Along the hundreds of miles of coastline that comprise the shores of the Shetland Isles lie dozens of small bays, piers and inlets. I had heard that many of these were wonderful for shore diving, with the small bay at Lunna Kirk often the first place mentioned by locals, so it was here that I decided to start my explorations.

1) LUNNA KIRK
In the north-east of Mainland, near the natural harbour of West Lunna Voe, the kirk, or church, that overlooks the beach here is the oldest still used in Shetland. Built in 1753 on the site of an older mausoleum, it is certainly worth a look.
Lunna was also famous as a secret wartime base for fishing boats that smuggled spies, saboteurs, radios and ammunition into occupied Norway, and brought back refugees from the Gestapo.
The Shetland Bus, as it became known, was run from the 17th century Lunna House on the hill overlooking the kirk and beach.
There is nearly always a convenient rock for donning fins when shore-diving in Shetland, and Lunna was no exception. The little shingle bay is no more than 50m from the gravel car
park outside the kirk, and its easy to walk kitted up through the gate, across the grass and down a gentle slope to the shore.
This dive is probably best done around low tide, which makes the swim out over the kelp shorter.
Dont underestimate the kelp forests here, however. Dozens of spider crabs balance carefully on the swaying kelp, their spindly legs ideal for travelling across this sea of leathery blades.
Here and there, tiny common seastars wave their legs in the air as they negotiate this undulating mass, while the toes of many velvet crabs can be seen as they cling to the underside of kelp blades, dark carapaces blending in perfectly with their surroundings.
Keeping slightly left of centre, swim out until roughly level with the point. Sand starts to appear at 10-12m depth.
Turning left, swim over a rocky reef where spiky urchins and the odd plumose anemone sit atop the rocks, and harbour crabs practically trip over their own legs in their haste to get away.
Small shoals of fish patrol up and down the rocks, where brightly coloured sunstars, bloody henrys and the odd featherstar can be found.
But it is the quick movements of the long-clawed squat lobsters that catch your eye, as they retreat into the dozens of crevices in the rocks.
Alternatively, you can stay a little deeper at 17-20m and swim along the sandy bottom at the base of the reef, where large scallops lie half-buried in the sand, and hermit crabs make the most of old whelk shells. Return over the rocks higher up so that you can see both habitats.
Swim back over the kelp, looking out for the tiny comical face of a butterfish in a cloud of green algae, ready to retreat the moment you raise your camera.
Look also for more scorpionfish, of which there seemed to be a huge number in a variety of sizes and colours on my dive. One was barely 7cm long, lying in about 10cm of water right under my nose as I crawled out at the end of the dive, after watching sand gobies in the shallows!

2) REDAYRE
Lunna is a popular dive-site with the local community, but my own favourite was off a little beach called Redayre, near Reawick. On the west coast of the mainland, its red sand, a consequence of a band of red granite that runs through this area, gives it its name.
It appeared to be lunchtime as I swam out at low tide, keeping to the right of centre, because so many of the residents seemed to be consuming something or other. A couple of small common seastars were practically waltzing across the seabed with a small harbour crab clasped firmly between them.
A beautiful seastar stood with all its legs pulled up on tiptoes, looked ready to pirouette off across the sand.
On closer examination, its legs proved to be clasped firmly around a large razor shell, still half-buried in the sand.
A large edible crab also seemed to be enjoying a fish supper, while another had a razor shell firmly locked in its powerful claws.
As with Lunna, not only was Redayre littered with commons seastars but also bloody henry stars, sandstars and the occasional seven-armed starfish.
Exotic-looking dahlia anemones were attached to rocks, while the odd tube anemone was at home on one of the sandy patches, quickly retracting its delicate tentacles at my approach.
Huge whelks with soft, creamy-coloured bodies slowly slid across the sand. Their empty shells would later be recycled as homes for the dozens of very large hermit crabs that populated the seabed.
Swim deeper here and the amount of visible life decreases, so spending time at around 12-15m will ensure a longer and more interesting dive. As you return up the gently sloping seabed, keep left to enjoy the kelp-covered rocks, where you will find the same long-legged spider crabs seen at Lunna.

3) HAMNAVOE
Shetland has a long history of fishing. Even today fishing, fish-farming and processing is its largest industry, employing more people than its very successful oil industry.
Fishing seems to be in the blood of Shetlanders, many of whom own small boats. These are kept at the numerous piers and harbours, and the small pier at the village of Hamnavoe was next on my list to dive.
Hamnavoe lies south-west of Lerwick, the UKs most northerly town, and the dive site could not be more conveniently placed, with a car park and toilet less than 30m from the steps down to the little beach beside the pier.
Around high tide is best for this dive, as depths under the pier reach only 5-6m. A number of small boats are usually moored up, and occasionally one leaves or returns, so a little care needs to be taken when entering and exiting the water. Stay under the pier until you reach the end, and swim out from there.
A lot of debris has collected under the shallower part of the pier, but move on and you come across heaps of common seastars intent on consuming the patch of mussels they usually conceal.
Scuttling around the seabed is an incredible variety of different types of crab. I counted six in an area no larger than a couple of metres square and, judging by their size, they obviously do very well on a diet supplemented by bits of fish discarded from the boats above.
The pier legs, coated with algae and dotted with small plumose anemones and bits of sponge, provide ideal camouflage for the small spider-crabs and scorpionfish that lurk there.
Swim out from the end of the pier, where the seabed is sandy, and you will find more crabs hiding under the ruffled blades of sugar kelp and beautifully translucent green sea lettuce.
On one of the sandy patches here I spied a beautiful sea hare. At least 20cm long, dark brown with white spots, it was an incredible sight as it slowly made its way across the sand.
So often a photographers life is an unhappy one, and this was one of those occasions when I realised that my camera batteries had run out!
To your left as you swim out from the pier the shadows of the harbour wall appear. I found several small scorpionfish here, well-camouflaged by their mottled grey background amid huge patches of nudibranch eggs.

