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Coastal Names

Meal Beach, Burra Meal Beach, BurraZoomSome of the first places to be named may have been the islands. Names ending in a, ay or ey derive from øy meaning an island. Burra is the broch isle, while Papa Stour means the big island of the priests.

Places with wick, firth and voe names describe bays of different shapes. Lerwick is the clay or muddy bay, and Braewick the broad bay. Headlands are called nesses, points or tongues of land are taings, while inlets or ravines are called geos.

Sea Eagles (Erns) once frequented Ern Stack Sea Eagles (Erns) once frequented Ern StackZoom


Shetland's coastline boasts many stacks. These tall columns of rock often reflect the animals or birds associated with them, like Lamba Stack or Da Ramna Stacks (raven). Skerry names (sker: isolated rock in the sea) often reflect the colour, or associated wildlife, eg Skarfi Skerry (shag) or Swarta Skerry (black). Drangr (pointed rock) gives Da Drongs, the impressive cluster of rocks at Eshaness and melr (sand) gives beaches called Mail or Meal. Aith names signify an isthmus and noosts were specially prepared hollows in where boats were drawn up above the high tide mark.

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