Seabirds-and-Seals is based in Shetland*, a group of rugged islands 100 miles north of Scotland and 200 miles west of Norway – lying across the line of latitude of 60 degrees north.
At this latitude we enjoy the "white nights" of summer, when the sun just dips below the northern horizon for a few hours and it's never really dark between mid-May and mid-July. In midwinter the sun hangs low in the southern sky for six hours or so and on dull days we have to switch the lights on at noon.
Although we're so far north we have a temperate climate, kept mostly above freezing in winter by a little leftover warmth from the North Atlantic currents.
The weather can be boisterous but it's never boring as we live in the track of Atlantic depressions that bring us frequent winter storms, interspersed with magical calm days and dramatic cloudscapes. Some mornings it feels as if we've experienced all four seasons within 24 hours!
There are more than 100 islands. Only 15 are inhabited, by a total of about 23,000 people, most of them on the biggest island – confusingly called ‘Mainland’ – and on some smaller isles connected to it by bridges. About 4,000 live on the outer isles, served by ferries.
Shetland’s industries include oil and gas, fishing, fish- and shellfish-farming, fish processing, tourism, livestock rearing, knitwear, crafts, quarrying, windpower and recycling.
The land area is only 567 square miles but the shape of this ancient range of drowned** hills is so convoluted that Shetland has an amazing 1600 miles (2560 km) of coastline. It’s incredibly varied, with everything from sand dunes and salt marshes to sheltered inlets (known as ‘voes’) and some of Europe’s highest cliffs.
These spectacular cliffs, with their huge colonies of birds, are Shetland’s top wildlife attraction. One of the biggest and most accessible seabird cities is at the 711-acre island of Noss, three miles east of Lerwick, where as many as 60,000 birds crowd a mile of cliffs up to 600 feet (181m) high. Seabirds-and-Seals has run boat trips to Noss since 1992.
Shetland also has large colonies of grey seals and common (or harbour) seals, an estimated 900-1,000 otters, some unusual botany, about 200 square miles of kelp forest and hundreds of beautiful caves. You don’t have to get wet to see Shetland’s underwater wildlife – just join a Seabirds-and-Seals cruise and we’ll show it to you with a colour video camera mounted on our remotely-controlled mini-submarine.
The county town is Lerwick (pop. 8,000), on the east coast, midway between Fair Isle and the Muckle Flugga lighthouse. Lerwick is Shetland’s commercial centre and the port for Northlink’s nightly passenger and car ferry sailings to Aberdeen and Orkney.
There are Loganair flights to Shetland from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Orkney, offering same-day connections with London and major European cities. Direct Flights operates inter-island flights to Skerries, Fair Isle and Foula.
Shetland Islands Council maintains over 500 miles of excellent roads and a network of fast, efficient vehicle ferries serving all the inhabited islands except Foula and Fair Isle, which have passenger ferries.
Accommodation for visitors is generally of a high standard and reasonably priced, ranging from serviced campsites and camping barns (or böds) to self-catering cottages, guest houses and hotels. In the peak season of mid-June to mid-August it’s wise to book ahead – more details from the official Shetland tourism pages at Shetland.org
Shetland's event calendar is packed full of unique events throughout the year including the famous Up Helly Aa, Shetland Wool Week and Shetland Folk Festival to name a few. See a full list of events and dates here.
Shetland has a vast number of visitor attractions to fill your days while you are here. We have everything from ancient volcanoes and Viking longhouses to breathtaking cliffs and fascinating visitor centres dotted all over the islands. There's something for everyone, both indoor and outdoor. You can see a full list here.
With our experienced Captain, Brian, and knowledgeable naturalist Marie, enjoyed breathtaking views of the Noss cliffs, seabird colonies, the coastline, and seals with the bonus of learning some local history and snagging some very special underwater views. On a cool and windy day on the water, the coffee/tea and biscuits served were a nice touch as well. Can't imagine a better way to see the area and wildlife - or better folks to guide us. The boat was comfortable and provided some protection from the elements as well!!
So I was visiting my friends in Lerwick and I had a few hours to spend so inspotted the seabird and seals boat, I approached Brian (owner) and asked if there was room for 1 more and there was. I was told to be at the pier for 2pm, I was and we set sail around 2.15pm, we had a safety brief from Marie and it was very clear but also relaxed. First stop was out to a shipwreck where they anchored and put down an underwater camera so we could see the sea life and the wreck, it was really amazing and you could all see clearly on the two television screens. We then proceeded to see the seals then out towards Noss, I don't want to spoil the trip for anyone but it was fantastic and the best £45 I have spent in a while, included were tea & biscuits as well, we were away from 3 and half hours, great company, great boat and overall fantastic experience, well done to you both.
We were so, so lucky...We started slowly with a fascinating camera exploring the sea life around an old wreck. Then we got serious, out into open water and the spectacularly rugged coasts of the islands of Bressay and Noss...The cliffs of Noss were one of the greatest natural sights I've ever experienced. With the sea hammering us and the captain keeping us steady maybe four feet from the rocks, we were at the base of 592-feet-high cliffs, with 25,000 birds above us, sitting/nesting on every speck of ledge, many diving beak-first at high speed to spear fish, the noise of the birds overwhelming. At one point I wondered what would happen if one bird noticed us and mused, "Fancy a change from fish today?" We were probably there half an hour, and it's a half hour that will live in our memories a long time. Lots still to see after that, including backing up into a cavern in a cliff, and anchoring in a cove for tea, coffee, and biscuits. What an incredible tour!
This tour was arranged by our cruise ship and it's a must do for anyone visiting Lerwick in Shetland Islands. We saw such beautiful birds and the two owners were so knowledgeable and friendly. Also rock formations and caves were beautiful. Loved the gingerbread cookies and coffee. Also the views from underwater camera were great!
A belated review from a visit to Shetland in May this year - we had an amazing trip with Brian and Marie round the cliffs of Noss and Bressay. They were both extremely knowledgeable and friendly, seemed to know everything about the wildlife we encountered on the tour, plenty of new things to discover even for someone who grew up in Shetland. we saw grey seals, gannets, great skuas and shags, we couldn't believe how many birds were nesting around the cliffs! The weather was nice enough for Brian to bring the boat right into the Orkneyman's Cave, as well as sending down the ROV to a small wreck at the North mooth of the harbour. would definitely consider taking the trip again, and recommend to both visitors and islanders alike.