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Bressay Lighthouse a.JPG
Bressay Lighthouse at Kirkabister Ness
Main settlement: Maryfield
Location: 60°8’60"N, 1°4’48"W
Grid reference: HU507406
Area: 11 square miles
Highest point: Ward of Bressay, 741 feet
Population: 384

Bressay is a populated island in Shetland. Its name is from the Old Norse for 'broad island' or 'Brusi's island'.

Bressay lies to the east of Mainland, opposite Lerwick across Bressay Sound. It is due south of Whalsay, west of Noss, and north of Mousa. At 11 square miles, it is the fifth largest island in Shetland. The population is around 400 people, concentrated in the middle of the west coast, around Glebe, Fullaburn and Maryfield.

The island is made up of old red sandstone with some basaltic intrusions. Bressay was quarried extensively for building materials, used all over Shetland, especially in nearby Lerwick.[1] There are a number of sea caves and arches. The largest of eleven lochs on the island are the Loch of Grimsetter in the east, and the Loch of Brough.


Bressay has a large number of migrant birds, especially in the west. The Loch of Grimisetter is a haven for waders and whooper swans. In the far south, there is a colony of Arctic Skuas.[1]


The name of the island may have been recorded in 1263 as 'Breiðoy' (Old Norse "broad island"). In 1490 the island is referred to as "Brusoy" - "Brusi's island".[1]

During First World War and Second World War, gun emplacements were built to guard Bressay Sound.

The Bressay Stone

The Bressay Stone is an outstanding example of Pictish art, described as a slab of chlorite slate, about 16 inches wide at the top, tapering to less than a foot at the bottom.

The slender sides are engraved with ogham, and the two faces with various examples of knotwork, and imagery. The top of each face has a cross. On one side, there is an engraving of two men with crosiers, as well as various animals including horses, pigs, and what appears to be someone in the process of being swallowed by two sea monsters. It has been suggested that this is Jonah.

Seeing the island

Attractions on the island include Bressay Lighthouse. At Maryfield there is a heritage centre,[2] a hotel and the old laird's mansion, Gardie House, built in 1724.[3] The Northern Lights Spa Hotel at Uphouse is Britain's most northerly spa.[4]

Frequent car ferries sail between Maryfield and Lerwick on Shetland Mainland. During the summer months, a passenger ferry service links the east coast of Bressay with the nature reserve island of Noss.

Lerwick and Bressay Parish Church (of the Church of Scotland) has three places of worship. The Bressay Church building is located close to the Marina, near the centre of the west coast of the island.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bressay)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 1841954543. 
  2. Undiscovered Scotland - Bressay Heritage Centre Retrieved 30 June 2007.
  3. Undiscovered Scotland - Bressay Retrieved 30 June 2007.
  4. Visit Scotland - Northern Lights Spa Hotel Retrieved 30 June 2007.
Islands of Shetland

Inhabited islands:
Mainland  •
Bressay  • Burra (East & West)  • Fair Isle  • Fetlar  • Foula  • Muckle Roe  • Out Skerries  • Papa Stour  • Trondra  • Unst  • Vaila  • Whalsay  • Yell

Other islands:
Balta  •
Bigga  • Brother Isle  • Colsay  • Hascosay  • Hildasay  • Lamba  • Linga, Muckle Roe  • Linga, Yell  • Mousa  • Muckle Flugga  • Noss  • Oxna  • Papa  • Papa Little  • Samphrey  • South Havra  • Uyea, Northmavine  • Uyea, Unst  • Vementry  • West Linga