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Fair Isle

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Coastline near Malcolm's Head

Fair Isle is in the Shetland Islands, midway between Orkney and Shetland.

Get in[edit]

By boat[edit]

Fair Isle can be reached from Grutness Pier (near Sumburgh) on the southern tip of Shetland by the mail boat Good Shepherd IV, or twice a month in the summer from Lerwick. There is no need for a car. The #6 public transport bus runs a service from Lerwick to the pier to meet the ferry. The ferry costs £15.80 and is paid when you arrive at the ferry. Bookings are absolutely necessary and you will not be allowed to book the ferry unless you have accommodation. Your hosts will pick you up from the ferry and provide all your meals, as there are no buses on the island and only a small shop.

The ferry is based on Fair Isle, and only makes one trip to Shetland in a day so unfortunately day trips are not possible.

By plane[edit]

Fair Isle can also be reached by air from Tingwall Airport (see Shetland#Get around) which is a 15 minute taxi ride away from Lerwick in Shetland or in summer on Saturdays from Sumburgh in Shetland. There are no direct services from Orkney or Scotland.

Get around[edit]

There are no buses and you're unlikely to bring a car. Feel free to bring a bike on the ferry, or just walk around the island. Fair Isle offers spectacular views and walking around is the best way to see it.


Fair Isle is famed for its bird population, lying as it does on main migratory routes. Depending on the year you can see massive colonies of puffins congregating on the cliffs, arctic skuas, great skuas, rock pippets, arctic terns, fulmars, gannets, and many many many more.

  • Museum. There is a small, one room museum that is worth seeing, at least out of respect to the people who call the island their home. It's a lovely building and you're sure to run into a local who will give you some hints about what to see.
  • Arts & Crafts Building. Fair Isle is also known for its traditional art, knitting, and your host can arrange for you to visit the arts & crafts building. Don't be shy - everyone knows everyone and they are happy to show you.
  • North Haven harbour. At the right time of year you will see many yachts in the North Haven harbour.


Walking around the island is the best way to see it. Ramble through beautiful fields with Fair Isle sheep. Walk to the moors on the north side of the island and see the North Stack lighthouse.

  • 1 Malcolm's Head. Climb up to Malcolm's Head on the SW for sweeping views of the islands and cliffs, as well as to see the ruins of the old watchtower from the Napoleonic Wars.
  • 2 Sheep Rock. Walk to Sheep Rock, where traditionally sheep were lowered perilously on chains to the other side of the water.


Other than your accommodation you are likely to leave with as much money as you brought. But if you would like to buy anything the two main places are the arts & crafts centre for a chance to buy spectacular traditional Fair Isle knitwear made by the island's cooperative, and at the shop.


Feel free to bring food, as there is only one small shop that isn't always open. Your meals will be provided by your hosts.

  • 1 Stackhoull Stores. Store and Post Office



  • The Fair Isle Bird Observatory. The main accommodation on the island, is rebuilt and reopened as of summer 2010. It offers three cafeteria-style meals a day eaten communally at long tables. Visitors can participate in bird study activities including the morning trap round with Observatory staff.
  • You can also stay at a number of other places on the island and if you phone anyone they will give you the number for the others. People are very friendly and outgoing and will go out of their way to help.

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