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Bressay Spa

Bressay is a populated island in the Shetland Islands of Scotland.

Geography and geology[edit]

Bressay lies due south of Whalsay, west of Noss, and north of Mousa. At 11 square miles (28 km2), it is the fifth largest island in Shetland. The population is around 360 people,[2] concentrated in the middle of the west coast, around Glebe and Fullaburn.

The island is made up of Old Red Sandstone with some basaltic intrusions. Bressay was quarried extensively for building materials, used all over Shetland, especially in nearby Lerwick.[3] There are a number of sea caves and arches. The largest of eleven lochs on the island are the Loch of Grimsetter in the east, and the Loch of Brough.


Bressay has a large number of migrant birds, especially in the east. The Loch of Grimsetter is a haven for waders and whooper swans. In the far south, there is a colony of Arctic skuas.[3]


The name of the island may have been recorded in 1263 as 'Breiðoy' (Old Norse "broad island"). In 1490 the island is referred to as "Brusoy" - "Brusi's island".[3]

The Bressay Stone is an outstanding example of Pictish art.

a slab of chloriteslate, about 16 inches wide at the top, tapering to less than a foot at the bottom.[5]

The slender sides are engraved with ogham, and the two faces with various examples of knotwork, and imagery. The top of each face has a cross. On one side, there is an engraving of two men with crosiers, as well as various animals including horses, pigs, and what appears to be someone in the process of being swallowed by two sea monsters. It has been suggested that this is Jonah.[5]

During World War I and II gun emplacements were built to guard Bressay Sound.


Attractions on the island include Bressay Lighthouse. At Maryfield there is a heritage centre, a hotel and the old laird's mansion, Gardie House, built in 1724. The Northern Lights Spa Hotel at Uphouse is Britain's most northerly spa.[6][7]

Frequent car ferries sail from Maryfield to Lerwick on the Shetland Mainland. During the summer months, a passenger ferry service links the east coast of Bressay with the nature reserve island of Noss.

Lerwick and Bressay Parish Church (of the Church of Scotland) has three places of worship. The Bressay Church building is located close to the Marina, near the centre of the west coast of the island.


  • Images of Bressay
  • Full-rigged ship Maella, of Oslo, in Bressay Sound circa 1922

  • The Pictish Bressay Stone

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bressay.

Coordinates: 60°09′N1°05′W / 60.150°N 1.083°W / 60.150; -1.083

The rural island of Bressay holds pretty much everything there is to love about the Shetland Islands in northern Scotland. It's just minutes from lively Lerwick but has an almost tranquil feel to it. It's a place of lochs and sea caves, arches and migrating birds - perfect for peaceful hikes and great panoramas. For a touch of culture, there's a good number of historical sites around too.


Most people come here to enjoy the lovely landscapes and great wildlife.

Get in[edit]

Car ferries cross over from Lerwick once per hour in summer, and leave from the Albert Buildings in the centre of Lerwick. They arrive at Bressay next to the Bressay Heritage Centre. They usually run until midnight or so, but check in advance. In low-season, there are fewer crossings and they don't run as late. It's a 7 minute journey and it costs ₤5.30 per person and an extra ₤13 for a vehicle (both are return tickets).

Get around[edit]

Most of the inhabitants of Bressay live on the western side of the island, and the eastern parts are clearly less developed. Roads are rough and the east side of Bressay is therefore best explored on foot or -if you enjoy off track mountain biking- by bike. With no need to walk long distances you'll have plenty of opportunities to see some of the excellent bird life around and enjoy peaceful yet stunning vistas.

On the west side however, there are several good, single-track roads, making large parts of the island well accessible by car.








      Go next[edit]

      The lighthouse on Bressay