District Of The Month: Nesting and Lunnasting

by Alastair Hamilton -

Situated on the north-east coast of the Shetland mainland, Nesting and its northern neighbour, Lunnasting, are traditional crofting communities offering all the benefits of rural life but enjoying good access to the rest of the Shetland mainland and to the island of Whalsay.

Nesting has a varied landscape, with attractive coastal scenery, and it also boasts a number of lochs and intimate sea inlets. The area around Gletness, with its tiny islands just offshore, is particularly beguiling and the lochs offer good fishing. There is some agriculture on the lower-lying areas, with the higher moorland offering grazing for sheep, which they share with some Red Grouse.

Nesting’s population of around 500 is accommodated in a number of small settlements, mostly towards the south of the area. There’s a shop with a filling station, a primary school and a community hall that offers a small, serviced caravan park. Although there is some employment, a number of residents commute to jobs elsewhere in Shetland, particularly Lerwick, which is about 20 minutes away by car.

Lunnasting is separated from Nesting by Dury Voe, on the north shore of which, at Laxo, is the main ferry terminal for the service to Whalsay. There are pockets of agricultural land throughout Lunnasting, but much of the area consists of rough grazing.

Vidlin is the main settlement in Lunnasting, attractively set around the shores of Vidlin Voe. Again, it has a shop with a filling station, a primary school and a community hall. There’s also a marina. The ferry terminal here is used by the ferry to Skerries and also by the Whalsay service on days when south-easterly gales prevent it calling at Laxo.

The sparsely-populated peninsula of Lunna Ness stretches north-eastwards from Vidlin and offers some beautiful views and excellent walking; otters are often seen around the coast.

The old pier at Lunna was the original base of the Shetland Bus, the clandestine service using Norwegian fishing boats that, during World War 2, supported the Norwegian resistance. Close by, the tiny but exquisite Lunna Kirk dates from 1753 and is still in use.

tiny but exquisite Lunna Kirk

There is some employment in Lunnasting, with fish and mussel farming being particularly important. A local painter and potter feature in the Shetland Craft Trail. Again, though, many people commute to work elsewhere. Lerwick is 22 miles, or about half-an-hour, from Vidlin; to the north-west, the village of Brae, with a supermarket and other facilities, is 11 miles away, and the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal is around 18 miles distant. As in most rural areas, broadband coverage varies with distance from the exchange; 3G or 4G mobile phone services are available in parts of the area, particularly towards the south.

Nesting and Lunnasting are attractive areas in which to live. For anyone establishing the kind of business that can thrive in a rural setting, these parishes offer the chance to live in very appealing surroundings, yet with easy access to Lerwick’s facilities and services. They’re also a potential base for those who wish to work in Lerwick, Sullom Voe or elsewhere.