The largest island, known as the "Mainland", has an area of 967 km2 (373 sq mi), making it the third-largest Scottish island and the fifth-largest of the British Isles. There are an additional 15 inhabited islands. The archipelago has an oceanic climate, a complex geology, a rugged coastline and many low, rolling hills.
Humans have lived in Shetland since the Mesolithic period. The earliest written references to the islands date to Roman times. The early historic period was dominated by Scandinavian influences, especially from Norway, and the islands did not become part of Scotland until the 15th century. When Scotland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, trade with northern Europe decreased. Fishing has continued to be an important aspect of the economy up to the present day. The discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s significantly boosted Shetland's economy, employment and public sector revenues.
The Shetland Sheepdog, often known as the Sheltie, is a breed of herding dog that originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. The original name was Shetland Collie, but this caused controversy among the Rough Collie breeders of the time, so the breed's name was formally changed. This hard-working small dog is intelligent, vocal, excitable and willing to please. They are incredibly loyal to their owners to the point where they are often referred to as "shadows" due to their attachment to family. This breed was formally recognized by The Kennel Club (UK) in 1909.
The Sheltie's origins are obscure, but it is not a direct descendant of the Rough Collie, which it largely resembles. Rather, the Sheltie is a descendant of small specimens of the Scottish Collie and the King Charles Spaniel. They were originally a small mixed-breed dog, often only about 8 to 12 inches in height at the shoulder, and it is thought that the original Shetland herding dogs were of the Spitz type, and were crossed with Collies from mainland Britain. In the early 20th century, James Loggie added a small Rough Collie to the breeding stock, and helped establish the breed that would become the modern Shetland Sheepdog.
The stoor worm, or Mester Stoor Worm, was a gigantic evil sea serpent of Orcadian folklore, capable of contaminating plants and destroying animals and humans with its putrid breath. It is probably an Orkney variant of the Norse Jörmungandr, also known as the Midgard Serpent, or world serpent, and has been described as a sea dragon.
The king of one country threatened by the beast's arrival was advised to offer it a weekly sacrifice of seven virgins. In desperation the king eventually issued a proclamation offering his kingdom, his daughter's hand in marriage and a magic sword to anyone who could destroy the monster. Assipattle, the youngest son of a local farmer, defeated the creature; as it died its teeth fell out to become the islands of Orkney, Shetland and the Faroes, and its body became Iceland.
Similarities between Assipatle's defeat of the monster and other dragon-slayer tales, including Herakles' destruction of a sea monster to save Hesione, have been noted by several authors. It has been suggested that tales of this genre evolved during a period of enlightenment, when human sacrifices to bestial divinities were beginning to be suppressed.
In his poetry, MacLean juxtaposed traditional Gaelic elements with mainstream European elements, frequently comparing the Highland Clearances with contemporary events, especially the Spanish Civil War. His work was a unique fusion of traditional and modern elements that has been credited with restoring Gaelic tradition to its proper place and reinvigorating and modernizing the Gaelic language. Although his most influential works, Dàin do Eimhir and An Cuilthionn, were published in 1943, MacLean did not become well known until the 1970s, when his works were published in English translation. His later poem Hallaig, published 1954, achieved "cult status" outside Gaelic-speaking circles for its supernatural representation of a village depopulated in the Highland Clearances and came to represent all Scottish Gaelic poetry in the English-speaking imagination.
Staffa lies about 10 kilometres (6 mi) west of the Isle of Mull. The area is 33 hectares (82 acres) and the highest point is 42 metres (138 ft) above sea level.
The island came to prominence in the late 18th century after a visit by Sir Joseph Banks. He and his fellow-travellers extolled the natural beauty of the basalt columns in general and of the island's main sea cavern, which Banks renamed 'Fingal's Cave'. Their visit was followed by those of many other prominent personalities throughout the next two centuries, including Queen Victoria and Felix Mendelssohn. The latter's Hebrides Overture brought further fame to the island, which was by then uninhabited. It is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
The masonry work on which the lighthouse rests was constructed to such a high standard that it has not been replaced or adapted in 200 years. The lamps and reflectors were replaced in 1843 and used in the lighthouse at Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, where they are currently on display. The working of the lighthouse has been automated since 1988.
The lighthouse operated in tandem with a shore station, the Bell Rock Signal Tower, built in 1813 at the mouth of Arbroath harbour. Today this building houses the Signal Tower Museum, a visitor centre detailing the history of the lighthouse.
The Cuillin (Scottish Gaelic: An Cuilthionn or An Cuiltheann) is a range of rocky mountains located on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The main Cuillin ridge is also known as the Black Cuillin to distinguish it from the Red Cuillin (na Beanntan Dearga, known locally as Red Hills), which lie to the east of Glen Sligachan.
The peaks of the Black Cuillin are mainly composed of gabbro, a very rough igneous rock which provides a superb grip for mountaineers; and basalt, which can be very slippery when wet. The rocks forming the ridge of the Black Cuillin (and outliers such Bla Bheinn) are dark in colour, particularly in the shade, but when in sunlight the Black Cuillin can appear grey to brown in colour. The main ridge forms a narrow crest, with steep cliffs and scree slopes. The ridge is about 14 km long (measured from Gars-behinn in the south to Sgùrr nan Gillean in the northeast), and curves in an irregular semi-circle around Loch Coruisk, which lies at the heart of the range. The highest point of the Cuillin, and of the Isle of Skye, is Sgùrr Alasdair in the Black Cuillin at 992 m (3,255 ft).
The Red Cuillin are mainly composed of granite, which is paler than the gabbro (with a reddish tinge from some angles in some lights) and has weathered into more rounded hills with vegetation cover to summit level and long scree slopes on their flanks. These hills are lower and, being less rocky, have fewer scrambles or climbs. The highest point of the red hills is Glamaig (775 m), one of only two Corbetts on Skye (the other being Garbh-bheinn, part of the small group of gabbro outliers surrounding Blà Bheinn).
The mountains rise up dramatically from the sea creating formidable, enclosed sea lochs, with the absence of foothills enhancing their vast scale. Many iconic views of Scotland are centred here, whether Sgurr nan Gillean soaring above Sligachan, Loch Scavaig and the Cuillin ridge from Elgol, or Bla Bheinn above Torrin.