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The most northerly town of the United Kingdom, Lerwick is located on the east coast of Mainland, the largest of the Shetland Islands. With a rich Scandinavian heritage, the legacy of a Viking presence that dates back more than 1,000 years, Lerwick has enough cultural, historical and natural attractions to make even the shortest visit more than worthwhile.
To get to the town of Lerwick, you will need to take a flight to the Shetland Islands. The nearest airport is Sumburgh Airport on Mainland; the airport is around 30 miles south of the town. Sumburgh Airport has a dedicated bus service that takes passengers to the capital in around 40 minutes and taxis are also available. Booking well in advance will improve your chances of securing cheap flights to Shetland, as there are not a lot of flights to the area.
With a population of just 7,000, Lerwick itself is relatively small but if you want to explore more of Mainland or the other islands, a car is essential. Vehicle ferries from Lerwick can take you to almost all the remaining inhabited Shetland Islands. Some Shetland flight packages may include special offers for discount car hire. Lerwick also has bus routes that service the area. Timetables can be obtained here.
In Lerwick, you can visit the impressive Fort Charlotte which dates back to the 18th century. This historic building not only gives you a sense of Lerwick's history, but also provides some picturesque views of the harbour. For more history, a trip to the Shetland Museum is a must. The museum houses collections and exhibitions that cover 5,000 years of history, so you can imagine just how much there is to see! Plus admission is free!
In addition to its permanent attractions, Lerwick is also known for its annual Up Helly-Aa Viking Fire Festival. The festival has origins in the 19th century and today is a combination of torch-lit processions, symbolic burning, dancing and entertaining performances. The town gets extremely busy during festival time and attracts much thoroughfare, so make sure you book flights and accommodation well in advance. The 2014 festival is due to be held on 28th January. If you do miss out on the festival itself, you can still get a flavour of the spectacle thanks to an exhibition featuring all the costumes and props including a replica Viking longboat.