Fair Isle | Paul Turner

About

Lying 24 miles to the south of Mainland Shetland, Fair Isle is the most remote island in the Shetland group, but its small community still work and care for the land, and keep the island's traditions alive. Famed for its birds and flowers, knitwear and historic shipwrecks, the peaceful island is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Alongside the amazing scenery and coastal sights, internationally-important seabird sites and over 250 species of flowering plants, the community boasts a skein of knitters keeping the Fair Isle tradition alive and well.

Famous For

  • There has been a bird observatory on Fair Isle since 1948 and the important work carried out there is world-renowned in the field of ornithology. Many migrants stop off on the isle during their spring and autumn journeys around the world and visitors are welcome to join in with the observatory work.

  • The much-coveted Fair Isle patterned knitwear has graced fashion catwalks, ice floes in the Antarctic and the backs of royalty as well as the hardy crofters and seamen of its home island. Islanders used to barter knitwear with passing ships for goods, but today most makers have online facilities for buyers not able to visit in person.

  • For thousands of years Fair Isle has been a useful landmark for shipping but in storms and fog its coastline is highly dangerous. At least 100 ships have foundered around the coast, the most famous probably being the 'El Gran Grifon' of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Ask an Islander

  • Malcolm’s Head is an excellent vantage-point. Little wonder there was once a Napoleonic watchtower here, and in a less distant past, a coastguard lookout.

  • Over 250 flowering plants have been recorded on the island, including rare species such as the oysterplant, small adder’s-tongue, moonwort and frog orchid. June and July are probably the best months to visit for variety and colour and to see some of the rarer species in flower, although late May and August are still rewarding.

  • George Waterston OBE (1911-1980) was Scottish Director of the RSPB and had a massive influence on Fair Isle. He bought the island after WWII and cofounded the bird observatory in 1948, giving the isle’s economy a much needed boost. In 1955, the National Trust for Scotland succeeded him as landlord and helped to stem emigration and revitalise the community.

Accommodation

Check out the following accommodation listings to book your stay.

Visit Scotland accommodation

Fair Isle -accommodation

Shetland Visitor accommodation

More Information

You can find some additional information about Fair Isle at the links below

Fair Isle Bird Observatory

COVID-19

Please check the latest rules on travelling to and around the Scottish islands on the Scottish Government website, including guidance on testing before you travel. Please note that advice may vary depending on the specific island you are visiting.

Getting here

Covid-19

Please check the latest rules on travelling to and around the Scottish islands on the Scottish Government website, including guidance on testing before you travel. Please note that advice may vary depending on the specific island you are visiting.


Shetland Islands Council runs a regular ferry service between Grutness on Mainland Shetland to Fair Isle, and a fortnightly service between Lerwick on Mainland Shetland and Fair Isle during the summer.

Airtask operates regular flights between Tingwall on Mainland Shetland and Fair Isle.

Find out more about getting to Mainland Shetland.

Get Your Passport

You can find lots more information about things to see and do on the island, see some amazing island photography and collect your island stamp by downloading our app.

Download the app

App in phone

Download the Scottish Island Passport app to collect your island stamps! The app also provides lots more information on each island including recommendations from locals about things to see and do, info on how to get around, more stunning photos and useful offline maps.

  • Unlock Stamps - Collect them all! Stamp your passport when you visit each island - with an individual stamp designed to represent a unique aspect of island heritage.
  • Experiences - Discover the best experiences each island has to offer – from local boat trips to exciting traditional festivals, there is something for everyone.
  • Maps - Navigate the islands with useful offline maps, handy for areas where internet connectivity is weak.
  • Travel Jounals - Create an in-location travel journal with pictures from your island adventures, to look back on your trip.
  • Favourites - keep track of your most loved islands with the favourites feature. Available to access from your account on both the app and web.