Thursday, 31 July 2014


It’s been 15 weeks since we arrived in Shetland and we have been reflecting on the move. This may help someone thinking of moving to Shetland. We fell in love with Shetland on our first visit back in 1987 and always said we would like to move here someday. This is the norm with any holiday, you get around and see the good parts and just dip into the `living’ part.
                                                                                                 Sumburgh Farm

Since the first visit we have always enjoyed our return visits making 14 trips in total. On each visit we gained more experience, talked to people, kept up to-date with the news and looked at things that you would not normally done on holiday, such as keeping an eye on estate agents, getting info on the Scottish way that houses are sold and bought, facilities for residents and of cause the weather.

Then back in 2012 we made the decision to make the move but due to the recession houses were not selling so we postponed the move and started the process of selling our house in 2013. At this time many people thought that we would not actually make the move.
                                                                                    Wind House Yell (said to be Haunted)

It took 16 months to sell our house and we received a lot less than the asking price, at the same time we kept track on the housing situation in Shetland. Some houses in Shetland also sold for less than the asking price and a number that we would have been interested in past by. Generally houses come on the market from May and drop off in October, with only a few in between this period.

We followed blogs of others making the move, some coming as far as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, some of these people having never been to Shetland before. Also of interest was comments made on Shetlink, another good source of information- but beware some people are very negative.

Our house in Sheffield at last sold and we used Specialised Movers who had already taken people to Shetland before, to do all our packing- a lot less stressful than doing this yourself. Our things went into storage in Sheffield to be transported when we bought a house. Expect to pay around £12000+ to move here with estate agents, solicitor, removal and storage fees, even more if you don’t manage to get a place quickly.

At present the housing situation in Shetland is very difficult, with most houses selling for around £20,000 more than the asking price. The situation will not be changing for at least another 5 years with the continuing work at Sullom Voe, a new Power station and School as well as a harbour extension which have led to an influx of construction workers, which at present stands around 2500.

                                                                                       Sullom Voe Gas and Oil terminal

Rents have gone through the roof with some people paying £2500- £4000 per month in Lerwick or further north. Some local people who have had problems with workers just don’t advertise and will only rent to people they know or that are recommended, this is how we managed to get one.

With only a limited housing stock people are also buying land and building their own house, but beware of crofting rights if you are buying land, it may have to be de-crofted first, best see a solicitor which also act as estate agents. This means that all the local builders are extremely busy and also material cost a lot more than down in the rest of the UK with between £60-80000 quote to build on an extra two bedrooms onto an existing building. Then you have to get planning permission but with only two surveyors, one which is constantly working on the major projects it is taking around 18 months before work is past.

One thing to note is that the seller has to get a Home and Energy report in place before the sale, which takes care of you having to do a survey unless you feel that problems have been identified. What you save on the survey is swallowed up by the solicitor, the fees being a lot more than down in England.

The internet is slow here, but if you don’t have any connection then use the library, that what we have been doing since we arrived, they have around 20 computers for use as well as an excellent range of books and other information.
                                                                                                   View to Spiggie

Council Tax includes the water rates and is generally cheaper than England, but the main area for cost is the way you heat your home. With no gas it’s going to be either oil which is always going up in price or electric storage heaters which is not normally sufficient to heat a house in winter, some have solid fuel heating as well, but think whether you want to be doing this when you are getting old. It’s good to have a mixture if possible as you never know when the power cuts will hit.

With grants available for insulation and other heating methods, we have applied to have an Air- Air heating system which is very efficient and warms the whole house quickly. No word on this yet. If you are over 60 you can apply for a free bus and inter island ferry pass and at the same time get a couple of free Northlink ferry tickets. There is better medical help in Shetland, with free prescriptions but for major operation you have to go to Aberdeen, they supply an air ticket and for most things you come back the same day.

If you have been stuck in traffic jams, then you are in for a treat. The roads are in excellent condition and mostly traffic free, although you can always tell when a ferry or plane has arrived. Be aware that some people have little road awareness and often cut right across the front of you, or back out of a parking space without looking.
                                                                                       Lerwick Harbour

During winter the roads are only gritted Monday – Friday due to cut backs, and although snow generally doesn't stay long due to the salt in the air there are roads where black ice is a problem. Also make sure you get winter (all weather) tyres fitted October- April, a thing that I would never would have thought about.
If you are into shopping then forget about coming  Shetland, there are no M&S or other large shops, but this is one of the things we wanted to get away from, Meadowhall was on our doorstep but we only went in got what we wanted and came straight back out. It does seem amazing that during one day at Christmas it held 5 times the population of Shetland 110,000 people.

Tesco dominates the scene in Lerwick with only the Co-op as competition. They have just introduced a delivery service throughout the islands which may seem great but just think about the small shops, once they close they never come back, this has already happened to the once at Cunningsburgh. You also have to get use to the empty shelves, this happens at any time of day and any day of the week.

I am sure there is much more we could say so if we can help in any way please feel free to e-mail me at and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

You can never have enough information to make your decision. We don’t regret the move at all and wish we had done it sooner, what makes it difficult is leaving all our family and friends behind, however there is always Skype and (Holiday) visits south.

