The rugged and remote Shetland Islands – a collection of mighty, wind-ravaged clumps of brown and green earth rising from the frigid waters of the North Sea – are Scotland’s northerly outpost and feel miles away from anywhere. Mainland is the biggest island with over 100 windswept and virtually treeless islands making up the archipelago. Far more desolate and cut off than Orkney, the light here is even more changeable than on mainland Scotland. Different parts of the island are variously illuminated at any given hour – the window for that perfect photo can be short. The setting is still uniquely Scottish, though, with deep, naked glens flanked by steep hills, twinkling, sky-blue lochs and, of course, sheep with no comprehension of the ‘right of way’ on roads.
The islands’ far-flung location is belied by the activity and charisma of the capital, Lerwick, causing you to forget the 60-plus oceanic miles between you and the mainland. But once you’re outside the humming capital, the isolation sweeps you off your feet – frequent thundering gales thrash across the raw landscape and mother nature whips up the wild Atlantic into white-cap frenzies that smash into imposing coastal cliffs.