17 Things You Might Not Know About Shetland

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Shetland is a Scottish crime drama set in the Shetland Islands. Filming for Shetland Season 6 is complete, and filming for series 7 has begun. Shetland follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and the Shetland police as they solve crimes in the beautiful Shetland Islands. the series has won many accolades 

While you wait for the season 6 premiere, here are some interesting things you might not know about the series.

17 Things You Might Not Know About Shetland

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1 | The series is based on novels by Ann Cleeves

Shetland's first series was based on the novel Red Bones by author Ann Cleeves. That name might sound familiar since she also wrote the Vera novels from which the Vera TV series is based. 

The second series was based on the novels Raven Black, Dead Water, and Blue Lightning. The third series was the first not based on the novels, written exclusively for television. 

Curious about the books? Check out all the Shetland novels in order HERE

2 | It doesn't always rain when they need it

The Shetland Islands are the most northerly place in the UK and can have rain any month of the year. You might think it would be easy to film a scene with rain in it, but when the weather's not cooperating sprinklers were used to create fake rain in some of the scenes.

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3 | Ann Cleeves went to Shetland almost by accident

Moving to Shetland wasn't in author Ann Cleeve's plans. A series of events brought her to Shetland almost by accident, to work at the Bird Observatory there. Her experience there inspired her love of the islands, and lead to the novel Raven Black and later the first series of Shetland. 

4 | That’s where she met her husband

While working as a cook at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, Cleeves met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist.

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5 | Not much to do but write…

After the couple married, her husband Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a small tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary.

They were the only residents, not counting birds, and there was no electricity or water. Access to the mainland was only at low tide across the shore. Without much to do, Cleeves started writing. 

6 | The idea for her first Shetland novel came from watching corvids

Picture this lovely scene – the striking sight of black ravens in the white snow with blood spatters and a corpse. It was this idea Cleeves imagined on a return trip that became her first Shetland Island Mysteries novel, Raven Black

7 | Steven Robertson grew up in Shetland 

Steven Robertson, who plays local DC Sandy Wilson, grew up in Shetland. In series two, they filmed on his aunt and uncle's farm on Muckle Roe. Growing up on a croft, being involved in agriculture, and owning sheep from a young age was just a part of life for him. 

During his adolescence, he befriended the late Rhoda Bulter, one of Shetland's most well-known poets. Bulter spent many of her own childhood summers on a croft owned by Robertson's family. Robertson's family and friends still reside in Shetland. 


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8 | He can also speak the local Shetland dialect

Actor Steven Robertson loves to speak in the Shetland dialect while visiting and filming. When he uses the dialect and some Shetland words down south, nobody knows what he's saying. 

9 | Most props and extras are found on Facebook

Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and looking at pictures of the grandkids. Apparently, it's also great for finding props and extras for the Shetland TV series. 

With the Shetland Islands being a relatively small community, most of the props and extras in the show are found via Facebook advertisements. In addition, many of the locals have been hired to help with production duties such as transport.

10 | The series has done wonders for local tourism

Cast and crew mingle among the locals during their time filming there. They regularly get told how much tourism has increased to the Shetland Islands since the TV show first aired. 

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11 | Filming on Fair Isle is tough, but locals help out

Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. Due to the difficulty getting there, they only take a skeleton crew and no vehicles. The locals were happy to let the cast and crew use their cars, and even put them up while they were filming. 

Douglas Henshall was quoted as, “We wouldn’t have been able to do it if it hadn’t been for the people there on Fair Isle so we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

12 | Hands off the controls, Mr. Henshall

Filming in a remote location like Fair Isle is challenging, but getting there is an experience itself. Douglass Henshall says of his trip there…

Flying to Fair Isle from Lerwick is an experience I’ll never forget. I was sitting right next to the pilot with my wee headphones on. I remember him saying to me “don’t touch anything” and the temptation to touch everything was, I admit, quite strong. You have an overwhelming need to say, “What would happen if I just press this button? Or this one?”. That was quite fun but brilliant.

13 | Tosh Doesn’t Appear in the Books

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Alison O'Donnell plays DS Alison “Tosh” MacIntosh, who works with DI Perez. Tosh is an integral part of the story, but she doesn't appear in the books.

David Kane, who wrote the pilot, originally created the character idea years before Shetland came about, and finally found the right series to introduce her in.   

