The islands lie some 80 km (50 mi) to the northeast of Orkney and 280 km (170 mi) southeast of the Faroe Islands . They form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total area is 1,466 km2 (566 sq mi), and the population totalled 23,210 in 2012. Comprising the Shetland constituency of the Scottish Parliament , Shetland Islands Council is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the islands' administrative centre and only burgh is Lerwick , which has also been the capital of Shetland since taking over from Scalloway in 1708.
The largest island, known as the "Mainland ", has an area of 967 km2 (373 sq mi), making it the third-largest Scottish island and the fifth-largest of the British Isles . There are an additional 15 inhabited islands. The archipelago has an oceanic climate , a complex geology, a rugged coastline and many low, rolling hills.
Humans have lived in Shetland since the Mesolithic period. The earliest written references to the islands date back to Roman times. The early historic period was dominated by Scandinavian influences, especially from Norway , and the islands did not become part of Scotland until the 15th century. When Scotland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, trade with northern Europe decreased. Fishing has continued to be an important aspect of the economy up to the present day. The discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s significantly boosted Shetland's economy, employment and public sector revenues.
The local way of life reflects the Scottish and Norse heritage of the isles, including the Up Helly Aa fire festival, and a strong musical tradition, especially the traditional fiddle style. The islands have produced a variety of writers of prose and poetry, often in the distinct Shetland dialect of Scots . There are numerous areas set aside to protect the local fauna and flora , including a number of important sea bird nesting sites. The Shetland pony and Shetland Sheepdog are two well-known Shetland animal breeds . Other local breeds include the Shetland sheep , cow , goose , and duck . The Shetland pig, or grice , has been extinct since about 1930.
The islands' motto, which appears on the Council's coat of arms , is _Með lögum skal land byggja_. This Old Norse phrase is taken from the Danish 1241 Basic Law, _ Codex Holmiensis _, and is also mentioned in _ Njáls saga _, and means "By law shall land be built".
* 1 Etymology * 2 Geography and geology * 3 Climate * 4 Prehistory
* 5 History
* 5.1 Scandinavian colonisation * 5.2 Increased Scottish interest * 5.3 Annexation by Scotland * 5.4 18th and 19th centuries * 5.5 20th century
* 6 Economy
* 6.1 Quarries * 6.2 Transport
* 7 Public services * 8 Education * 9 Sport * 10 Churches and religion * 11 Politics * 12 Shetland Flag
* 13 Local culture and the arts
* 13.1 Music * 13.2 Writers * 13.3 Films and television
* 14 Wildlife
* 15 See also
* 15.1 Lists * 15.2 About Shetland * 15.3 Other
* 16 Notes
* 17 References
* 17.1 General references
* 18 Further reading * 19 External links
Main article: Northern Isles
In AD 43 and 77 the Roman authors Pomponius Mela and Pliny the Elder referred to the seven islands they respectively called _Haemodae_ and _Acmodae_, both of which are assumed to be Shetland. Another possible early written reference to the islands is Tacitus ' report in _Agricola_ in AD 98, after describing the discovery and conquest of Orkney, that the Roman fleet had seen " Thule , too". In early Irish literature, Shetland is referred to as _Inse Catt_—"the Isles of Cats", which may have been the pre-Norse inhabitants' name for the islands. The Cat tribe also occupied parts of the northern Scottish mainland and their name can be found in Caithness , and in the Gaelic name for Sutherland (_Cataibh_, meaning "among the Cats").
The oldest version of the modern name Shetland is _Hetlandensis_, the Latinised adjectival form of the Old Norse name recorded in a letter from Harald, Count of Shetland in 1190, becoming _Hetland_ in 1431 after various intermediate transformations. It is possible that the Pictish "cat" sound forms part of this Norse name. It then became _Hjaltland_ in the 16th century.
