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Getting Here and Getting Around
Flights to Shetland are operated by Loganair on behalf of FlyBe and you can book on-line at the Flybe website. All flights land at Sumburgh Airport at Shetland’s southern tip, which is just over half an hour’s drive from Hillside Brae.
You can fly direct to Shetland from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness or Kirkwall. There are between three and five flights each day from Aberdeen, taking about an hour, and either two or three flights each day from Edinburgh, taking about 1½ hours. From Inverness (1 hour 40 minutes) and Kirkwall (30 minutes) there are one or two flights per day and from Glasgow (1½ hours) there is one daily service.
There are connections from many other parts of the UK and Europe through Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh or Glasgow.
In summer, flights can very occasionally be disrupted by fog. In most years, this is not a serious problem, but if you want to minimise the risk, it would be wise to use FlyBe for any connecting flights and it may also help to connect through Aberdeen, because (other than for evening departures) there may then be the option of transferring to the overnight ferry.
NorthLink Ferries' two ships operate every night in both directions between Aberdeen and Lerwick. Some journeys also call en route at Kirkwall in Orkney. The departure time from Aberdeen is either 1700 (when calling at Kirkwall) or 1900 (when sailing direct). In either case, you’ll arrive in Lerwick at 0730. Southbound departures are at 1730 or 1900 and arrival in Aberdeen is at 0700.
The ships used on the route were launched in 2002 and are built and equipped to very high standards. You can book a two- or four-berth cabin, an individual berth in a same-sex two- or four-berth cabin or a reclining seat. All cabins have en suite facilities. The demand for cabins and berths is high and it is best to book well in advance. Onboard, meals featuring island produce are served in the restaurant and cafeteria and there are two bars. You can take a car or motorbike with you for an additional fee; there’s no charge for bicycles.
There’s no doubt that the easiest way to explore Shetland is by car and, if you don’t bring your own with you on the ferry, you can hire one. A number of car hire firms operate in Shetland, including Bolt’s, Grantfield Garage, Shetland Car Hire and Star.
With a few exceptions, such as Walls and Bigton, larger communities in Shetland are served by well-maintained two-lane roads. Single track roads with passing places generally serve smaller communities but they, too, are of an excellent standard. Petrol and diesel fuel are widely available and LPG fuel is also obtainable.
Whether or not you have your own transport, you may want to explore some of Shetland’s other islands. If so, there is an excellent inter-island ferry service, with frequent services on all the busier routes. Crossing times are generally between seven minutes and half an hour. Fares are low by comparison with other Scottish island ferry routes and at present services between Yell, Unst and Fetlar are free. You can find out more about ferry services, including timetables, on the Zettrans website. In high season, it’s wise to book ahead, and the timetables include the telephone numbers for booking offices.
Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular way of seeing the islands. Smooth road surfaces make for a comfortable trip and major roads usually have an informal hard shoulder where you can easily pull off. The terrain is varied; many stretches are virtually flat but there are also some long hills. There’s more information about cycling in Shetland on the Cycling Scotland website.
Local bus services connect Lerwick with all the main communities on the mainland. On some routes, including the ones passing through Gulberwick, there may be between six and ten services on weekdays. Services in remoter areas tend to be much less frequent. There’s more information about bus services here. If you’re prepared to consider hitch-hiking, it can be a viable way of reaching remoter places.
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