Shetland Islands

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Shetland Islands

Shetland Islands (shĕtˈlənd), island group and council area (1993 est. pop. 22,830), 551 sq mi (1,427 sq km), extreme N Scotland, NE of the Orkney Islands. Formerly the county of Shetland or Zetland (zĕtˈ–), the archipelago is 70 mi (110 km) long and consists of some 100 islands, of which fewer than one fourth are inhabited. Mainland, Yell, Unst, Fetlar, Whalsey, and Bressay are the largest islands. Lerwick, on Mainland, is the principal town of the Shetland Islands.

The surface of the islands is generally low and rocky, with few trees and spare soil. In places cliffs rise above 1,000 ft (305 m). The climate is humid and, despite the northern latitude, rather mild. Oats and barley are the chief crops; fishing and cattle and sheep raising are very important. The region is famous for its knitted woolen goods and for the small, sturdy Shetland ponies originally bred there. With the discovery of North Sea oil in the early 1970s, a major oil terminal was built at Sullom Voe in the north of Mainland. Tourism is also significant.

The Shetlands are known for their ancient relics. Pictish forts are scattered throughout the islands, and a village from the Bronze Age has been unearthed at Jarlshof on Mainland. By the late 9th cent. the islands were occupied by the Norsemen; traces of their speech and customs survive. The Shetlands were not annexed to Scotland until 1472, when the islands were taken over as an unredeemed pledge of King Christian I of Norway and Denmark for the dowry of his daughter, Margaret, who married James III of Scotland.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shetland Islands


an archipelago of more than 100 islands in the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean. Area, 1,400 sq km. Population, 18,400 (1974). The Shetland Islands belong to Great Britain. The largest islands are Mainland, Yell, Unst, and Fetlar. The rolling plains and plateaus of the islands, which rise to 450 m, are composed primarily of schists and quartzites, with well-preserved traces of glaciation, such as boulder fields and sheepback rocks. Meadows and peat bogs abound. Bird colonies occur on the islands. The inhabitants engage in fishing and stock raising; various grasses are also grown. There is offshore drilling for petroleum. The principal town is Lerwick.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"We had to get a ferry off Unst and drive through the next island of Yell then get a ferry off Yell to the Shetland mainland.
It also stopped at Fraser Park in Scalloway, the Shetland Museum and the Knab in Lerwick before travelling by Viking boat to the harbour.
The Shetland Isles have many links with the Vikings
The Shetland's roots go back over a thousand years, probably to sheep brought to the Shetland Islands by Viking settlers.
Dailley of the African Lion Safari in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, imported 28 ewes and four rams from the Shetland Islands in 1980.
Davis said: "If I had closed down the computer and left, I'd probably still be on the Shetlands, most likely conforming to their ways of farming and drinking and knitting, or dressing up as a Viking.
EMBARRASSED experts at Britain's top museum have apologised after wiping the Shetland Isles off the map.
Without doubt, the Shetland organisers must be congratulated for having the foresight and enterprise to put the whole thing together in an area that's most commonly known for its knitwear and thatched croft houses.
There was also traffic between the western coast of Norway and Shetland during WW2, which we called the Shetland Bus.
We've been told that you can see them from the shetland Islands at various times of the year.