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The local area guide to living In Shetland

The most northern point of the British Isles, the Shetland Isles comprise more than 100 separate islands and, despite being Scottish, are actually closer to Norway in terms of geography. This position between the two mainlands results in a culture like no other, part Scottish, part Sardinian and wholly unique.

Under Norse rule until the 14th century, a Nordic influence can be found in place names, historical sites and even the local accent. A source of inspiration for creative types, famous fans of these idyllic isles include John T Reid, Ann Cleeves and Sir Walter Scott. Home to a rich variety of wildlife, Shetland is the ideal place for lovers of nature or simply a quieter way of life, and despite its huge number of individual islands has a warm community feel.

Information about the local residents

Shetland has a total population of 23.200, accounting for just 0.4% of Scotland’s total population, most of which is found on its main island known as Mainland. A quarter of residents are aged over 65, marginally higher than the Scottish mainland average of 24%. In contrast, 16.4% of the population is of 16 – 29 years of age, approximately 2% lower than the Scottish average.

80% of locals identify as “White Scottish” - though colloquially prefer to call themselves “Shetlanders” - and 14% as “White British” with the remainder of the population coming from ethnic minorities including Asian, Polish and other ethnic groups. Comparative to other parts of the highlands, Shetland is one of the more ethnically diverse regions. The majority of Shetlanders also subscribe to no religion, though The Church of Scotland has a following comprising 30% of the population.

Nearby schools

A number of primary and secondary schools, as well as centres of further education serve the Shetland Isles and provide local students with a good standard of education. The rural nature of the isles has led to some very small schools, though this has not diminished the quality or variety of education available - Ollaberry Primary School in Northmavine, for example, was ranked the best in Scotland following a 2013 inspection.

Unsurprisingly, most schools are found in Lerwick, Shetland’s main port on Mainland, including Anderson High School which has a school roll of over 900 pupils aged 12 – 18 and is the largest school in the Shetland Isles. Also in Lerwick is the Shetland College offering further education courses, together with the NAFC Marine Centre in Scolloway, these centres of higher education offer degree courses from the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Getting around

A chain of more than 100 islands, it is remarkably easy to go “island hopping” within Shetland, or else head to the Scottish mainland. Both ferry and air services offer frequent, affordable routes between the islands and the ferry route to and from Aberdeen to Lerwick operates every day of the week, making access to Aberdeen airport extremely convenient. Equally as easy is reaching Bergen in Norway, with flights in operation three days a week.

Within the islands themselves, bus routes provide a reliable service and even feature extended hours during the popular Winter Festival. For avid cyclists, the isles are easily traversed by bike, and have some spectacular views to enjoy along the way.

Local shops

The vast majority of the islands of Shetland are serviced by local, independently owned shops. The largest variety of shops is found in Lerwick, including the isles’ only large-scale supermarket, a Tesco Superstore which provides internet click-and-collect services. Lerwick’s highstreet and shopping centre provide a wealth of locally owned shops, some national chains and a great choice of restaurants and bars. Eateries are generally of high quality throughout Shetland thanks to signature cuisine such as Shetland lamb, beef and an always-fresh supply of seafood.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.


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