Day 1 - Saturday
We fly Aberdeen – Sumburgh. After some introductory birding locally, we head north to our base on in north Mainland where we stay for three nights.
Day 2 - Sunday Fetlar
We drive through Yell and take the ferry to Fetlar, known locally as the Garden of Shetland for its relative fertility. We aim to spend at least 6 hours on this charming small island. We will have topped up our list with seabirds on the crossings and at the ferry terminals, but the main delights are on Fetlar itself. Here dainty Red-necked Phalarope can be seen at close quarters, and Red-throated Diver, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Twite breed. We have a good chance of Otter along the shoreline too, and if time allows may explore Yell on the return journey.
Day 3 - Monday Hermaness, Unst
Today we visit Unst, the UK’s most northerly inhabited island. At Hermaness NNR, a walk through the world’s second-largest Great Skua colony takes us to the northernmost cliffs of the British Isles. From the 400ft high cliffs, we overlook the lighthouse of Muckle Flugga and around 140,000 breeding seabirds! Later we look orchids and Edmondston’s Chickweed (Shetland Mouse-ear), one of the world’s rarest plants, endemic to Shetland. We will also visit a replica Viking longboat and longhouse, as well as taking in Britain's most northerly everything, from the famous bus-stop to the lesser known village of Skaw – one of many great spots on Unst for migrant birds!
Day 4 - Tuesday North-west Mainland
Sites local to our accommodation have plenty of potential for wildlife while North Mainland’s cliffs and bays offer some of the most spectacular scenery within the archipelago. We will plan to visit Urafirth, Hillswick, Ronas Hill, and Voe and the basalt cliffs at Eshaness, where the Atlantic Ocean hammers into the stunning, rugged coastline. We observe Red-throated Diver respectfully on their breeding lochs, nesting waders will be in great abundance and commoner passerines including Twite and Wheatear may be found on the clifftops. Scarce plants including Oysterplant can be found on a few beaches and higher ground is favoured by Mountain Hare. Sheltered Voes can be great for Otter, while Common and Grey Seal and cetaceans including Orca, Risso’s Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise may also be encountered. A great day exploring one of the less visited corners of Shetland. Overnight Sumburgh for four nights.
Day 5 – Wednesday Central Mainland and Noss boat trip
We begin by exploring Scalloway, the former capital and home of the intrepid Shetland Bus operation, running covert missions to occupied Norway in the Second World War. Looking in at the freshwater lochs of Tingwall, we should see breeding Whooper Swan, wildfowl and waders in summer finery before arriving in Lerwick where a little free time will be planned to souvenir hunt, with the local knitwear high on the list! We then board our vessel and head northeast, past the coastline of Bressay and towards the sights and sounds of Noss National Nature Reserve. Noss is home to over 100,000 pairs of breeding seabirds. We sail close to the sandstone cliffs on the east side of the island which provide rocky ledges and nooks for thousands of Gannet and Guillemot and hundreds of Kittiwake, Puffin, Razorbills, Black Guillemot and Shag, whilst the moorland interior is home to Bonxies and a few Arctic Skuas (NB This is a non-landing cruise).
Day 6 - Thursday Mainland and Mousa
Heading north across Mainland, we will spend a couple of hours exploring the remoter parts of Mainland, which have breeding Red-throated Divers, Whooper Swans and scarce breeders on inland lochs, and where outlying headlands are some of the best places to see Harbour Porpoise and occasional Dolphins, Minke Whale and Orca. These back roads will see us held up in Shetland traffic jams, with Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep slowing our progress along the single-track roads! We may also explore north east Mainland, a favoured Otter watching point, with numerous tern colonies and seal haulouts. Today we make a late evening visit to the Storm Petrel colony on Mousa, a spectacular sight and sound show!
Day 7 - Friday South Mainland
If the Mousa trip went ahead as planned, we will have a later start, and a relaxing day gently exploring the South Mainland, including a seawatch at Sumburgh Head where we will see Puffins and other seabirds at close quarters, and have a chance of seeing Minke Whale, Harbour Porpoise and cetaceans, with Orca possible at this time of year. Pool of Virkie, Quendale, Scatness or Quaff can be great sites for migrants while local freshwater and sea lochs should produce Red-throated Diver, bathing skuas, ‘real’ Rock Dove, Black Guillemot and Shetland Wren. We will also take several shorter walks around stunning sandy beaches and headlands, checking sites for migrant birds too.
Day 8: Saturday
After breakfast and depending on flight times, we should have a few hours to explore South Mainland, visiting the superb tombolo of St Ninian's Isle and exploring the Jarlshof archaeological site. We depart from Sumburgh to Aberdeen by air.
Please note; in poor weather it may not be possible to deliver boat trips as stated, though we will do everything within reason to reschedule.
This holiday can be combined with:
High Season Across the Highlands, Birding the Highlands in May, Highlands & Corncrake.
Shetland in Spring for birders, Outer Hebrides in Spring, Ultimate Skye and Mull Explorer