By Adam CivicoOctober 6th 2021

English teacher Catherine Bradley from County Durham, coveted a different lifestyle for her family. After taking the plunge and applying for a job at the Anderson High School in Lerwick she has never looked back. The family moved to Shetland in October 2020 and is now settled in Scalloway.

This time last year Catherine Bradley was used to a dreary commute along busy A-roads in northeast England.

She would frequently get stuck in traffic, making the daily trudge to work even more frustrating.

Nowadays her journey from Scalloway to the Anderson High School in Lerwick, where she is an English teacher, is “like a dream”.

“There’s no traffic. My commute to work takes me about five minutes. I have never been stuck in traffic. I used to be stuck on the A19 all the time because of accidents or the weather.

“I get up, get ready and go to work. The kids can walk to school, they can go out and play at night and they are safe.”

She added that even her role was more enjoyable than teaching in England because of the Scottish curriculum and a system that gives her more free time.

“Every weekend feels like a little holiday.”

Catherine is married to Mic Hall, 35, a life-long welder who is now enrolled at Shetland College on an access course with a view to studying a degree in creative writing.

It represents a significant change for Mic.

Catherine said: “He previously worked with his dad [as a welder] and probably would have worked there forever.”

The couple have three children Amelia, four, James, eight, and Jenny, 17.

One of the driving forces behind their desire to move – as well as ditching long commutes – was seeking a better life for their young family.

Catherine worried that the children could get “involved with the bad crowd” if they had stayed in England. She doesn’t have any such fears in the harbour village of Scalloway, the ancient capital of Shetland and home to about 800 residents.

Instead, the youngsters are just getting on with being children.

“Jenny is having the best time. She has got more friends here than she has ever had in her life. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly and so accepting of her.”

We wanted to get away ... and provide something better for our kids. Shetland just seemed the perfect place.

Catherine Bradley
Catherine Bradley

Catherine and Mic had harboured a desire to move away for many years, but the coronavirus pandemic proved to be the catalyst.

“We have always wanted to move away. We lived in a little pit village where there was quite high crime rates … We wanted to get away from that and provide something better for our kids. Shetland just seemed the perfect place.

“After the first lockdown, it was one of those situations where you re-evaluate your life and think there’s got to be something better, something that’s going to make you get up every day and make you want to be a better person.

“When the English teacher job came up, I just thought I’m going to go for it. After I had applied my teenage daughter was straight on the internet and was saying, ‘Come and watch this video and come and see this.”

It was then that the family started doing more research and discovered shetland.org.

“There was a Promote Shetland video where there was a nurse saying how she walked to work and how relaxing it was. I said, ‘That’s what I want, just exactly what I want’.

“I used the ‘Living and Working in Shetland’ Facebook page just looking for advice. Everyone was so welcoming and that reaffirmed we were doing the right thing.”

“If it was about Shetland, we used it. We watched all the videos and all the adverts. We just had to get as much information as we could.

“We did come up for a week before we moved. It was that page that helped us find accommodation and that page that helped us find somewhere to live as well.”

Mic backs up the view that the Shetland community has helped make the move easier.

“We researched extensively, and tried to take in everything that we possibly could about Shetland before we made the leap. We read articles, books and blogs, watched every video and documentary that we could find, joined Facebook groups and followed social media accounts, and talked to local people, both born and bred in Shetland and some who arrived later in life, to try to get a good idea of what to expect.

“We found Promote Shetland particularly useful for the focus on individuals and their experience of coming to the islands to build a new life, and when we arrived back in October 2020 we thankfully found it had prepared us well and we couldn’t be happier.”

Given that the family moved to Shetland and was thrust straight into a Shetland winter of long dark nights and storms, they have taken it all in their stride.

Catherine said: “People make it out like it’s going to be eternal darkness but it’s not that bad. There were a few storms which were a bit hairy, but we probably still got out more than we would have at home, where winters are pretty grim anyway.”

Now the family is here Catherine is adamant that it was the best thing they could have done.

Asked if there were any downsides, she struggled to think of any.

“We have only had really positive experiences since we moved here.”

If you are inspired by Catherine's story why not start planning your move to Shetland?