District of the Month: Sandwick

by Alastair Hamilton -

Every district in Shetland has its particular appeal and, each month, we look at what each part of our islands can offer for new residents. This month, we visit Sandwick, which lies in Shetland's south Mainland, about 15 miles south of Lerwick and about 10 miles north of Sumburgh, the islands" main airport.

The district of Sandwick occupies a rolling landscape with the North Sea to the east and the Clift Hills to the west. The coastline is mostly formed of low cliffs but there are beaches, too, with the gently-shelving sands at Cumlewick a particular favourite in summer.

As well as the hamlet of Sandwick itself, there are several other small settlements. To the north-east, Leebitton – where Cornish miners once worked a small copper deposit – is the base for the summer passenger ferry that takes visitors to the island of Mousa and its Iron Age broch, the best preserved anywhere. To the south-west, Hoswick is known for modern and traditional knitwear and textiles and there's a visitor centre, too. Most of the district's shops and services are clustered in the central part of the district.

Sandwick is home to around 950 people. They enjoy a good range of local facilities, including local shops, a bakery, a garage, a swimming pool and a very well-supported social club. The school currently caters for nursery, primary and junior secondary pupils and there are two community halls, one of which – thanks to a massive community effort – has just won nearly £50,000 from the People's Lottery for a new kitchen. The nearest health centre is at Levenwick, about three miles to the south, where there's also a particularly fine beach.

Employment in Sandwick itself is mainly in agriculture, the knitwear businesses or local services, but many residents commute to work elsewhere in Shetland, perhaps in Lerwick or at Sumburgh Airport. The roads are excellent and there's a good bus service, too.

Summing up, Sandwick has good local facilities, with those in Lerwick just a short drive away. The coastal setting, with wonderful sea views and spectacular sunrises, is very appealing. Perhaps best of all, though, it's a welcoming and active community that picked up a Scottish "community of the year" award not so long ago.