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Exhibition room one holds the fishing displays. It shows the evolution of the fishing industry and heritage in Whalsay. Photographs, documents, interviews, and artefacts plot the story of our fishing industry form the earliest traces to modern day. 


Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Whalsay, along with the rest of Shetland, became a trading port of the Hanseatic League. Ships from Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck sailed here every summer, bringing seeds, cloth, iron tools, salt, spirits, luxury goods and hard currency. The fishing legacy has lived on throughout the centuries and today it is still a proud fishing community, home to a huge variety of fishing vessels, and a fleet of pelagic trawlers; some of Europe’s largest fishing boats.

Whalsay's inner harbour is crowded with colourful dinghies and the distinctive “Shetland Model” boats which compete in local sailing and rowing races. The lines of these double-ended skiffs reveal their Viking origins.

The beach below the road around the head of the bay is partly man-made, and was used to dry salted cod and ling during the heyday of the line fishery from sixerns – open, six-oared boats – in the 18th and 19th centuries.

New for 2022, are recordings of 'the boats speaking home' through short wave radio in the 1980s, alongside photos of the crews and skippers.

Our detailed timeline charts the developing industry from when fishing records began around the time of the Hanseatic League to our modern day fishing vessels, plotting the local boats onto the timeline, from sixereens to whitefish and pelagic boats, as well as showing the Herring gutting and fish factories.


With so much to see, we have added a reading area where visitors can sit and do their research. 

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