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The Great Outdoors: Shetland’s Sumburgh Head Lighthouse is a shining example of a fun day out

© FLPA/ShutterstockSumburgh Head, Shetland.
Sumburgh Head, Shetland.

When you reach the southernmost tip of Shetland’s Mainland you will be met by the striking Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, silhouetted against the Atlantic.

The lighthouse still plays an important role today and it is now accompanied by a fantastic visitor centre. Many visitor attractions claim to be “fun for all the family”, but Sumburgh Head truly has something to offer everyone.

A visit begins with the beautiful walk to the lighthouse. The coastal path is the perfect vantage point for dozens of different birds and the information boards tell you what to look for.

Victoria Tait from the Shetland Amenity Trust explains all you can see before you even reach the main attraction.

“Sumburgh Head has been described as the best place in the British Isles to observe orca from the land, as they hug the coast hunting seals,” Victoria says. “Other visitors include humpback and minke whales, white-sided and Risso’s dolphins and harbour porpoises.

“During the summer months the cliffs beneath the lighthouse are teeming with seabirds, who make this home for the breeding season.”

The Sumburgh Head highlights tour begins in the engine room and kids will enjoy sounding the foghorn. In the Smiddy you will hear about the hard life of a lighthouse keeper. Then in the Radar Hut you’ll learn about the important role Sumburgh Head played in the Second World War and the early warning from the station that foiled a potentially catastrophic naval attack in Orkney’s Scapa Flow.

Children will enjoy the Marine Life Centre which immerses them in the underwater world below the cliffs with Busta the whale, colourful interactive displays and the chance to climb through the kelp forest to get back to the “surface”.

With more than 4,000 years of settlers on the archipelago, Shetland has a fascinating history. The Shetland Amenity Trust looks after a number of attractions that strive to preserve and share their rich culture, and there is no better place to begin your visit than at Shetland Museum and Archives.

Sandy Middleton, head of engagement, says: “Visitors can explore the story of Shetland’s heritage and culture in one place, with access to a wealth of documents and more than 3,000 artefacts covering all aspects of the islands’ past, including textiles, Pictish art and the boats hanging in the Boat Hall.”

Due to the amount there is to see, it is a good idea to take advantage of the fantastic tours.

The lighthouse is reopening in 2021, Sunday-Thursday from 10am to 5pm.