Sixty miles to the north of Orkney, the remote and mysterious Shetland archipelago contain Britain 's northernmost islands. For more than 400 years the islands were governed by Norsemen and they still retain strong links with Scandinavia ; many of the place names are pure Norse, and the ancient Norse language was still in use on Shetland until about 100 years ago. In fact, Shetland is closer to Bergen in Norway than it is to Edinburgh , and to this day the local accent is much closer to Scandinavian rhythms and inflections than it is to Scottish English. The name Shetland is derived from the Norse word Hjaltland meaning high land. The sea is a part of everyday life on these islands, and such was the reputation of the Shetlander's seafaring prowess that 3000 of them served with Nelson's fleet during the Napoleonic wars. Of the 100 islands only about 20 are inhabited, strung over 70 miles of swelling seas; over the centuries the ferocious winter seas have battered the coastline into a ragged hem of dark caves, gushing blow-holes and stark rockstacks.
Despite this relentless pounding, heavy rainfall and frequent gales, Shetland enjoys the benefit of the warm Gulf Stream , which creates a temperate oceanic climate. Shetland is best visited between June and September when long dry sunny spells contribute to almost continuous daylight, indeed, there is just a dimming of the sky around midsummer, a phenomenon known as the Simmer Dim making it possible for midnight golf tournaments to be held. The islands' northerly location is rewarded with one of the most spectacular light-shows on earth, the Aurora Borealis , or Northern Lights, which shimmer across the night sky in September and October. These particular climatic conditions emphasise Shetland's northerly distance from mainland Britain .