As Norn was gradually replaced by Scots in the form of the Shetland dialect, _Hjaltland_ became _Ȝetland_. The initial letter is the Middle Scots letter, "yogh ", the pronunciation of which is almost identical to the original Norn sound, "/hj/". When the use of the letter yogh was discontinued, it was often replaced by the similar-looking letter z , hence _Zetland_, the form used in the name of the pre-1975 county council . This is also the source of the ZE postcode used for Shetland.
Most of the individual islands have Norse names, although the derivations of some are obscure and may represent pre-Norse, possibly Pictish or even pre-Celtic names or elements.
GEOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY
Shetland is around 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of mainland Scotland, covers an area of 1,468 square kilometres (567 sq mi) and has a coastline 2,702 kilometres (1,679 mi) long.
Lerwick , the capital and largest settlement, has a population of 6,958 and about half of the archipelago's total population of 23,167 people live within 16 kilometres (10 mi) of the town.
Scalloway on the west coast, which was the capital until 1708, has a population of less than 1,000.
Only 16 of about 100 islands are inhabited. The main island of the group is known as Mainland . The next largest are Yell , Unst , and Fetlar , which lie to the north, and Bressay and Whalsay , which lie to the east. East and West Burra , Muckle Roe , Papa Stour , Trondra and Vaila are smaller islands to the west of Mainland. The other inhabited islands are Foula 28 kilometres (17 mi) west of Walls , Fair Isle 38 kilometres (24 mi) south-west of Sumburgh Head , and the Out Skerries to the east.
The uninhabited islands include Mousa , known for the Broch of Mousa , the finest preserved example in Scotland of an Iron Age broch ; Noss to the east of Bressay , which has been a national nature reserve since 1955; St Ninian\'s Isle , connected to Mainland by the largest active tombolo in the UK; and Out Stack , the northernmost point of the British Isles . Shetland's location means that it provides a number of such records: Muness is the most northerly castle in the United Kingdom and Skaw the most northerly settlement.
The geology of Shetland is complex, with numerous faults and fold axes . These islands are the northern outpost of the Caledonian orogeny , and there are outcrops of Lewisian , Dalradian and Moine metamorphic rocks with histories similar to their equivalents on the Scottish mainland. There are also Old Red Sandstone deposits and granite intrusions. The most distinctive features are the ultrabasic ophiolite , peridotite and gabbro on Unst and Fetlar, which are remnants of the Iapetus Ocean floor.
Much of Shetland's economy depends on the oil-bearing sediments in the surrounding seas. Geological evidence shows that in around 6100 BC a tsunami caused by the Storegga Slides hit Shetland, as well as the rest of the east coast of Scotland, and may have created a wave of up to 25 metres (82 ft) high in the voes where modern populations are highest.
The highest point of Shetland is Ronas Hill , which reaches only 450 metres (1,480 ft). The Pleistocene glaciations entirely covered the islands. During that period, the Stanes of Stofast, a 2000-tonne glacial erratic , came to rest on a prominent hilltop in Lunnasting .
Shetland is a National Scenic Area which, unusually, includes a number of discrete locations: Fair Isle, Foula, South West Mainland (including the Scalloway Islands ), Muckle Roe, Esha Ness , Fethaland and Herma Ness .
Shetland has an oceanic, temperate maritime climate bordering on the subpolar variety, with long but cool winters and short mild summers. The climate all year round is moderate due to the influence of the surrounding seas, with average peak temperatures of 7 °C (45 °F) in March and 18 °C (64 °F) in July and August. Temperatures over 25 °C (77 °F) are very rare. The highest temperature on record was 28.4 °C (83.1 °F) in July 1991 and the coldest −8.9 °C (16.0 °F) in the Januaries of 1952 and 1959. The frost-free period may be as little as three months. In contrast, inland areas of nearby Scandinavia on similar latitudes experience significantly larger temperature differences between summer and winter, with the average highs of regular July days comparable to Lerwick's all-time record heat that is around 23 °C (73 °F), further demonstrating the moderating effect of the Atlantic Ocean . In contrast, winters are considerably milder than those expected in nearby continental areas, even comparable to winter temperatures of many parts of England and Wales much further south.
