A feasibility study is underway into the creation of a long-distance walking route across Shetland, to attract more visitors to the islands and provide additional walking opportunities for local residents.
The Shetland Way would run from north to south along the spine of Shetland, linking the islands’ considerable natural, cultural and community assets for social, economic and environmental benefit.
The proposed route from Sumburgh Head in the south to Hermaness in the north could be used by tourists and locals alike, utilising ‘visitor hubs’ along its length, to divide it into daily walkable sections and give access to attractions, accommodation, facilities and shops.
The project is being developed by VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Shetland Islands Council, NatureScot and Shetland Tourism Association.
With funding provided by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, consultants Stantec have been appointed to undertake the feasibility study, having a long-established track-record in Shetland and an in-depth knowledge for designing active travel infrastructure across Scotland, the UK and Europe.
Steve Mathieson, VisitScotland Development Manager for Shetland, said: “The idea of creating a long-distance walking route for Shetland seems to make perfect sense, especially with the growth in interest in responsible tourism and eco-friendly outdoor activities plus the drive to help communities engage more with active travel initiatives.
“There are a number of iconic walking routes throughout Scotland which are highly popular with both visitors and locals and this study will help determine the possibility of creating the most northerly one in the UK.
“The last Shetland Visitor Survey in 2019 showed that walking is by far the most popular activity amongst leisure visitors at 92 per cent, while landscape and scenery is the top motivation for visiting the islands, coming in at 69per cent.
“The study will also consider the suitability of the route for cyclists and horse riders, as interest in both activities has been growing in recent years.
“The aim of developing a long-distance walking route is to attract more visitors to Shetland, encourage them to stay longer, see more of Shetland and provide them and locals with the opportunity to enjoy a world-class, active, environmentally-friendly experience.”
Stakeholders and the public will be offered the opportunity to input into the study through the consultation process.
Stantec Project Director Stephen Canning said: “We are delighted to be working with VisitScotland and the project steering group on this exciting feasibility study, which provides an opportunity to make the case for a high quality cross-Shetland active travel route for visitors and residents alike.”