Visiting the Shetland Islands is a fantastic idea for various reasons!

First off, the natural beauty is truly unparalleled. The rugged landscapes, dramatic cliffs and picturesque coastlines provide a breathtaking backdrop for anyone who visits, like stepping into a postcard with every turn.

The Shetland Islands also have a unique culture with a rich history and a vibrant local community; you can get a taste of the authentic island life, from traditional music and dance to local festivals. The friendliness of the people is infectious, making your visit not just about the scenery but also about the warm and welcoming atmosphere.

If you're into wildlife, the Shetlands is the place to be as the islands are a haven for birdwatchers, with puffins, guillemots and seals making regular appearances. The marine life is diverse, and if you're lucky, you might even spot an orca or a humpback whale during certain times of the year.

Shetland Isles

Climate in the Shetland Islands

These islands, situated way up north in Scotland, can be a bit unpredictable weather wise so be prepared!

In the winter, brace yourself for some chilly winds, rain and low temperatures that hover around 2 to 6 degrees Celsius (36 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit). It might get a tad frosty though you probably won’t see much snow.

In spring things start to perk up a bit and temperatures rise to a milder 5 to 9 degrees Celsius (41 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit). The landscape begins to get covered with wildflowers, a lovely time to explore.

Summer, while not exactly tropical, sees the most pleasant weather. Daytime temperatures usually range from 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). It's the best time to enjoy the stunning landscapes without worrying too much about the cold.

Autumn has cooler temperatures again, with highs ranging from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius (43 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and the islands start to take on those autumnal hues, creating a picturesque backdrop.

So, in a nutshell, Shetland's climate is a bit on the cool side, and there's always the chance of rain but each season has its own charm. Just be prepared for a bit of everything, weather-wise!

So when is the best time to visit the Shetland Islands?

If we’re looking at timing then the best time to visit would probably be during the summer months when the days are longer and you can really appreciate the beauty of the landscapes. However, if you're a fan of winter wonderlands then visiting during the colder months means the possibility of catching the Northern Lights dancing across the sky.

So let’s look at the different seasons and what you can do.

Peak Season in Shetland – June to August

The peak season in the Shetland Isles usually kicks in during the summer months, from late June to August. These are the months when the weather is relatively mild, so a great time to visit to get involved in outdoor activities and explore the islands. There are more tourists at this time of year though but this does mean that the atmosphere is bustling and lively with lots of events going on, so if this appeals to you then it’s a great time to go.

Seals on Shetland Islands

Things to do in Shetland during the peak season

The Shetland Islands offer a variety of experiences during the summer months. 

  • Make the most of the long summer days to explore the numerous nature reserves on Shetland. Hermaness National Nature Reserve, in particular, offers breathtaking views of cliffs and seabird colonies.
  • Lace up your walking boots and go on a beautiful coastal walk. You can choose from gentle to more challenging hikes, depending on what you prefer. Don't miss the Eshaness Cliffs for dramatic coastal scenery.
  • Visit Jarlshof Archaeological Site and immerse yourself in history by exploring the Jarlshof prehistoric and Norse settlement. The site reveals over 4,000 years of human history, showcasing the layers of different civilizations that once called the islands home.
  • Shetland is a birdwatcher's paradise, especially during the summer when seabird colonies are at their peak. Visit Sumburgh Head or Noss National Nature Reserve for an incredible bird-watching experience.
  • Explore the surrounding waters on a boat trip and see if you can spot seals, whales and porpoises.
  • Eat local food, in particular fresh seafood by visiting local cafes and restaurants. Try Shetland mussels, smoked fish and traditional Shetland lamb.
  • Check out any local music or arts festivals happening during your visit. The Shetland Folk Festival, for example, is a vibrant celebration of music and culture.
  • Explore the capital town, Lerwick, with its lovely harbour, shops and historical sites, it is a hub of activity.
  • If you enjoy peaceful surroundings then you can visit some of Shetland's gardens. The Shetland Botanical Garden showcases a variety of plants that have adapted to the island's climate.

Low season on Shetland – November to March

The low season in Shetland is during the winter months, from November to March, when the island has much cooler temperatures and shorter days.

Visiting Shetland during this season has its perks though as the rugged beauty of the landscapes takes on a unique charm, with a peaceful atmosphere so you can truly connect with the surroundings. While some attractions may have reduced hours or seasonal closures, this is a fantastic time for those seeking a more authentic experience.

Keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable, so packing layers and waterproof gear is advisable. If you're a fan of the wonder of winter then the low season in Shetland could be the perfect time for a Shetland adventure.


Things to do on the Shetland Isles during the Low season

  • See the amazing Northern Lights Watching, Shetland is a great place for this and winter nights have the clear skies that provide the stunning backdrop to the auroras.
  • Warm up in one of Shetland's cosy pubs and mingle with the locals, enjoy traditional Scottish fare and listen to some live music.
  • Wrap up warm and take a walk along the coast, the landscapes are breathtaking, and the crisp air makes the experience so much better.
  • Shetland is the perfect place for birdwatchers and the low season attracts various seabirds so you might spot some unique species along the cliffs and shores.
  • Check out local winter festivals and events during the low season as Shetland often hosts cultural celebrations.
  • Visit the historical sites and museums whilst there are fewer crowds.
  • Visit Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, which has a lot to offer. Wander through the streets, visit the Shetland Museum, and shop for unique local crafts.
  • This season is a great time for taking photographs as the winter light creates a magical atmosphere, making it the perfect time for photography.
  • Make the most of the quieter season to go exploring the other islands in the archipelago.
  • Go to the Up Helly Aa which usually takes place on the last Tuesday of January, a spectacular fire festival with amazing torchlight processions, the burning of a Viking galley and lots of lively celebrations.

