Lerwick

Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland Scottish Islands Shetland Islands Lerwick

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Introduction

Lerwick is the largest town and capital of the Shetland Islands. The town dates back at least 3,000 years, initially centred a little to the west by the freshwater Clickimin Loch. A wooden town grew up but was burned down by the inhabitants of Scalloway in the 17th C, ostensibly because they objected to the drunken immorality of the Lerwick sailors. But it may have been relevant that they feared Lerwick would supplant Scalloway as capital of Shetland, and indeed that happened in 1708. Stone buildings came to predominate in the 18th & 19th C and Lerwick became a busy fishing and shipping port. It still is.

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Sights and Activities

Lerwick is mostly a modern industrial town, with quays and marine industries sprawling along the shoreline. Scenically the best of it is one block back from the quay, along pedestrianised Commercial Street. Follow this past various Victorian buildings south out of town, onto Twageos Road, then out to the breezy headland of The Knab.

Fort Charlotte, Harbour Street ZE1 0JL. Keys available from staff on site Mon - Fri. A five-sided artillery fort that was built in 1665 against the Dutch. Then it was demolished, rebuilt, demolished, then burnt by the Dutch just to make sure. The present structure dates from 1780, raised against American revolutionaries, but never saw action. It's no longer in a commanding position, as it's become hemmed in by modern buildings behind, and reclaimed land has extended the shoreline in front.
Clickimin Broch, in Loch of Clickimin (1 km SW of Lerwick, just after the roundabout on South Road), ☏ +44 1856 841815. Always open. A broch (stone & turf fortified dwelling) occupied between 700 BC and 600 AD. It was built on an island in the freshwater loch - the water-level was lowered in the 19th century, so it's now connected to shore by a broad spit and pathway. No parking on the road here, use side streets or buy something at nearby Tesco. Free.
Shetland Museum and Archives, Hay's Dock, Lerwick ZE1 0WP (200 m west of bus station). M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 12:00-17:00. Great modern museum, with the natural history, archaeology, history, and anthropology of the islands. Free.
Up Helly Aa Exhibition, Galley Hall, St Sunniva St, Lerwick ZE1 0HL. Mid-May to Aug: Tu 14:00-16:00 & 19:00-21:00, F 19:00-21:00, Sa 14:00-16:00. Every February the "guizer" volunteers start building a Viking longship in this shed. By midsummer the work in progress is on display, along with "Jarl Squad" regalia and film & photos of previous events. Then in late January there's a grand torchlight costumed procession and the ship is ceremonially burned. The ritual goes back to the 1880s when earlier yule torchlight revels were stamped out because of drunkenness and fire-raising. Adult £3, concessions £1.

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Getting There

By Plane

Sumburgh Airport (LSI IATA) is Shetlands' main airport, 30 miles south of Lerwick in Sumburgh. This airport has flights by Loganair to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Kirkwall and Bergen. One flight a day is local, to Lerwick/Tingwall. Bus #6 runs between Sumburgh and Lerwick (every hour or two; 60 mins), and there is car hire at the airport.

Flights between the islands fly from Lerwick/Tingwall Airport Tingwall Airport on Wikipedia (LWK IATA) 4 miles north of Lerwick. These serve Fair Isle, Foula, Papa Stour and Sumburgh; in summer day-trips either way are usually possible. Flights are operated by Airtask on behalf of Shetland Islands Council, using a couple of BNF Islanders, so they're not infrequently grounded by the weather. Bus #23 (Lerwick to Voe, for Yell ferry) and Bus #9 (Lerwick to Walls) pass near the airport, but better take a taxi. By car follow A970 north, turn left onto A971; parking here is free.

By Bus

A number of firms operate bus services in Shetland.

By Boat

Northlink Ferries run an overnight passenger and car ferry from Aberdeen, with some sailings also calling at Kirkwall in Orkney. See Shetland page for practical info. Ferries no longer run to Scandinavia, Faeroes or Iceland. Cruise ships often visit Shetland in summer.

Ferries dock at Holmsgarth Terminal, on A970 main road about 2 miles north of Lerwick centre, opposite the Shetland Hotel. Bus #4 (Lerwick to Scalloway) runs past the terminal every hour or so.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are a number of car hire firms. They all have offices in Lerwick and all can also arrange for vehicles to be collected either at the ferry terminal or airport. Or you can bring your car on the ferry from Aberdeen. Parking spaces are limited in the centre and near the water during busy times. Parking time restrictions also apply. Once you've found a car parking spot it's generally easier to walk around the town centre.

