With unforgettable landscapes, an abundance of spectacular wildlife and a fascinating history, the Shetland Isles offer a truly unique holiday experience. We couldn’t think of anyone better to provide an insight into all that the UK’s most northerly islands have to offer than this month’s interviewee – Hugh Harrop, Field Director and guide for Shetland Wildife.
With tours that range from walking and photography to daily wildlife cruises and tailor-made holidays, Shetland Wildlife is an award-winning company that offers small group travel with eco-professionals. Whether you want to discover the range of wildlife that calls this remarkable cluster of islands home or delve into the past by visiting archaeological sites, Hugh and his experienced team can lead you off the beaten path.
If you’re thinking about a trip to Shetland in Homecoming 2014, here’s a taste of what will be waiting for you.
Interview with Hugh Harrop
What are your personal highlights of Shetland?
There are too many! We are blessed with so many great things and it would be difficult to cherry-pick. Regular sightings of Orcas, displays of the Aurora Borealis during the winter months, living among the highest density of Otters in Europe, amazing sea bird colonies, brilliant migrant birds in spring and autumn and living somewhere that has true community spirit – this list goes on!
What do you love the most about your job?
Showing our customers the wildlife they have travelled so far to see and sharing the experience with them. 100% job satisfaction each and every day!
What wildlife can visitors expect to see in summer?
We are blessed with a huge diversity of flora and fauna during the summer months: teaming seabird colonies, migrant birds, ‘carpets’ of wildflowers, regular sightings of whales and dolphins, Otters, seals and dramatic coastal scenery.
What sights/places can you show visitors that they might not otherwise see?
As well as visiting the iconic sites for wildlife that are world-famous, we like to go ‘off the beaten track’ to watch wildlife in more intimate settings. If we tell you where they are, they wouldn’t be a secret! We keep our group size small to minimise any disturbance we may be having on our wildlife.
What makes Shetland such a special place to visit?
All of the above plus its people, culture and heritage.
Are there any moments from past tours that really stand out in your mind?
Many! Watching Killer Whales hunting just a few metres off our boat, watching a nursery group of Risso’s Dolphins in Mousa Sound, finding Britain’s fifth-ever Thick-billed Warbler (a rare vagrant from China) on one of our autumn birding tours, watching a Humpback Whale breaching continuously off Sumburgh Head and showing a 102-year old lady her first-ever Puffin.
Do you have any tips for visitors to Shetland and Orkney?
Take your time. The archipelagos are bigger than you think and don’t make your visit a whistle-stop trip. Spend at least a week and then plan soon for your next visit. Beware – our islands are truly addictive!
Do you have a favourite place to watch wildlife?
It would have to be Hermaness National Nature Reserve nestled at the very top of Unst – and indeed Britain. To stand on a 500ft high cliff and watch thousands of Gannets, Puffins and other sea birds is just amazing.
We asked people to submit their images of ‘the real Scotland’ in our recent photo competition – what does ‘the real Scotland’ mean to you?
A country of fantastic wildlife, brilliant people, amazing history and unique culture.
For more information, photos and news from the Shetland Wildlife team you can follow @ShetlandWild on Twitter and find them on Facebook.
All images courtesy of Hugh Harrop ©.