Should you ever be struck with a sudden inexplicable urge to stand on the northern-most point of the UK you would have to travel to the remote Scottish archipelago, the Shetlands, and it’s tiny rock-island of Muckle Flugga. It features a lighthouse and, well, that’s about it, but its stunning views of rolling Shetland hills and the Atlantic compensate.

As far as the most northerly inhabited island, that would be Unst. Unst is a community of about 600 people, lots of cute shetland ponies, a brewery and a distillery. I’m sure the last two are highly vital to remote island living. Should it be a little more in the way of civilization that you’re after, the largest island, known simply as Mainland, has the town of Lerwick which boasts a whopping 7,000 people.

Lerwick Harbour, Central Mainland
Lerwick Harbour, Central Mainland, the Shetland Islands, UK

Nearly 100 islands comprise the Shetlands which lie roughly 100 miles NE off the coast of Scotland. Only about 16 of them are inhabited with a total population of about 23,000. It was the Norwegians who first laid claim to them in the ninth century; hardly surprising given that the islands are closer to Norway than Scotland. In 1470, the Shetlands were given to the Scots as part of the dowry of the King of Norway’s daughter when she was betrothed to James III, and so there has always been a heavy Scandinavian influence which remains to this day…lots of dressing up like Vikings!

So far north are the islands that they receive only six hours of daylight at the winter solstice. In contrast, summer’s daylight can last up to 19 hours, with a period of time when it never gets completely dark. The general climate is windy and cloudy with at least a few millimetres of rain falling on more that 250 days a year. Average temperatures are 45 in March, 64 in July and August temperatures over 77 are rare. Winters are relatively mild and fog is common during the summer months. A Caribbean clime this is not.

Should your holiday plans lean more towards the exotic, or let’s face it, hotter, if bird watching isn’t your thing, or perhaps, maybe, it just annoys the hell out of you to have a perfectly good hair day ruined by coastal winds, then tune into the TV show, Shetland, and visit from the comfort of your settee.

I had heard great things about this show but wasn’t able to find it playing anywhere, then all of a sudden it popped up on Netflix and I have to tell you, I was hooked instantly. This show has such an open and honest beauty to it that you are pulled in to stay before you’ve even realized it has happened.

The mysteries themselves are satisfyingly unpredictable with twists and turns that keep you guessing (the murderer generally ends up being someone you didn’t expect). The whole approach of the show is slow and languid — low key without a lot of tension.

I think this is due in large part to Douglas Henshall who plays the main character, DI Jimmy Perez. His character is solid and good-hearted and offers up nice emotional gravitas without being overwrought. His wife has died and he has a teenage daughter, Cassie, who is not his biologically, but whom he has raised since the age of three. Her biological father is Duncan, who was not in the picture for many years but who is now. It lends an interesting dynamic to the show. In fact, the unconventional relationship between Jimmy and Duncan is one of my favourite parts of the show, despite not being front and center. They approach parenting from opposite directions which can make things tricky. After a bit of a tussle over Cassie one day, Duncan laughs, “I want a divorce.”

The rest of the cast is also really good but I would be remiss in not talking about the biggest supporting cast member — the Shetland Islands. The rugged, isolated beauty of the islands adds much appeal to the show. The steely, roiling skies, rocky coastlines and windswept beaches…it’s all gloriously beautiful, wild and serene at the same time. Quite frankly it makes me want to pack my bags and get the first flight out — dropping all electronic devices in the ocean on the way over.


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