Westside

The West Mainland offers lovely beaches, hill and coastal walks, excellent bird-watching, seal-watching and otter-spotting, good sea and freshwater angling and some fascinating historical and archaeological sites.

Welcome to the West Mainland - some call it the sunny side of Shetland

The coastline varies from dramatic cliffs to long, sea lochs, or 'voes', reaching far into a landscape of heathery hills and green crofts.

This is still a crofting community but also a centre of the seafood industry, with many fish and shellfish farms and inshore fishing boats. The main road west to Walls (pronounced Waas) passes through the middle of the district but, to get a feel for the area, it’s essential to head off down one of the many side roads. There’s no obvious touring route and it helps to take a good map.

The voes are ideal for yachting and canoeing. Modern marinas at Walls, Aith and Skeld reserve berths for visiting sailors and the annual regattas are major social events. Like the Skeld Sheepdog Trials and the Walls Agricultural Show, these usually include a concert and dance where visitors are welcome. In summertime several village halls offer Sunday teas - terrific value with home-baking and a chance to meet local people.

Most villages on the westside have a shop, post office and fuel pumps. The West Mainland even has its own:

The area is home to some of Shetland's keenest gardeners - don't miss the amazing kitchen garden at Burrastow House near the village of Walls and, in Sand, Da Gairdins i Sand, an award winning 'Oasis of Life'. The beautiful gardens created at The Lea in Tresta, from what was just a bare croft in the hill 25 years ago is also a must see. Not far away is the Burn of Tactigil, where a major geological fault reveals Shetland's only deposit of china clay. The fault runs south to emerge at the secluded pebble beach of Sandsound, a favourite picnic place.

The Bixter Firth is one of Shetland's most sheltered sea lochs and a favourite with trout fishers and birdwatchers.

Just north of Aith is the hamlet of East Burrafirth, where a path leads up the Burn of Lunklet to the waterfall and on to some exhilarating hill-walking. A viewpoint on the road at Gonfirth shows a grand sweep of lochs, hills, islands and voes.

Just love the place - will be our 4th visit - Shetland and its people draw you back.

The uninhabited island of Vementry has ruins of ancient homesteads and burial cairns and derelict First World War gun emplacements. An interesting walk leads from Vementry House over the hills to the sheltered sounds around Clousta & Noonsbrough - including Da Vadills, a special marine conservation area.

A favourite coastal walk is along the coast from Walls to Sandness, taking in the grand panorama of Foula and the Atlantic from Watsness, the superb cliffs and sea stacks of Deepdale, over Sandness Hill and down past the ancient water mills at Huxter to the sandy beach at Melby. Some of the best beaches among dozens in the West Mainland are Sand, Reawick, Westerwick and Culswick.

Shetland is the most beautiful island in UK, the food and the nature viewing is fabulous.

Archaeological attractions in the area include numerous chambered cairns; Iron Age field systems at the Scord of Brouster; the Staneydale 'temple' and settlement sites; and dozens of brochs, including the Broch of Culswick.

At Burrastow a modern version of a broch serves as the boathouse for the privately-owned island of Vaila, with its magnificently restored Edwardian mansion, Vaila Hall.

What next:

Strange choice for our honeymoon but we live to be different.
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