The capital of the Shetlands since the 17th century, Lerwick, on the eastern coast of Mainland, is sheltered by the little offshore island of Bressay. In the 19th century, it was the herring capital of northern Europe, and, before that, a haven for smugglers. The fishing fleet of the Netherlands puts in here after combing the North Sea. Even before Victoria came to the throne in 1837, Lerwick had a bustling, cosmopolitan atmosphere. And with the influx of foreign visitors, it's even livelier.

Believe it or not, Lerwick is sometimes the sunniest place in Britain, experiencing some 12 hours of sunshine a day in early summer. Commercial Street is the town's principal artery, and it's said that beneath the steep and narrow lanes runs a network of passages used by smugglers. Lerwick today is the main port and shopping center of Shetland.

South Mainland

This part of Shetland, reached by heading south from Lerwick along A970, is both ancient and modern. On the one hand, there's the gleaming Sumburgh Airport, which has played a major role in the North Sea oil fields development and services many of the offshore rigs today. On the other hand, you'll stumble on the ruins of Jarlshof , which may have been inhabited for some 3,000 years.

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