14 | The cast & crew celebrated finishing season 3 with a pirate party

To celebrate the end of filming season 3, the cast and crew had an unusual celebration – a pirate party. Henshall stated,
We had a pirate party at the boat club, which I thought was going to be a nightmare, but it ended up being one of the best parties I have ever been to in my entire life.

15 | Many actors have appeared in other series together

Douglas Henshall, Finn Den Hertog, and Stephen Walters all appeared in Outlander (2014). Henshall guest-starred in the first season and Hertog and Walters were series regulars in both the first and second seasons.

Mark Bonnar (Duncan Hunter) & Allison McKenzie (Gail Callahan) also worked together on Line of Duty (2012) as Dryden & Akers respectively.

Actor Steven Robertson played a suspect in Vera (2011), another TV series based on a series of books by Ann Cleeves.

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16 | Douglas Henshall hates retweets

It seems you won't catch Douglas Henshall re-Tweeting any praise he gets. “One of my pet hates is people re-Tweeting praise, I loathe it more than anything else in the world,” he said. “It's like walking up to a stranger in the street and saying, ‘So and so said that I was absolutely fantastic, did you know that?' You just wouldn't do that. You'd never in a million years do that, so why would you do it on Twitter?

17 | The series has racked up quite a few awards

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  • Douglas Henshall won the 2016 BAFTA Scotland award for best actor for his role as Jimmy Perez in Shetland (2013).
  • Douglas Henshall was nominated for the 2014 BAFTA Scotland Award in the Best Actor – Television category for his role as DI Jimmy Perez on Shetland (2013).
  • The series received the 2016 BAFTA Scotland award for Best TV Drama.
  • Rodrigo Gutierrez was nominated for the 2016 British Society of Cinematographers Award in the GBTC Operators Award – Television Drama category for his work on Shetland (2013).
  • John Lunn was nominated for the 2013 RTS Craft & Design Award in the Best Music – Original Title category for his work on Shetland (2013).
  • Gaby Chiappe was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA Scotland in the Best Writer – Film/Television category for her work on Shetland (2013).
  • Jan Matthys was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA Scotland in the Best Directing – Film/Television category for his work on Shetland (2013).
  • Douglas Henshall was nominated for the 2014 BAFTA Scotland Award in the Best Actor – Television category for his role as DI Jimmy Perez on Shetland (2013).
  • The series received the 2016 BAFTA Scotland award for Best TV Drama.


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  1. I love Shetland, as well as a lot of other British detective stories. The story line is always full and rich without the profanity, violence, and sex. Amazing!! Actors who act and stories that are good!!

  2. I love the series very much. Fell in love with Douglas Henshall. Please continue forever. M from Florida USA

  3. I live in America, but I absolutely love Acorn and Britbox TV. Shetland is a series that draws you in on the first episode and you can’t wait to watch the next episode. There are so many twists and turns! Just when you think you have it figured out, something else happens. I so look forward to Episode Seven. The cast does a great job of portraying the characters in the series. From Wisconsin, USA

  4. I must agree with those who compare Shetland so favorably with American shows–or indeed, many British or European ones. Even if there were no stories or actors, I could just watch the scenery for hours! But thank goodness for such a superb cast and crew.

  5. I’ve never been so obsessed with a tv series! I love “Shetland”, the cast, the stories, the music, and of course Shetland itself. Must go there on my next trip to Britain.

  6. As a Canadian I am subjected to second rate American/Hollywood TV series. Shetland has made me return to watching and rewatching episodes of this excellent series with enthusiasm.
    Thank you Shetland

    • Hello fellow Canadian! I agree. Love Shetland. So absorbing to watch. Would love to visit one day. Fingers crossed. We have been to Skye which is an island south from Shetland off the west coast of Scotland. A gorgeous place!

  7. I’m a Scot.living in Australia. Love, love, love Shetland. Yes we get it here in Australia. I just hope there are more series of it to come. Thank you

    Love the cast also.! Thank you!!

  8. From the first episode, I absolutely fell in love with the Shetland series–best acting and story line ever. Certainly tops anything produced for American television within the last several decades. Please continue with this great gifted cast and story line…makes me want to move (or at least visit) the Shetland Islands soon. Best wishes and much love..M from California, USA

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