No doubt you will have many reasons that you want to come to Shetland, this is our story, and we hope your move goes as well as ours. Shetland is a stress buster, the quality of life far better than we expected but make sure that you get involved with the community, there is a lot happening. For us it’s the wildlife, the people, music, and a slower pace of life where you feel safe and valued and part of a community and much more.

It was our 31st wedding anniversary on Wednesday, so it will be great to get the house keys . It’s still hard to believe that we are here at last and as we ate fish and chips at the award winning Frankie’s in Brae, we reflected that the world has become a smaller place, in fact Diane’s sister was in Tokyo at the time 5446 miles away perhaps eating sushi, fried locust or even a McDonald's.  It’s not like the Alan Wicker way anymore (Showing our age now); you too can go on a life changing adventure.

This is not the end of the blog, just the start really as we experience more of the Shetland way of life. Please join us on our other Shetland Blogs

Good luck, more from us next week.
                                                                                                  Fitfull Head

Monday, 28 July 2014

Fun Day

Sandwick Family Fun Day

On Saturday we attended the fun day in Sandwick, one of the best days since the event started about 5 years ago. The sun shone and the people came in good numbers to a well organised event with plenty to see.
Circus acts performed juggling and you could have ago on stilts. 
                                                                    Diane with the current Guiser Jarl for the south mainland

The Sandwick fire engine and Police van provided an opportunity for a closer look, especially from the children. The main events took place in the Tea tent with Birls Aloud and Evergreen taking part with Shetland got’s talent winners all the way from Yell.

                                                                                                 `Birls Aloud'
At the end of the day a sheep race took part on the road, each sheep supporting a coloured ribbon, the one with the yellow ribbon won the race.
                                                                                   Sheep receiving last minute tactic talks
                                                                                                           There off !!

                                                                                          and its Yellow the winner 

This is just one of the numerous events taking place around Shetland and is a great way of supporting the community.
                                                                                          Maurice Smith a great compare

Today our move came closer as we received the home and energy report and went straight over to our solicitors to pay the agreed fee, hopefully we will have the keys this Friday and we can arrange for all the services to be installed. Our belongings will be transported from Sheffield next week. It will be good to be able to wear some other than what we brought with us in a couple of suitcases. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Better than most

This week again has been good weather, much better than down south!, even some of the lochs are drying out, such as Henry Loch (see photo). The main reservoir just on the outskirts of Lerwick is showing its banks, it must be the driest spring for a long time.

The Oil and gas workers have had another boost with the arrival of the Gemini which is the sixth floating accommodation vessel housing 400 workers. This is now berthed in Dales Voe just north of Lerwick. This now takes the total of workers up to 2,400 working on the £800 million Total gas plant, apparently this is now 90% complete with the first gas due to come through in January 2015. It has been estimated that the gas plant project bringing’s in around £2.5 million a month to Shetland economy.

A lot is being said of the decision to erect 103 (reduced number) wind turbines in the go ahead with the development in the central mainland. This decision to go ahead has had a mixed reception and I certainly think that this will have a big impact on tourism and wildlife option and which will be irreversible. If it was going to happen at all, then a site in Yell may have been a better option, providing that a survey was done to assess the impact on wildlife and that it would not be near any housing.

This week we also took part in the Mori survey on the quality of life in the islands. At first it seemed strange that we had been chosen, but this goes on the house not the people. Anyhow I think it’s always good to take part in surveys as it can help determine how much you know about the subject. Shetland has the best quality of life according to several different survey’s and we both feel that we have done the right thing moving up here.

 With the lowest crime rate in the UK, good health care and transport and a better sense of community where people support each other in a number of ways it’s a great place to live. When you are 60 you are entitled to a free bus and ferry pass, not 65 as it is in Sheffield.

There are grants available to help you keep your house warm and we have already applied for this so when we move into our new house sometime in August we might be in a position to start work before the winter comes. We are looking especially at the Air to Air heating system which takes a day to install and makes a big saving on heating costs. With no gas available it’s all a lot dearer with either solid fuel (not the best to have in your old age- a way off this yet), Oil and electricity as options.

At present we can only keep in contact via mobile phones which is not cheap and with no internet in the rented cottage we have to go to the library to catch up with things. We thought of a different way to keep in contact with our friends Mavis and Ron, we decided to stand in front of a shop covered by the Shetland webcam; we arranged a time to wave and spoke on the mobile – an alternative to Skype for now.

don't forget to check out my other blogs

We should hear back about the Home report either later today or Monday then we can set the ball rolling and hope the move date can still take place on the 1 August. Then we have a lot to sort and arrange for our things to be brought up from Sheffield.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Long term

Following on from last week’s blog about the Norwegian Viking longboat (Draken Harald Herfagre) that appeared in Lerwick harbour, I later found out that it is the world’s largest replica longboat. On this trip it was manned by a crew of 30 including six girls although it Viking times 100 crew would have been aboard. 
The mast measuring 28 metres snapped in strong winds forcing the longboat into Lerwick. It was great to see and it goes to show that the unexpected turns up, even this far north.