4) MAVIS GRIND
The next dive had the unprepossessing name of Mavis Grind but, situated at the gateway to Northmavine, this site was full of surprises. Mavis Grind is the narrow isthmus that joins Northmavine to the mainland of Shetland, preventing it from becoming another island.
You can reputedly stand on the shore of the North Sea here and throw a stone into the Atlantic on the other side.
Park just above the little shingle beach and don fins on the rocks. This dive can be quite gloomy, so a good torch is a must.
Swim straight out over a band of kelp, where minute seastars cling onto the crinkly blades, and tiny scallops perform their comical jerky dance with almost frenetic energy as they try to escape.
The sandy, shingly seabed quickly starts to slope quite steeply. Keep slightly to the right, where the large rocks are thickly covered with thousands of fluted sea-squirts.
I counted five different types of squirt on and around these rocks, including the very beautiful gas-mantle sea-squirt.
Round every corner you will come across large, long-clawed squat lobsters, many sitting in the open on sandy patches, uncharacteristically slow to retreat back into their lairs on my arrival. The crabs I had seen so frequently on other shore dives seemed less in evidence, but many wrasse darted off around the rocks, disconcerted to find a diver on their turf.
Slowly finning my way round the rocks on this dive, I was never sure what I would encounter at the next corner.
The sinuous body of a butterfish appeared, weaving in and out of some weed. It halted, posing until bored, then it disappeared behind one of the lovely sunstars that pepper the rocks.
A juvenile topknot came to rest centimetres from my hand. Camouflaged against the colouring of the rocks, only its movement alerted me to its presence. Most of the life on this dive is between 10-20m - below this, visibility is poor.

5) SLETTS BEACH
Divers living in Lerwick have a dive site right on their doorstep. Sletts Beach lies south of the town at the end of Sletts Road. Clamber over the rocks that rim the edge of this bay and kit up on the narrow concrete piers. Around high tide is a good option, as these concrete piers can become slippery at low tide.
Swim straight out, keeping to the left of the bay, where the sandy bottom is littered with hundred of discarded razor shells. You soon come to some large rocky outcrops covered in kelp.
Where these are not too thick you can make your way in and watch the antics of the little harbour crabs as they scramble over the heads of the slightly larger and less volatile shore crabs.
Pale pink urchins are dotted here and there, and the beautiful stubby tentacles of large dahlia anemones beckon. Finning out a little deeper, the sand is populated once again by dozens of hermit crabs and sand gobies.

6) SPIGGIE BEACH
A final dive at Spiggie Beach was the last on my list. Situated on the west coast of the mainland towards Sumburgh Head, this was yet another attractive spot.
The smaller of the two beaches at Spiggie has a concrete slipway that is the best dive spot. There is room to park by the gate that leads to the beach.
Dodge the sheep and cross a small stretch of grass before walking down the gently sloping shingle to the water.
Swim out, keeping to the left of the bay, where large rocks break the surface. Dive as near to high tide as possible, as the depth round the largest rock will be only 5-6m.
The seabed is covered with small mounds of sand, and every now and then a worm cast will come slithering out of the centre, pushed out by the worm living below. Tiny sand gobies dart about the exceedingly white seabed, and hermit crabs stroll about.
In places you will be able to swim up through the kelp covering the rocks, shining a torch in the cracks and crevices to pick out the almost fluorescent blue on the bright orange carapaces of spiny squat lobsters.
Pale pink urchins and dahlia anemones are dotted about. Continue round the rock, but remember to keep checking the kelp. I found several nudibranchs on the blades.
This is a lovely shallow dive on a sunny day. The light easily penetrates the clear water so that its easy to see the crabs and huge shoals of sand eels swimming back and forth with almost military precision.
I never experienced visibility that was less than 10m on these dives - one reason why I love diving around Shetland, despite the long journey.
For anyone visiting or staying on a Shetlands liveaboard, its worth making time for a shore dive or two, as well as visiting some of the incredible Neolithic sites at Jarlsburg and Iron Age sites at Scatness.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Aberdeen to Lerwick with Northlink Ferries, www.northlinkferries.co.uk, or fly from Stansted to Shetland with Atlantic Airways, www.flyshetland.com or from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen with Logan Air, www.loganair.co.uk
DIVING: Charter-boats include mv Halton (which supplied air for Janes shore dives), www.mvhalton.co.uk, 01856 851532, or contact local club Zetland SAC, 01806 588261
ACCOMMODATION: Fort Charlotte Guest House, 01595 692140; Alderlodge Guest House, 01595 695705, both in Lerwick.
WHEN TO GO: Summer - water temperature peaks at 14°C.
PRICE: Aberdeen-Lerwick ferry from £21 per person, £87 for a car each way. Guest houses charge around £27 a night.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Shetland Tourist Board, www.visitshetland.com