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Clickimin Broch at night
Shetland MuseumOfficially part of the United Kingdom, the Shetland Islands are certainly Scottish but are not part of the 'tartan culture' of Scotland, and instead have their own special identity. Gaelic is not spoken anywhere in Shetland, but instead there are strong remnants of a unique Shetland dialect which is closely related to both 'Auld Scots' and the ancient 'Norn' language that pervaded the North Sea countries of Norway, Denmark, Shetland, Faroe and Iceland in Viking times.

Indeed Shetland only became part of Scotland in 1469 when King Christian of Denmark pledged the islands as a dowry for his daughter on her marriage to King James III of Scotland.

Jarlshof, SumburghPeople have lived in Shetland for over 5000 years and evidence from the earliest Neolithic settlers through to the Bronze and Iron ages and on to the Pictish and Viking eras can be seen in many small museums and Interpretive Centres all over Shetland.

Arguably the strongest and most persistent influence on present-day Shetland is that of the Vikings, however the evidence is that they did not come to rape and pillage but to farm, settle peacefully and raise families. Replica St Ninian's Isle treasureThe influence of their language, culture and traditions is still to the fore.

The islands still retain some of the centuries of Norwegian influence, particularly in place names, cultural links and business trade. The most northerly outpost of the UK, Shetland has been described as the best way for British holidaymakers to go 'abroad' without a passport.

The Jarl in front of his burning galleyRelated to the Viking heritage of Shetland is the spectacular Up Helly A' fire festival, held every January, which is well worth making a special trip to Shetland. See our special pages about Up Helly A' here.

Other events have also shaped Shetland's history, such as what became known as 'The Shetland Bus', a Shetland based boat operation to and from Norway, that took place during the Second World War (1939 - 1945).

World War II fishing boat on 'Shetland Bus' serviceMany gave of their lives in the extremely hazardous boat trips between Shetland and Norway, to assist the Norwegian resistance movement. The conditions under which they operated, the difficulties of crossing the North Sea at night, with no lights and far from any possible help, can scarcely be imagined today.

Always present in the minds of those on board would have been the threat of discovery and the risk of being shot at by German planes or boats, and possibly captured when they finally reached the Norwegian coast.

Consider the following possibilities:-

bullet Shetland Amenity Trust
bullet Themed Brochures
bullet Shetland's Whalers Remembered



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