It was interesting to read about the property market in the Shetland Times on Friday. It indicates that house prices have doubled in Shetland over the past 10 years. Locals are finding it a problem buying a house with one offering £20,000 more than the asking price but still did not get the property. This house needed at least £20,000 spending on it to bring it up to a decent standard.

We found the same problem and it’s only going to get worse as The Shetland Island council agreed a £500 million gas sweeting plant at Sullom Voe so construction workers will still be in Shetland for another 5 years or so.

It was very disappointing to hear about the decision by three top Scottish judges who gave the go ahead for the Viking wind farm. This means that 103 wind turbines will spring up in the central mainland, so if you are looking for a house in that area be warned you may have one next to your house. The Energy isles project – along with the proposed tidal turbine bridge between Yell and Unst has also won a lot of support.

One thing we moved to Shetland for was the fact that it has a low crime rate; this remains the safest place in Scotland according to a recent report with nearly 75% detection rate with a 17% reduction in overall crime. The major problem still causing concern is drugs and alcohol but Shetland has good `intelligence’ in this area. Many people living outside Lerwick and Scalloway still don’t lock their houses and often leave keys in their car; where else could you do this?

Over the past few weeks we have been out making good use of the sunny weather which has given us some great sunsets. Up here with the light nights it’s often after 11 pm when the best colours come, sometime later, it’s a question of having enough energy to keep going.

This week we visited Fetlar, which despite a foggy start turned into one of the best days we have had on the island

Lots of interesting bird life see for further details.

House news
With the energy report having been received by the seller we are now just waiting for the home report to be completed which should be next week, then if there are no major problems we will give the go ahead and hope to be in our new house by the beginning of August

Monday, 14 July 2014


Unst is Britain’s most northerly island with a landscape resembling the moon is a superb place to go for a visit.

 Forget John O’Groats you must see Skaw which is the most northerly house in the UK.  Much has changed in the last 10 years with the closure of RAF Saxa Vord in 2006 and ½ the population left the island. If you want to buy a semi- detached house for around £40,000 then this is the place to make enquiries. While shops have closed in the north and south of the island Baltasound remains the hub of community life.

At Haroldswick in the north there is much to find, with the `Boat Haven’, which portrays the history of small boats in Shetland and a new site, the Viking longboat and longhouse. In fact Unst is one of the best places in Europe for archaeology with the nearby Crussa Field hold around 4,000 individual sites.

Just a bit further north is the Foords chocolate shop a must if you are in the area, the deluxe chocolate experience recommended.
Lets not forget the Unst bus shelter, near Baltasound. It even has its own website at anywhere else it would have been destroyed but here people respect things. The decoration changes each year.

Unst also has at least 11 broch sites and 2 large standing stones, Bordastubble being the largest, while on the south west coast the Lund standing stone is impressive. On the other side at Muness is a castle which was built in 1598 and is only one of two castles in Shetland, the other at Scalloway.

Down at Baltasound Buness House, built in 1460 has had some great visitors including Burke and Hare; I wonder whether they went away with any souvenirs. Sir Peter Scott was also stationed here as a commando in WW2.

You need more than a day to explore the areas and even though we have been going back every time since we first visited back in 1987 it always reveals something new. At least now we have settled in Shetland we can keep going back at different times of year to see what’s around.
                                                                                       Viking longhouse

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Lerwick Harbour busy again

Lerwick continues to be very busy after the Lerwick Carnival which attracted around 4,000 people, a bit further up north, the Simmer Dim motorbike rally attracted around 500 campers and many locals attended the event.

Back in Lerwick a week or so ago, saw an international market and flowers brought over from Holland.

While the weekend was busy with the Lerwick Gala, the Fair Isle Festival, live music in the town centre and the harbour full of yachts competing in the Bergen – Shetland race.

The winners of the race completed the event in 23 hours 43 mins who caught some good winds, the next yachts were 10-12 hours behind them. On Saturday the 42 yachts made the harbour look very colourful, and again the sound of lots of foreign languages mingled with Shetland accents.

Other ships were around but had to find other berths along the front, although none as big as the cruise ship from last week –the `White’, Costa Pacifica which had 3900 people aboard.

On Saturday night we attended the music event at the Carnegie Hall in Sandwick, the traditional regatta variety concert.
Live music in Lerwick, these Fiddler will appear with others down at the Edinburgh Tattoo next month- watch out for them on the TV

The weather is still dry and lots of the smaller lochs are drying up, who would have thought that the weather would be better than the rest of the UK. 

Lerwick is the busiest port in the UK with over 5,000 vessels coming in each year.
                                                                Even Saga cruise ships calls in, this one off to Norway

 An unusual one, this long boat from Norway had problems with the mast which broke so ended up in the harbour

                                                                                      Dim Riv always in Lerwick
                                                          Cruise ship with passengers on the Fred Olsen Tour
And finally a Royal Navy boat, the Yorkshire Unit How things change its only 12 weeks since we left Sheffield and now the sea surround it ?

                                                                      Royal Navy Patrol Boat

On the housing front we have just received confirmation today that the energy report has been received so the home report should follow next week. Cannot wait until we can get into our new house and get all our things up from storage in Sheffield.