There are many taxi firms in Lerwick and all taxis are licensed by the local council. There is a taxi rank located on Victoria Pier which is in the centre of town.

By Public Transport

Viking Bus Station is north end of the centre, beyond Fort Charlotte.

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Eat

Havly Cafe, 9 Charlotte St, Lerwick ZE1 0JL (central), ☏ +44 1595 692100. M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Small cafe with hot drinks, light food and baked goods. Free Wi-Fi.
Peerie Shop Cafe, Campbell's Close, Esplanade ZE1 0LL. M-Sa 08:00-17:00. Tiny place with a couple of outdoor tables, good coffee & brownies. (updated Jun 2018)
Grand Hotel, Commercial St. Daily 12:00-14:00 & 18:00-21:00. They have a formal restaurant and a more informal lounge. Serves locally sourced food.
Queen's Hotel, Commercial St. Daily 12:00-14:00 & 18:00-21:00. They have a restaurant that is accessible from the opposite side of the building from their bar. Reservations are recommended as they can get quite busy in the evening.
Fort Cafe & Take Away, 2 Commercial Road, Lerwick ZE1 0HY. Fish & chips.
At the bus station are Great Wall (Chinese) and Raba (Indian/Nepalese), both open daily.
The String, 88 Commercial St, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0EX, ☏ +44 1595 694921. A modern restaurant, bar and venue that places strong emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and produce.
The Dowry, 98 Commercial St, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0EX, ☏ +44 1595 692373. A light and airy cafe bar with Scandinavian influences in the decor and fantastic views out over the harbour area.

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Drink

Lerwick has a few pubs and bars. Some are pubs on their own and some are hotel bars that are open to and frequented by non residents.

Thule Bar, Esplanade ZE1 0LL. Daily 11:00-01:00. Not the most salubrious of bars but busy at the weekend. Boilersuits and work boots are perfectly acceptable dress. Pool tables.
The Lounge, 4 Mounthooley St ZE1 0BJ. Daily 11:00-01:00. This central bar is popular with locals and visitors. There are two parts, the "public bar" downstairs is very basic. Upstairs the "lounge" bar is much nicer and far more comfortable. Often has live traditional music.
Douglas Arms (Marlex), 67 Commercial Street ZE1 0NL. Daily 11:00-01:00. The public bar is very basic, the Lounge bar is far more cosy with dark wood tables and a fireplace, live music Tuesday nights in summer.
Captain Flints, Market Cross ZE1 0LU. M-Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 11:00-00:00. Aaarr Jim lad! A pirate-theme bar in the centre of Lerwick. (updated Jul 2019)
Da Wheel Bar, 13 Commercial Road ZE1 0LX. Sa-W 11:00-00:00, Th F 11:00-03:00. The "public bar" is downstairs open all day, and has a pool table. The "lounge bar" is open evenings & late and has a big dance floor.

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Sleep

Islesburgh House Hostel, Islesburgh House, King Harald Street, Lerwick ZE1 0EQ, ☏ +44 1595 745100, ✉ islesburgh@shetland.gov.uk. Check-in: 16:00 - 16:30, 21:45 - 22:15. 64-bed hostel run by the local council, affiliated to SYHA. Book by email or phone. Oct-March is cheaper, but Up Helly Aa in Jan is peak rate. Shared room around £20 pp, own room from £40.
The Shetland Hotel, Holmsgarth Road, Lerwick ZE1 0PW (Opposite ferry terminal), ☏ + 44 1595 695515, ✉ reception@shetlandhotel.co.uk. Slabby building, but comfy 3-star, handy for ferry and short walk to town.
The Lerwick Hotel, 15 South Road, Lerwick ZE1 0RB (off A969 south side of town), ☏ +44 1595 692166, ✉ reception@lerwickhotel.co.uk. Three-star run by Brudolff Hotel Group.
Kveldsro House Hotel, Greenfield Place, Lerwick ZE1 0AQ (East along alley from jcn A969 & Knab Rd). Comfy, welcoming 4-star with good restaurant. Run by Brudolff Hotels who also run Lerwick Hotel and Shetland Hotel in town.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Lerwick Travel Helpers

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This is version 3. Last edited at 12:47 on Jul 14, 20 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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