With around 1,500km of coastline, Shetland has something to offer most visitors. Absorb yourself in the day-to-day life of a seabird colony amidst magnificent cliff scenery, or take a gentle stroll along a sandy beach. Let the children investigate fascinating rock pools, or step into the past and explore some of the archaeological features found near the shore. Whatever your interests, allow yourself to relax and enjoy the scenery and wildlife around you.
enlarge Spectacular cliff scenery is concentrated in the west and north of Shetland and on Fair Isle and Foula. The complex geology means that sea cliffs come in a range of colours, such as the pinkish-red granite of Ronas Voe, the reddish-brown sandstone of Sumburgh Head, the blue-green serpentine of Fetlar and the dark basalt of Eshaness.
This is the predominant type of coastline in Shetland. On exposed shores the constant pounding by the sea prevents the growth of seaweed and allows only hardy organisms like Barnacles and Limpets to survive. Sheltered rocky shores support the greatest diversity of seashore organisms tucked away in crevices, pools and overhangs.
The composition of these beaches largely depends on the local geology. Pebbles are deposited according to size, with the largest ones at the top of the shore. The shingle is moved around by the tides and a series of peaked ridges may be thrown up by storms. Many of the sand spits and bars around the coastline have a shingle base.
Varying in size, the sand mainly consists of finely ground-up rocks and fragmented sea shells.
The composition, structure and angle of slope is determined by wave action. Some beaches reflect the local geology such as the sparkling mica sands in Unst. The diversity of organisms on a sandy beach is largely determined by the size of the sand particles, smaller grains retaining most sea water at ebb tide. This enables a greater diversity of life to exist beneath the sand.
Mud flats form where fine particles of silt and mud accumulate on a level beach, often where fresh water enters the sea. High levels of organic material build up supporting large populations of invertebrates, an important food source for waders and shelduck.
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