament, and monumental granite sea stacks Da Drongs in the North Mainland.

Shetlanders speak a unique dialect with roots in both Scots and the Norn and you can expect to hear unfamiliar words such as peerie (small), wir (our), du (you) and dy (your) peppered in conversation.

Unst is believed to be where these fearsome warriors first settled in Shetland and this remote island is home to more remains of Viking longhouses than anywhere else in the world, including Scandinavia. Find out more about the Vikings and other highlights in Shetland’s history through time at Unst Heritage Centre.

You can explore Viking culture at a variety of attractions in Shetland. Sumburgh is home to the remarkable prehistoric and Norse settlement of Jarlshof, and in Lerwick you see a variety of Viking artefacts at Shetland Museum & Archives. You can learn all about Iron Age, Pictish and Viking settlers at the Old Scatness Broch interpretive centre, where guided tours are available during the summer months.

Why not explore Shetland’s Norse heritage with your GPS or mobile phone? Discover some of the island’s most fascinating and beautiful historical attractions using geocaching, an innovative outdoor treasure hunt game. Shetland is home to seven geocaches to uncover as part of the Thing Sites Geo Tour, a great way to experience Shetland’s Viking past.

On the last Tuesday of January, Lerwick celebrates Up Helly Aa, Europe’s largest fire festival, which culminates in the burning of a replica Viking longship. There are also nine local Up Helly Aa's running from January to March, showing how the Shetlanders continue to embrace their Norse roots today.