The general character of the climate is windy and cloudy with at least 2 mm (0.08 in) of rain falling on more than 250 days a year. Average yearly precipitation is 1,003 mm (39.5 in), with November and December the wettest months. Snowfall is usually confined to the period November to February, and snow seldom lies on the ground for more than a day. Less rain falls from April to August although no month receives less than 50 mm (2 in). Fog is common during summer due to the cooling effect of the sea on mild southerly airflows.
Due to the islands' latitude , on clear winter nights the "northern lights" can sometimes be seen in the sky, while in summer there is almost perpetual daylight , a state of affairs known locally as the "simmer dim". Annual bright sunshine averages 1110 hours, and overcast days are common.
CLIMATE DATA FOR SHETLAND ISLES,82M ASL, 1981-2010, EXTREMES 1922-
MONTH JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC YEAR
RECORD HIGH °C (°F) 11.7 (53.1) 11.7 (53.1) 13.3 (55.9) 16.1 (61) 19.7 (67.5) 23.3 (73.9) 28.4 (83.1) 22.5 (72.5) 19.4 (66.9) 17.2 (63) 13.9 (57) 12.2 (54) 28.4 (83.1)
AVERAGE HIGH °C (°F) 5.9 (42.6) 5.5 (41.9) 6.4 (43.5) 8.1 (46.6) 10.4 (50.7) 12.4 (54.3) 14.3 (57.7) 14.5 (58.1) 12.8 (55) 10.2 (50.4) 7.8 (46) 6.3 (43.3) 9.6 (49.3)
DAILY MEAN °C (°F) 3.9 (39) 3.5 (38.3) 4.2 (39.6) 5.8 (42.4) 7.9 (46.2) 10.1 (50.2) 12.1 (53.8) 12.4 (54.3) 10.8 (51.4) 8.3 (46.9) 5.9 (42.6) 4.3 (39.7) 7.5 (45.5)
AVERAGE LOW °C (°F) 1.8 (35.2) 1.5 (34.7) 2.0 (35.6) 3.5 (38.3) 5.4 (41.7) 7.7 (45.9) 9.9 (49.8) 10.2 (50.4) 8.7 (47.7) 6.4 (43.5) 3.9 (39) 2.2 (36) 5.3 (41.5)
RECORD LOW °C (°F) −8.9 (16) −7.3 (18.9) −8.3 (17.1) −5.7 (21.7) −2.8 (27) −0.6 (30.9) 3.3 (37.9) 1.7 (35.1) −0.6 (30.9) −3.3 (26.1) −5.7 (21.7) −8.3 (17.1) −8.9 (16)
AVERAGE RAINFALL MM (INCHES) 142.6 (5.614) 120.8 (4.756) 124.6 (4.906) 70.4 (2.772) 53.4 (2.102) 58.2 (2.291) 66.8 (2.63) 83.7 (3.295) 106.3 (4.185) 141.5 (5.571) 146.0 (5.748) 142.6 (5.614) 1,256.8 (49.48)
AVERAGE RAINY DAYS (≥ 1.0 MM) 21.6 18.5 19.9 14.1 10.8 11.0 12.1 12.9 16.7 20.8 21.4 21.8 201.6
MEAN MONTHLY SUNSHINE HOURS 27.2 55.2 94.1 131.8 181.0 146.2 124.4 127.9 101.3 68.8 33.8 18.1 1,109.9
Source #1: MetOffice,
Source #2: Shetland Govt,
Due to the practice, dating to at least the early Neolithic, of building in stone on virtually treeless islands, Shetland is extremely rich in physical remains of the prehistoric eras and there are over 5,000 archaeological sites all told. A midden site at West Voe on the south coast of Mainland, dated to 4320–4030 BC, has provided the first evidence of Mesolithic human activity on Shetland. The same site provides dates for early Neolithic activity and finds at Scord of Brouster in Walls have been dated to 3400 BC. " Shetland knives" are stone tools that date from this period made from felsite from Northmavine .
