Culture itinerary in Shetland

From Scalloway Museum to Bonhoga Gallery to Up Helly Aa Exhibition Centre and Valhalla Brewery, find great range of cultural attractions throughout Shetland.

  • Looking over yellow flowers to the settlement of Voe at the head of Ronas Voe, Mainland, Shetland
    Looking over yellow flowers to Voe and Olna Firth, Shetland
  • Curator knitting at the Shetland Textile Museum at Weisdale mill, Lerwick
    Knitting at the Shetland Textile Museum, Lerwick
  • Lerwick
  • Jewellery being made at Weisdale, Mainland
    Jewellery being made at Weisdale, Mainland
  • A Shetland pony foal with its mother
    Shetland ponies

Begin your day in Lerwick, the main port and capital of the Shetland Islands. Here you will find the Up Helly Aa Exhibition Centre in the Galley Shed. The exhibition celebrates and documents the history and culture of Up Helly Aa, Europe’s largest fire festival, which takes place every January in Lerwick and celebrates Shetland’s culture and Norse connections. The exhibition contains information on the history of Up Helly Aa with many photographs documenting the event. There is also an exhibition of Jarl Squad suits from the previous 10 years on display along with various other suits used by squads participating in the festival. Visitors can watch a short film documenting the preparations and celebrations from Up Helly Aa of January that year.

From there, head out of Lerwick on a short drive on the A970 to the historic fishing village of Scalloway where you can pay a visit to the Scalloway Museum. The museum is a unique and important cultural attraction which not only tells the history of Scalloway but has a permanent exhibition dedicated to the village’s unique role during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1945 the village was home to a secret base, used by Norwegian patriots who regularly crossed the North Sea in fishing boats and returned with refugees from their German occupied homeland. The operation came to be known as the Shetland Bus.

The exhibition covers the full story of this almost forgotten aspect of the war, with a list of all the missions carried out by the fishing vessels, many of which were lost, either by storm or enemy action and a range of photographs and memorabilia from the Shetland bus operation.

Next join the A971 and take the short scenic drive into rural Shetland where you will find the Bonhoga Gallery, just north of Weisdale. The most northerly art gallery on the British Islands, Bonhoga is a fantastic visual and applied gallery located in a beautifully restored mill. Enjoy viewing a variety of local, national and international art and craft exhibitions and pay a visit to the gallery shop, which is stocked with an ever changing array of local, handmade and inspiring gifts. Finish your visit with lunch in the gallery cafe, with a wide range of locally produced goods. With a stunning view over Kergord Burn, the cafe is a real hidden gem, popular with the local Shetlands population.

Spend your second day on the Culture Itinerary exploring some of the Shetland’s other islands. Begin your second day with a ferry ride across from Mainland to Yell, where you can visit the Old Haa Museum.  The museum explores the history of the island, including the whaling years and shipwrecks along with natural history, genealogy and a picture and sound archive. More than simply a museum, the Old Haa building is a hub for the island community, featuring local art and craft exhibitions, evening events, a restaurant and a public space.

From there, take a drive across the island to the northern ferry port on the A968 and take a ferry across to the island of Fetlar. The island is home to the Fetlar Interpretive Centre, an award-winning exhibition and museum dedicated to the history, culture, genealogy and folklore of Fetlar and the wider Shetland Islands.  Explore a wide exhibition of photography, film and memorabilia dating back to the 1800s and discover the award-winning exhibition on Sir William Watson Cheyne of Fetlar, assistant to Lord Lister in the pioneering Victorian development of antiseptic surgery.

Finally pay a visit to the Valhalla Brewery on the Isle of Unst, just a short ferry trip north and the most northerly brewery on the British Isles. In keeping with Shetland’s Viking connections, the brewery is named after the celestial hall, home of the Norse god Odin, where Viking warriors would be revived by a horn full of ale. Learn about the different stages of the brewing process on a guided tour of the premises and witness everything from the mashing of the yeast to the packaging of the bottles.