People have lived on the island of Whalsay for at least 4,000 years. Traces of former settlements include hilltop burial cairns and prehistoric field boundaries as well as the Neolithic houses of Yoxie and the Beenie Hoose at Pettigarths Field. Over 1,800 stone tools were found inside the Beenie Hoose. #prehistoy


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. See the {Hanseatic Booth} below. #hanseaticbooth


Whalsay's {fishing legacy} lived on throughout the centuries and today it is still a proud fishing community, home to a fleet of trawlers as well as a huge variety of other boats and sea craft. #fishing 

Scottish poet {Hugh McDiarmid} (Christopher Grieve) lived on the island in a croft house that is now the Grieve House Böd (currently closed for maintenance). He lived in Whalsay for nine years in the 1930s, where he wrote some of his best work including 'On a Raised Beach'. #hughmcdiarmidpoet

Whalsay is one of the more densely populated of the Shetland islands, with a population of around 1,000 and it is 8 kilometres (5 miles) long and just over 3 kilometres (2miles) wide, #islandlife

There is a wealth of birds, seals and wild flowers, attractive coastal walks and magnificent cliff scenery.

The ferry terminal for Whalsay is at Laxo, a 32 kilometre (20 mile) drive north of Lerwick. The crossing to Symbister takes 25 minutes and the service is frequent, although booking is advised in the peak season {click here} #ferry

Things to do


The Whalsay Leisure Centre {see below} has a variety of wet and dry activities for all ages. It is next to one of Whalsay's two play parks. The other playwark is at Brough. 

There are many local craftspeople giving various adult and children's classes throughout the year on a range of arts and crafts, examples include the creative kids club; lampshade making; fair isle knitting; watercolour painting; and felting classes. Please see Shetland Arts, social media or local papers for advertising and information. #whalsayartsandcrafts

There are two local shops. {Tetley & Anderson Ltd}, at Harlsdale, is a shop, butcher and Postoffice, they stock a huge range of groceries as well as pre-packed wraps, salad boxes, filled rolls and fancies. Be sure to check out their delicious stuffing along with other butchery delights. {JWJ Whalsay Ltd}, at Symbister, is a two storey shop with fuel pumps, where you can find almost anything you'd need,

including groceries, DIY tools, local produce, toys, yarn, haberdashery, cards and a gift department. 


Symbister has a small boat marina with some visitor berths. Fuel, water, repairs and services are available. The stone buildings opposite the marina are what remains of a former herring curing station. Events such as the Whalsay Regatta take place in the Whalsay Boating and Sports Club which has a licensed clubhouse with toilets and showers. #whalsayboatingandsportsclub 

There are two active community halls, one at Symbister and one at Isbister, that host Sunday teas; various clubs; Thai, Indian and {Hel's Kitchen} food nights; dances; live music and charity events. #bustlingcommunity

This is also the famous Shoard charity shop, open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday form 2pm-4pm.


 You'll find a sandy beach at the Kirk Ayre, Brough, and there are many scenic local walks, a perfect way to see the abundance of birds, seals, whales and wild flowers.

  • There is the hill walk to the Wart o Clate {see below} and Braewick beach.

  • Or the scenic coastal walk at the north of the isle, the Skaw Taing, near the Golf Club {see below}

  • Many of the locals enjoy a stroll around the Houll Loch, near the Shoard charity shop

  • Or a trek around the quieter east coast taking in the abandoned croft houses of Traewick {see below} and Pettigarths Field #localwalks 

Challister Bakes is Whalsay's delicious cake fridge, check their {facebook} page for opening times. #mmmhomebakes

The Oot Ower Lounge pub at Livister offers refreshments and Chinese food on Saturdays. There are also caravan plug in points. #publichouse

At the Symbister pier you will find The Great Robertson Munch Wagon serving delicious fresh fish and chips and other chip van classics. Check out their {facebook} page for opening times. #freshfish

And after all that, the public toilets are opposite the ferry terminal next to the ferry waiting room! #handytoknow 


Please see the {downloadable} Shetland Heritage leaflet for a useful map and more info

#whalsayheritage #whalsayculture #whalsaycommunity

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Whalsay Golf Club

This is the stunning view of the 10th green on the most northerly golf course in the British Isles. The 18-hole Par 71 course is located at the northernmost point of Whalsay. This unique location is bordered by the sea on both sides, surrounded by spectacular coastal scenery, and an abundance of wildlife. Follow @whalsaygolfclub on instagram or {click here} to find out more.

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Auld Manse Renovation 

An exciting project underway in Whalsay is the renovation of the Auld Manse building. Work should be completed summer 2022 so watch this space! The building is being made into self catering accommodation with three bedrooms, a cafe and a function room. 

Follow {@auldmansewhalsay} on instagram to see their progress and the intricate merging of past and present building work.

Website coming soon... 

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The Hanseatic Booth

The Hanseatic Booth is a museum depicting the story of the Hansa German merchant traders, Merchants from Bremen were recorded to have come to Whalsay in the 16th century and from Hamburg in the 17th century. The building itself is difficult to date because of the renovations that have taken place. The story of the traders can be read from interpretive panels inside the museum.

The keys for the booth are kept at JWJs shop across the road. Admission for adults is £2 each and children can go free. Please {click here} to find out more

Photograph by {Ivan Reid} 


Traewick settlement 

On the serene east coast of Whalsay is the abandoned settlement of Traewick. It is only accessible through an (often waterlogged) park but it is worth popping on your welly boots to venture through the moss and heather, and over the fences to absorb the scenic views, and get a feel of what life must have been like for the people of these abandoned croft houses. The majority of them are just a basic stone shell, a good home for nesting birds, and a useful shelter in rough weather for passing sheep. The photograph above shows the best preserved in the settlement, being the last home inhabited before Traewick was abandoned in 1959. In the Heritage Centre you can discover the family history and stories from this community through their family trees, photographs and memoirs.


Wart o Clate

The highest point on the island is the Wart o Clate, 120m 

(393ft). It is a lovely walk, with the track of an old RAF station road that guides you right to the top, and there are gates for access. Upon reaching the top, you will be rewarded with stunning views over the island and a panorama of the east coast of Shetland. This is close to the Braewick beach walk which is accessible by gates and styles. Exploring the rocks near the Braewick beach you can find initials carved into the cliff dated 1883. 

The Wart o Clate was the site of a RAF station during the second world war and, interestingly, the site of the first telephone on Whalsay. We have photos, documents and stories about 'Da Wart' in the Heritage Centre. There is also a well researched and informative blog {click here} which outlines the history of RAF Clett (Clate) from 1942 to 1945, it is well worth a read. 

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Whalsay Leisure Centre

The Centre offers both wet and dry facilities with a wide range of activities for all ages from pre-school swimming to the popular Senior Leisure Club. Outdoors there is a flood lit all-weather playing field available for hire, with a multi-court. Come along and take advantage of our facilities whilst in Whalsay. Contact them via their {Website}, {Facebook} or {Instagram} to enquire about the extensive range of activities on offer, including courses, clubs and holiday programmes.It is over the road form one of Whalsay's two play parks and the wild garden. Please {click here} for more information.


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