District of the Month: Dunrossness

by Alastair Hamilton -

Every month, we look at what each district in our islands can offer for new residents. This month, we visit Dunrossness.

Shetland's south mainland is a finger of land extending for more than twenty miles southwards from Lerwick, but not much more than three miles wide. Dunrossness is the southernmost section.

The landscape is dramatic; Sir Walter Scott passed this way and set a novel, The Pirate, here. On both the Atlantic and North Sea coasts there are precipitous cliffs and glorious beaches, above which - over much of the area – the land rises steeply to a central ridge of moorland. Dunrossness has some of Shetland's most appealing coastal scenery and the sand and shingle tombolo linking St Ninian's Isle to the mainland is the most impressive of its kind in Europe. The southern part of the district and some of its fringes are lower-lying and there is good agricultural land, known for producing a range of crops – especially potatoes – and supporting dairy farms.

The area also boasts several of Shetland's most celebrated archaeological sites, including the multi-period settlement at Jarlshof and the more recently-excavated Old Scatness. At Sumburgh Head, the cliffs offer possibly the easiest opportunities for close encounters with puffins to be had anywhere. The restored lighthouse – with an excellent visitor centre – is a popular destination for visitors and locals.

With all of these magnets, it's no surprise that there are several hotels, guest houses or B&Bs in the area, and their trade is boosted by the presence of the district's main employer, Sumburgh Airport. It handles all Shetland's scheduled flights and many oil-related services, so there are opportunities in baggage handling, catering, air traffic control and other services. There are some jobs in other sectors, too, including farming, crofting and crafts.

No part of Dunrossness is much more than about half an hour by car from Lerwick, on a good road, and the bus service also allows people commute to work in the town or use its shops and services. However, the district has its own local shops, together with a doctor's surgery and care home. There is a junior secondary school and a modern swimming pool at Sandwick, just a little to the north. Older school students attend the Anderson High School in Lerwick.

The community in "Da Ness", as locals call it, is just as active as others in Shetland – which is to say, very active! Boating and sailing are popular in summer but the Ness Boating Club is also a year-round venue for all kinds of events and there are community halls, too.

With some fantastic beaches and wonderful cliff scenery, not to mention great bird-watching and sea-angling, Dunrossness appeals to outdoors enthusiasts, but it's also a welcoming community with lots going on. It offers a unique bonus, too, in the form of a very short drive to or from the airport when travelling farther afield. If you're thinking of making the move to Shetland, there are good reasons to include this area in your search.