Remember to dress warmly, embrace the tranquility of the season and enjoy the unique winter beauty that Shetland has to offer!

Landscape on Shetland Isles

Shoulder season in Shetland – April to Early June, September to October

The shoulder season in the Shetland Isles typically falls during spring and autumn, so from late April to early June and September to early October. During these times the temperatures will be cooler than the peak summer months and with fewer tourists.

In spring the landscape comes back to life as the flowers bloom and if you're lucky you'll catch glimpses of puffins and other seabirds. Though the weather is good, it's advisable to bring layers as it can still be a bit cold and chilly.

In the autumn shoulder season, you'll experience the changing foliage and the chance to witness the Northern Lights if you're lucky. The weather starts to cool down, but it's generally still comfortable for exploring.

Overall, the shoulder season in the Shetland Isles offers a nice balance between nice weather and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for a more relaxed and immersive travel experience.

Things to do on the Shetland Isles during the Shoulder Season

Exploring the Shetland Isles during the shoulder seasons is a good choice and while the weather might be a bit unpredictable, there's still plenty to see and do. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take advantage of the beautiful landscapes without the summer crowds where you can wander along the coastline or head into the hills, the chances are you'll have the scenery all to yourself.
  • The Shetlands are a haven for those who love to see the birds and during the shoulder seasons you can catch various bird species, including puffins and many different types of seabirds.
  • Explore the rich history of the Shetland Isles by visiting archaeological sites and ancient ruins. Jarlshof is a must-see, showcasing centuries of human history.
  • Check if there are any local events or festivals happening during your visit. The shoulder seasons sometimes host events that provide a glimpse into Shetland's vibrant culture.
  • Try the local delicacies, especially the seafood as there are regular fresh catches at the local restaurants.
  • Take a drive around the stunning coastlines, the changing weather can add drama to the landscapes!
  • Go island hopping, each has its own charm.
  • Get involved in local arts and crafts by joining workshops. You can learn about traditional Shetland knitting or other artisanal skills from the friendly locals.
  • Visit some of the lighthouses on the islands. Their vantage points offer stunning views of the surrounding seas and landscapes.
  • With longer nights during the shoulder seasons, take advantage of the reduced light pollution and enjoy some incredible stargazing. The Northern Lights might even make a surprise appearance.


Puffins on Shetland

How many days do you need to see the Shetland Islands

How much time you spend on the Shetland Isles very much depends on what you want to do when you are there but it’s probably a good idea to spend at least 5 to 7 days to fully appreciate its beauty. A week will let you explore the main islands, visit historical sites, take in the stunning landscapes and maybe try a bit of bird-watching or go on coastal walks. The weather can be quite changeable, so having a bit of flexibility in your schedule is a good idea.

If you're into festivals, attending events like Up Helly Aa in January can add an extra layer of cultural richness to your trip.

When is the Up Helly Aa?

The Up Helly Aa festival in Shetland, Scotland, usually takes place on the last Tuesday of January. It's a spectacular fire festival with amazing torchlight processions, the burning of a Viking galley and lots of lively celebrations. If you want to experience the unique vibrancy of the Helly Aa, late January is the time to go. Just keep in mind that Shetland's winter weather can be chilly, so dress warmly and enjoy the experience!

Does Shetland get midges?

Absolutely, midges can be a bit of a presence in the Shetland Islands, especially during the warmer months. These tiny, pesky insects are most active from late spring to early autumn and while they might not be as much of a nuisance as in some other parts of Scotland, it's always a good idea to be prepared if you plan to visit during the midge season. Bring some insect repellent and wear long sleeves to avoid getting bitten!

How much rain do you get in the Shetland Islands?

Rainfall is a common in Shetland all year round! On average, around 43 inches (1,092 mm) each year distributed fairly evenly across the months, with no distinct dry season. Winter tends to be a bit wetter, but overall, Shetland is known for its mild temperatures and rainfall compared to some other parts of the UK. Check the local weather forecast and pack plenty of waterproof clothing ....just in case!!

How expensive is Shetland?

The cost of a trip to Shetland will vary depending on the time of year you go and also on how you travel and what you do when you get there.

Accommodation in Shetland can range from budget-friendly options to more expensive options. Guesthouses and bed-and-breakfasts provide a cosy and often affordable stay but prices will be influenced by the tourist season.

Transportation costs can also fluctuate especially if you travel during peak times when flights and ferry tickets will be more expensive. However, the stunning landscapes and cultural experiences Shetland offers make the journey well worth it.

Eating out in restaurants can be great but may come at a price so opting for local markets or self-catering will help keep costs down.

Guided tours, wildlife excursions and museum visits will all contribute to the overall cost so plan ahead and prioritise your must-do experiences to make the most of your budget.

While Shetland may not be the cheapest destination, if you plan carefully it will help make your trip a great experience without breaking the bank.


Shetland's unique position, surrounded by the North Atlantic and North Sea, contributes to its distinctive climate and the rewards of exploring this remote and unspoiled destination are well worth it. So, whether you're an avid photographer, love a bit of history or are simply seeking an escape from your normal life then Shetland beckons with its unique culture and stunning landscapes.