Food and Drink in Lerwick (Shetland Islands)
Thanks to the islands' far north latitude, as close to the North Pole as Greenland and Alaska, the archipelago of Shetland, and Lerwick especially, may not seem like a diner's paradise. However, that assertion couldn't be more wrong, with some of the freshest seafood, outstanding lamb, lush produce and fabulous bakeries. With a bounty of options, here's our pick for the perfect lunch in town -- order a plate of blueshell mussels to start, then a roast native lamb served with Shetland black tatties or roasted salmon and then finish with the cheese plate. Since the dairy is all made on the island, the selection of both cow and sheep's cheeses are out of this world.
More than just great food, Lerwick and the surrounding Shetland towns are also known for their beer, with two craft brewers (one in town and one in Unst) and a craft spirit distiller that has won the admiration of gin lovers around the world. In addition to gin, the distillery will also start producing Scotland's most northerly whiskey.
Here are some local and tourist favorites that provide the perfect bite and accompanying ambiance.
Captain Flints: One of the most popular pubs and bars, Captain Flints sits right above Ellesemere Store in the center of town. Like the rest of Lerwick, the decor is very natural, with dark wooden linings and flags. Featuring live bands on weekends, the pub's largest crowds come Friday and Saturday nights. For lunchtime visitors, the stunning views of the Small Boat Harbor and neighboring island of Bressay make for an inviting atmosphere. For a cocktail, don't miss the gin and tonic made with locally distilled gin and seaweed. (Market Street; +44 1595-692-249; open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.)
Fjara Cafe Bar: Situated on the rocky shores of Lerwick, you can't beat the breathtaking vistas that can be seen through Fjara Cafe Bar's floor-to-ceiling windows. This cafe serves a little bit of everything, from freshly baked pastries and coffee at breakfast to small lunch plates with seafood and beer to larger beef dishes and specialty cocktails for dinner. Opt for the fresh salmon bagel and a cup of soup, which is changed daily based on the catch. Even if you don't have a sweet tooth, don't leave without trying the sticky toffee pudding -- it's a life changer. (Sea Road; +44-159-569-7388; open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. with lunch starting from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Hay's Dock Cafe Restaurant: Not only is the food a fan favorite for visitors and locals alike, the location can't be beat. Hay's Dock Cafe Restaurant is perfectly located right inside the famed Shetland Museum & Archives, offering you direct access to the history of the island. The cafe is known for their creamy chowder (loaded with fresh catch and smoked potatoes and leeks), so get that to start. For an entree, the smoked haddock and leek risotto is an elegant mix of gourmet techniques and rustic fare, especially when paired with a classic Lerwick Brewery IPA. (Hays Dock; +44-159-574-1569; open 12 to 3 p.m.)
Gurkha Kitchen: If you're thinking the only kind of fare you'll find in Lerwick comes battered with chips, you're wrong. Home to some of the best Nepalese cuisine this side of, well, Nepal -- Gurkha Kitchen is a perfectly surprising lunchtime option. Not only is the food some of the best on this list, it's also some of the cheapest -- making it a great option for budget-conscious visitors. Order the naan, which is made fresh in-house, paired with the spicy and succulent Nepalese special chicken or Himalayan spiced lamb. The restaurant is small, but boasts authentic decor -- like Gurkha statues and posters (highly prized soldiers named for their bravery in the British army). (33 North Road; +44-159-569-0400; open 12 to 2 p.m. for lunch)
Don't Miss in Lerwick (Shetland Islands)
Shetland Museum & Archives: At home on picturesque Hay's Dock in Lerwick, the Shetland Museum & Archives features an astonishing collection of more than 3,000 artifacts, famed works of art, local textiles and boats demonstrative of Shetland's history. The museum features exhibits that relate to the island's historical significance, like things belonging to original Shetlanders and more than 60,000 photos dating back to the early 1800s. The archives hold everything you could ever want to know about life on the islands, from church records to local government minutes to microfilm and historic books. The museum also has a restaurant overlooking the docks, which is the perfect spot to grab a nice lunch or glass of wine before getting back on board. (Hay's Dock; +44-1595-695-057; open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the Museum and Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Archives)
Clickimin Broch: Situated in the south of Lerwick, the ancient site of Clickimin Broch is a must-see for any history buffs. Dating back to the seventh century B.C., this impressive fortified stone offers amazing views of the stone-stacked town, hills and bays. Make sure you spot the area's most notable landmark -- the causeway featuring a slab of stone with two footprints carved into it. Give yourself at least one to two hours to explore the many hallways and incredible stone structures that make it up. (South Road; +44-1856-841-815; open year-round.)
Cycle Town: If you're seeking something a little more adrenaline-packed, rent a bike in town and hit part of the North Sea Cycle Route, which extends more than 6,000 km through eight countries. Since you're only in port for a few hours, take the Lerwick to Hillswick Road path, which takes an average of four hours to complete. For those looking for something a bit more leisurely, bike from the center of town to the Bressay Ferry Terminal and back, which is just 14.21 miles round trip. To rent a bike, locals recommend the Shetland Community Bike Project, which can give you more details on other daytrips as well. (16-18 Commercial Rd; +44-1595-690-077; open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
The Shetland Ponies: Famous the world over, Shetland ponies are easily the highlight of any trip to Lerwick and the surrounding towns. More than 1,500 of these ponies are said to live throughout the archipelago and can be found grazing on grass, peeking through fences or roaming the exposed hills. For the best viewing, head to the West Mainland, Tingwall, Dunrossness and the island of Unst. Make sure to pack a camera or binoculars so you can spot the adorable ponies! If you don't want to spend all afternoon roaming, book a tour with Five Star Wildlife Tours, which are led by local naturalists who will take you right to the ponies, as well as introduce you to other wildlife on the island, from orca whales to puffins and sea otters.
Jarlshof: A stunning contrast of old and new, the historic site of Jarlshof, which sits right next to the Sumburgh Airport is a true hidden gem. The site depicts various stages of occupation, from 2500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., as well as the complete timeline of the Viking's arrival. Nordic longhouses stand stoically against the round stone structures of the people before. Ensure enough time to visit the 16th century Jarlshof house, named by Sir Walter Scott. Plus, the lush grass topped circular homes flanked against the blue sea make for some incredible photos. (Sumburgh Head; +44-1950-460112; open April to September, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; October to March, 9:30 a.m. to dusk.)