Searching for Seals on Shetland

One of the animals we really hoped to see when we visited Shetland were the seals.


“Seals have been around Shetland for many years with bones found at the Jarlshof settlement dating back to the Iron Age. There is also a lot of folklore surrounding ‘selkies‘ coming ashore having cast off their skins and been transformed into beautiful people, and many an islander would fall in love with a ‘selkie‘ and go back to the sea with them, traditionally this only happened at midsummer. In years gone by Shetlanders have hunted seals for their blubber, used for oil, their skins which were used to make clothes, and occasionally the flesh would be eaten. Most recently seals have been hunted for their valuable pelts.”


Jarlshof, Shetland

If you are interested in reading some of the Selkie stories, I can recommend Tales of the Seal People: Scottish Folk Tales by Duncan Williamson. I think there is an updated version called Land of the Seal People which has some additional stories.

We knew that there were lots of seals in the sea around Shetland mainly Common and Grey seals. But we also knew that by visiting in September, we were a bit late to see the Common seals who come up onto the beach to have their pups in July and just too early to see the seal pups that are born on secluded beaches in October/November to the Grey seals….

We wandered along many beautiful, secluded, empty beaches. Looking at the wonderful views and the clear pristine water.

Seals on Tombolo 1

We walked along the St Ninian’s beach (a wonderful tombolo) a couple of times, and would catch fleeting glimpses of seals watching us from the water. They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them.

I’m not a seal expert but I think that most of the seals we glimpsed were probably Common Seals who like to be closer to the shore and near the islands.


We wandered along the beautiful Minn beach and were shadowed by this seal from the water even as we walked around the headland where we saw signs of otter activity. The other sea animal we would have loved to have seen, but weren’t lucky enough!


Every day, we looked across the field from our bedroom at Wildrig with Spiggie beach in the distance. We kept intending to visit Spiggie beach, then on the morning we packed the car, and left Wildrig, we thought, why not go for a walk along Spiggie beach.

Seals Spiggie 6

We walked to the beach from the small secluded car park and saw a seal quickly heading for the water. We turned left towards the headland  and then I looked behind us to see if I could spot Wildrig from the beach.

Seals Spiggie 1

Wowee… it was a little like hitting the seal watchers jackpot!

Seals Spiggie 8

There were seals on the beach.

Seals Spiggie 9

Not just a few seals playing and having fun on Spiggie beach.

Seals Spiggie 10

Play fighting in the shallow water.

Seals Spiggie 3

Watching us while relaxing on the sand.

Seals Spiggie 4

But there was a whole colony of seals having fun on Spiggie beach.

Seals Spiggie 7

And we had been lucky enough to see them on our last morning on Shetland. So exciting.

Seals Spiggie 11

About Nicolette


  1. Nikita Eileen Krupoderov says:

    Awesome …I have always love the Selkie stories….Also remember watching “The Secret of Roan Inish”…many times….Thanks for sharing the Beautiful photos of the seals….

    • I loved the film of “The Secret of Roan Inish” although I’d read the book by Rosalie Kingsmill Fry first. I’ve always loved Selkie stories as well as other fairy and folk tales and myths which was partly why I wanted to see seals so much. It really was an amazing experience.

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