Visitor Attractions on Whalsay

Symbister's Bustling Harbour

The harbour of Symbister is the hub of this successful fishing community of around 1,000 people - and a constant source of interest to islanders and visitors alike. Craft owned and crewed by local families throng the sheltered dock, from the smallest creel boats to huge pelagic trawlers - some of Europe's largest fishing vessels.

Nearby, a modern factory processes whitefish for export, while next to the Whalsay Boating Club which welcomes visitors, are the remains of a former herring curing station.

Stone Age and Iron Age Relics

People have lived in Whalsay for at least 4,000 years. Traces of former settlement range from hilltop burial cairns and prehistoric field boundaries to nationally important monuments such as the two spectacular Neolithic houses of Yoxie and Beenie Hoose at Petticarth's Field excavated by Charles Calder and Whalsay-born John Stewart in the 1950s.

Stumps of Ancient Mountains

The rocks of Whalsay are schist and gneiss, formed at high temperature and pressure benath mountains which were eroded away hundreds of millions of years ago. In places you can see large fragments of the original rocks - known as xenoliths - mixed up with the formerly-fluid mass of granite gneiss.

Sodom and Hugh MacDiarmid

For most of the 1930's the Scots Communist poet Christopher Grieve ("Hugh MacDiarmid") lived in Whalsay. He was poor, little-known outside literary circles and regarded in the islands as an oddity, although his wife Valda and son Michael were well-liked.

In the croft house of Sodom (from the Norn sud-heim - the southern house) this often tormented genius wrote much of his finest poetry (including On a raised Beach) and, via the Whalsay post office, conducted furious correspondence with the leading writers and thinkers of his generation.
The Grieve House Camping Böd Sketch
Tel: +44 (0)1595 694688    Fax: +44 (0)1595 693956    Email:
Shetland Charitable Trust Logo Address: Shetland Amenity Trust, Garthspool, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0NY