Because most maps of Scotland include Shetland in a box near the top right hand corner, not many people have a strong sense of where this archipelago of 100 islands and islets lies. It comes as a surprise to many to discover it is nearer Bergen than Aberdeen; that it is further north than Moscow or southern Greenland; and that Lerwick is as far as Milan from London. The population of Shetland is around 23,000. As an aside, it is correct to talk about these islands as "Shetland" or "the Shetland Islands": but wrong to describe them as "the Shetlands".
Shetland was Norse until 8 September 1468, when the islands were mortgaged to Scotland for 8,000 florins as part of the marriage agreement between the future James III and Princess Margrethe of Denmark. In 1472 the Scots annexed both Shetland and Orkney.
Shetland measures about 70 miles from Sumburgh Head in the south to Muckle Flugga off the coast of Unst in the north. With a land area of 567 square miles enclosed by a coastline of 900 miles, nowhere is more than three miles from the sea, and very few places are out of sight of it.
In terms of local authority coverage, the Shetland Islands formed the traditional county of Zetland, a name derived from the Old Norse name for the islands, Hjaltland. This explains why Shetland's postcodes all begin with the letters "ZE". In 1975 a major reorganisation of local government in Scotland swept away the 33 traditional counties and replaced them with 12 regions. In most parts of the country, the regions were the upper tier of a two tier structure and were divided into districts. Things were different in the major island groups, and the Shetland Islands became an undivided region: in effect a unitary council area managed by Shetland Islands Council.
In 1996 another reorganisation of Scottish local government replaced the 12 regions with 32 unitary councils. Shetland Islands Council, which was already a unitary council, was not affected by the change.
InformationShetland Islands Council:
Tel: 01595 693535
Fax: 01595 695590
Shetland Islands Council, Townhall,
Hillhead, Lerwick ZE1 0HB.