Lonely Planet Writer

Why you may start to see Scotland's Shetland Islands in a new light

Scotland’s remote Shetland Islands retain a certain mystique thanks to their subarctic location and Viking history, but a new law may help more people around the world see the islands as they truly are.

One of the best examples of an Iron Age house built upon a Bronze Age one at the Jarlshof site near Sumburgh Head in the Shetland Islands of Scotland UK. Image by ©JMitchellPhotog/Shutterstock

A new law in Scotland has taken effect – one that will stop the archipelago from being sectioned off on official maps. Due to the distance from the rest of Scotland, maps often show the region in a box, placed closer to the mainland than the islands are in reality. In order to give people a better sense of their actual location, official maps must now show Shetland in its true geographic location.

Map of Scotland. Image by ©Lonely Planet

The islands are about 50 miles northeast of Orkney, another northern Scottish region viewed by many as a remote destination. The Shetland Islands are about 170 miles southeast of the Faroe Islands, an autonomous country that makes up part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The new law is now in force, but according to the BBC, there will be some cases in which a box can be used if public bodies give a necessary reason. Tavish Scott, the member of Scottish parliament who pushed for the amendment, was quoted as saying that seeing the islands in a box is “intensely annoying” to the locals, and doesn’t accurately convey the challenges that can arise from their remote location.

Shetland Pony on Unst. Image by ©Moorefam/Getty Images

Of course, seeing the islands on a map is one thing, but there are plenty of reasons for travellers to visit – one particular draw is the Up Helly Aa fire festival, which celebrates the region’s Viking roots. The unique blend of Scottish and Scandinavian culture – along with an incredible landscape – will be enough to enchant any visitor.