The island of Whalsay, Shetland, sits off the east coast and is known locally as the ‘Bonnie Isle’.
Ask an Islander
We asked locals on Whalsay to tell us why their island is special. Here’s what they said:
The Vikings knew the island of Whalsya as Hvals-øy – or ‘The Island of Whales’ – and it’s clear to see why; the island’s profile looks like a whale when approaching from the sea. The waters around the island are also hot spots for viewing porpoises, minke whales and orca.
The community in Whalsay remains heavily linked to the sea and is the home port to some of the biggest fishing trawlers in Europe. Away from the bustle of the harbour, the island offers easy coastal walking, birds and flowers, great angling, and Britain’s most northerly golf course.
There’s plenty to do on the island, including Symbister House (or the New Haa), the finest Georgian mansion in Shetland where you can visit the museum and Heritage Centre in the outbuildings to learn more about the island’s heritage.
The Hanseatic Bod Interpretive Centre on the shoreline is worth spending a little time exploring. The building itself is a picturesque old stone booth on the water’s edge that has been restored with its dock and cargo hoist. Inside there are history displays about the role of Hanseatic merchants in the islands.
For those who want to combine stunning scenery and a spot of golf, the 18-hole course at Skaw, on the north eastern tip of the island, is the most northerly course in Britain.
Whalsay is a popular island for anglers, with some fine trout inhabiting the lochs. The record is a 9lb 4oz brown trout from the Loch of Huxter. Permits are required to fish any loch in Shetland.
People have lived in Whalsay for at least 4,000 years. Traces of former settlements include hilltop burial cairns and prehistoric field boundaries as well as Neolithic houses. If birding is your thing, ducks and waders gather at the shallows behind the beach at Symbister and at the houb (lagoon) on Kirk Ness and beachcombers will find plenty of interest too and, below the tideline, there is a profusion of sea life in the rock pools.