SHETLAND has featured at number six on Lonely Planet’s list of the ten best travel destinations in Europe in 2019.
The isles, which were the only UK entry in the coveted top ten, were praised for their “awesome coastal trails, wicked wildlife watching and fabled fish and chip shops”.
“Spot otters and orcas from craggy headlands, then ease into the evening at one of Lerwick’s local pubs,” distinguished travel publication Lonely Planet continued. “That is until the Viking-inspired Up Helly Aa festival bursts into fiery life each January.”
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said Shetland’s place in the list of top European destinations was “richly deserved”.
“Its many islands have so much to offer visitors of all ages, from amazing wildlife and scenery, a rich culture and history, to the warmth and hospitality of the local people,” she added.
“Anyone who is looking for a break somewhere a little different this summer should consider Shetland.”
Shetland finds itself among the likes of Madrid, Bari and Lyon in the top ten, with High Tatras in Slovakia number one.
The local tourism offering has enjoyed a marked boost in recent years, from the increased number of cruise ship calls to worldwide exposure on TV shows like BBC crime drama Shetland.
Leader of Shetland Islands Council Steven Coutts said: “Those of us who live here know how fantastic the islands are, with stunning scenery and incredible wildlife on our doorstep.
“We’re an outward looking community and there’s a growing number of local businesses and organisations showcasing the best of our islands to visitors.
“We’ve a vibrant economy, tremendous natural resources and a beautiful environment, all of which makes Shetland an excellent place to live, work, study and visit.”
Lauren Doughton, project manager for Promote Shetland, said “we may be a small island group, but we’ve got plenty of room for visitors, and we’re looking forward to welcoming you all”.
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead, meanwhile, said: “We can’t be complacent however and it is important that we encourage the tourism industry to provide world-class service, facilities, events and attractions to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands and ensure visitors continue to have memorable experiences in Shetland.”