Central Mainland is mostly covered in hilly peat covered hills. Scalloway is the main town in this area apart from Lerwick. The Tingwall Valley is a greener, flower-rich area with several historic sites around the lochs.
The island's golf courses are found in this part of the island and there are several historic sites to be found. As you're travelling around look out for true Shetland ponies that are often grazing near the main road.
Scalloway is the main settlement in the Central Mainland area and was founded by Vikings who used come ashore here when travelling to Tingwall Parliament. At that time it was known as Scola Voe, "huts on the bay". It is dominated by the ruins of Scalloway Castle that was built in 1600 to control the main access point to Tingwall by Earl Patrick Stewart in another of his family's bids to control the Orkneys and Shetlands.
Today much of Scalloway's day-to-day life is centred around fishing and the village that houses the impressive looking North Atlantic Fisheries College centre for marine engineering, environmental and quality monitoring, fish processing and fish farming. It also has the Da Haaf Seafood Restauarant attached to it which offers a range of lunchtime and evening menus.
Scalloway has several shops, pubs some of which do bar food, and a post office. There is parking down on the seafront and public toilets.
South of Scalloway area series of islands, Trondra, West Burra and East Burra, that are now connected to the mainland by three bridges. At Burland on Trondra the Shetland Croft Trail makes a great family day out. It's a working crofthouse open to visitors where you can see traditional breeds of cattle and learn about the crofting life as well as traditional crafts such as boat building. There are some lovely beaches here surrounded by fields of flower-rich meadows. The Burra Bridge connects Trondra to East and West Burra, again with more white sandy beaches and coastal walks.
Scalloway was also important during the Second World War as the base for the Shetland Bus operations. (It had originally been based in Lunna Ness but was moved as operations increased).
During the German occupation of Norway, Shetlanders helped the Norwegian Resistance who managed to ship arms and resistance workers into the fjords of Norway, often in winter under cover of darkness. These sailings became so regular that they were called the "Shetland Bus". It was a well kept secret with coded messages being passed via BBC news broadcasts.
The "Shetland Bus" museum, run by volunteers, on Main Street in Scalloway tells the story of these dangerous times and the bravery of those taking part.
A Shetland Bus Memorial has also been erected in Scalloway along the harbour at Mid Shore by the Shetland Bus Friendship Society in memory of those who lost their lives in some of the journeys that came under attack by the enemy or the fierce Atlantic storms.
The biggest golf course for Mainland Shetland is Shetland Golf Club, just off the main A970 road that runs through the island. This is an 18 hole, challenging par 68 moorland and parkland course that runs up both valleys surround the Dales Voe sea loch. The Club welcomes visitors and as it hardly gets dark in the summer months you can fit in a round of golf well into the evening. Clubs and trolleys can be hired and there is a bar serving refreshments and light snacks. Groups are asked to book in advance.
This is the second most northerly golf course in Britain, Whalsay Golf Club is the most northerly course although an unofficial one in the sand dunes in Unst is actually further north.
One mile north of Scalloway in the Tingwall Valley is Asta Golf Club. This is a 9 hole course set in a flower-rich valley with views of Loch of Asta and Tingwall Loch. In fact at least one of the tees borders the loch. The hazards appear to be the wildlife and the winds! Regular ceilidhs (traditional music evenings) are held in the clubhouse so you get the best of both Shetland and Scottish culture.
As you come out of Scalloway and head north you go through the Tingwall area - the centre of ancient Shetland. In the centre of which is the Lochs of Asta and Tingwall, good trout fishing lochs and home to Shetland's only mute swans.
Law Ting Holm is a promontory that juts out into the Loch of Tingwall. This was where the ancient parliament for the Shetlands used to meet and at that time it would have been an island.
All around this area are ancient artefacts including a 7 foot monolith in grey granite that stands between the two lochs, cairns, tombstones and mounds of burnt stones. An interpretation board details some of the other sites nearby. Tingwall Kirk lies at the northern end of the loch on the site of St Magnus Church that was built in the late 1100s. This was one of three churches gifted by three Norse sisters to Shetland hence its name "The Mother Church".
Apart from the only resident mute swans on the lochs you can also see tufted duck, red-breasted merganser and common and black-headed gulls.
Walls, Tingwall, Dunrossness on Mainland Shetland are all good places to see the true Shetland Ponies who often graze by the roadsides.
Shetland ponies have been a feature of the landscape in the Shetlands for twelve centuries. Their independent lifestyle has meant they have evolved to cope with the harsh environmental conditions and have produced a hardy breed. Traditionally they were used as workhorses for cultivating the land and bringing in the peat from the hills. The breed has frequently been in demand for other industries such as the coal industry in the nineteenth century where the little horses where used instead of children to bring the coal out of the mines!
Unst, the northernmost Shetland Isle, is also a good place to see them roaming around the island.