Does Shetland have the world’s best sunrise?

Boats on Norwick beach at sunrise, Unst, Shetland Islands
Boats on Norwick beach at sunrise, Unst, Shetland Islands
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AUSTRALIA’s Uluru and Japan’s Mount Fuji have gained legendary status among travellers for their early-morning views. Now the Shetland islands have joined them in a Lonely Planet list of the world’s seven best sunrises.

The North Atlantic location is praised by author Joe Minihane, who has sought out the most “dazzling” places across the globe to see the sun rise.

“The most northerly islands of the UK afford some of Europe’s best sunrise views,” Mr Minihane writes. “The remote beaches make the perfect spot for seeing the sun come up, and we promise you’ll be in sweet isolation, untroubled by tourist hordes.

“It’s best to head here in early spring or late autumn for some sunrise action, as Shetland’s northerly location means the sun spends just a few hours below the horizon in the summer months.”

News of Shetland’s inclusion on the list, alongside Mount Batur on Bali, Inle Lake in Burma, Bruce Canyon in the US state of Utah and the Okavango Delta in Botswana has been welcomed on the islands.

Misha Hay, brand marketing executive for Promote Shetland, said: “We’re delighted to get this recognition of how beautiful Shetland is. It’s almost too easy to forget how beautiful the sunrises are here.”

She added: “In many ways, I think the sunrises are at their best in autumn and winter, because you’d have to be up at two in the morning to see them at the height of summer.

“I think this recognition will be a boost for tourism here.”

Mr Minihane said: “Kicking back on a beach, cold beer in hand while watching the sun go down, is one of travel’s finest pleasures. But there’s something far more rewarding about heaving yourself from bed in the pitch black and blearily traipsing to the top of a mountain or the edge of a cliff to see the sun rise in all its glory.”

Dan Williams, a spokesman for the Met Office, said there were several reasons for Shetland’s impressive sunrises.

He said: “Unlike places such as LA which can have spectacular sunrises and sunsets because of smog and light being filtered through polluting particles, Shetland benefits from … lots of clarity of light. Being islands, there’s also a lot of open space and the ocean, which means the light is reflected off the water.”

He added that Shetland’s mix of clouds, rain and sunshine “can create a lot of optical effects from the sun, such as crepuscular rays, which create dramatic sunbeams”.

Shetland also earns praise in Lonely Planet for its quality of light. The guide reports: ““Different parts of the island are variously illuminated at any given hour – the window for that perfect photo can be short. The setting is still uniquely Scottish, though, with deep, naked glens flanked by steep hills, twinkling, sky-blue lochs and, of course, sheep with no comprehension of the ‘right of way’ on roads.”