Pottery shards found at the important site of Jarlshof also indicate that there was Neolithic activity there although the main settlement dates from the Bronze Age . This includes a smithy , a cluster of wheelhouses and a later broch. The site has provided evidence of habitation during various phases right up until Viking times. Heel-shaped cairns , are a style of chambered cairn unique to Shetland, with a particularly large example on Vementry .
Numerous brochs were erected during the Iron Age . In addition to Mousa there are significant ruins at Clickimin , Culswick , Old Scatness and West Burrafirth , although their origin and purpose is a matter of some controversy. The later Iron Age inhabitants of the Northern Isles were probably Pictish, although the historical record is sparse. Hunter (2000) states in relation to King Bridei I of the Picts in the sixth century AD: "As for Shetland, Orkney, Skye and the Western Isles, their inhabitants, most of whom appear to have been Pictish in culture and speech at this time, are likely to have regarded Bridei as a fairly distant presence.” In 2011, the collective site, "The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland ", including Broch of Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof, joined the UKs "Tentative List" of World Heritage Sites .
Main article: History of Shetland
_ Shetland (boxed) in relation to surrounding territories including Norway (to the east), the Faroe Islands (to the north west), and Orkney and the rest of the British Isles (to the south west) 14th century Flateyjarbók _ image of Harald Hårfagre , who took control of _Hjaltland_ c. 875.
The expanding population of Scandinavia led to a shortage of available resources and arable land there and led to a period of Viking expansion , the Norse gradually shifting their attention from plundering to invasion. Shetland was colonised during the late 8th and 9th centuries, the fate of the existing indigenous population being uncertain. Modern Shetlanders have almost identical proportions of Scandinavian matrilineal and patrilineal genetic ancestry, suggesting that the islands were settled by both men and women in equal measure.
Vikings then used the islands as a base for pirate expeditions to Norway and the coasts of mainland Scotland. In response, Norwegian king Harald Hårfagre ("Harald Fair Hair") annexed the Northern Isles (comprising Orkney and Shetland) in 875. Rognvald Eysteinsson received Orkney and Shetland from Harald as an earldom as reparation for the death of his son in battle in Scotland, and then passed the earldom on to his brother Sigurd the Mighty .
The islands converted to Christianity in the late 10th century. King Olav Tryggvasson summoned the _jarl _ Sigurd the Stout during a visit to Orkney and said, "I order you and all your subjects to be baptised. If you refuse, I'll have you killed on the spot and I swear I will ravage every island with fire and steel." Unsurprisingly, Sigurd agreed and the islands became Christian at a stroke. Unusually, from c. 1100 onwards the Norse _jarls_ owed allegiance both to Norway and to the Scottish crown through their holdings as Earls of Caithness .
In 1194, when Harald Maddadsson was Earl of Orkney and Shetland , a rebellion broke out against King Sverre Sigurdsson of Norway. The _Øyskjeggs_ ("Island Beardies") sailed for Norway but were beaten in the Battle of Florvåg near Bergen . After his victory King Sverre placed Shetland under direct Norwegian rule, a state of affairs that continued for nearly two centuries.
INCREASED SCOTTISH INTEREST
From the mid-13th century onwards Scottish monarchs increasingly sought to take control of the islands surrounding the mainland. The process was begun in earnest by Alexander II and was continued by his successor Alexander III . This strategy eventually led to an invasion of Scotland by Haakon Haakonsson , King of Norway. His fleet assembled in Bressay Sound before sailing for Scotland. After the stalemate of the Battle of Largs , Haakon retreated to Orkney, where he died in December 1263, entertained on his deathbed by recitations of the sagas. His death halted any further Norwegian expansion in Scotland and following this ill-fated expedition, the Hebrides and Mann were yielded to the Kingdom of Scotland as a result of the 1266 Treaty of Perth , although the Scots recognised continuing Norwegian sovereignty over Orkney and Shetland.
ANNEXATION BY SCOTLAND
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