The family were able to make the move in April 2019 after Mark secured his job as an architectural technician with Richard Gibson Architects, now known as Nee Gibson Architects, in Lerwick.
He started in architecture working with Anglesey Borough Council and Bangor University, then joined the Army as a Draughtsman (Architectural) and travelled the world, before working for 15 years for architects in Lincolnshire.
He faced an hour-plus commute to Peterborough and worked long hours: “The free time wasn’t there.”
Mark, aged 46, has worked on a mixture of commercial and domestic projects across Shetland, including in the isles of Yell and Unst.
He has had to learn the Scottish building and planning regulations as well as familiarise himself with timber frame builds, which makes up all of his work.
Mark said work is more “buoyant than ever”, but he has had to get used to a different pace.
“People get back to you when they get round to it,” he said. “I was used to the high demands of the mainland. When you asked for something you’d get it within a day or a week. Here, things are at a slow pace and take a little longer.”
The more relaxed attitude extends to his office: “If the sun is out, the boss isn’t frightened to occasionally finish early and say: ‘Let’s go and enjoy the sun.”
Mark’s goal was to build their dream home, but the cost proved prohibitive. Instead the family lives in a traditional Shetland cottage in Semblister, on the West Mainland, which he described as “the next best thing”.
“Steeped in local history, with original family members still as neighbours it's been brilliant,” he said.
Sam’s craft skills and green fingers have been put to good use outside the front of the cottage. It’s adorned with planters, bunting and ornaments made from upcycled buoys, wellies and sea glass.
They also have an honesty box at the side of the house in which they sell eggs and surplus vegetables from their polytunnel.
Mark’s Covid project saw him lovingly convert a former boat shed/henhouse at the back of the house into a one-bedroom cottage for visiting family members and tourists.
After two years’ work, nearly all done by Mark, the cottage is now finished and they’ve welcomed their first guests.
Their next project is to plant out a meadow with native species to attract wildlife.
Their eldest daughter Ellie-Mae, aged 18, completed her final two years of secondary education at the Anderson High School (AHS) in Lerwick, and is about to start her second year studying English and History at the University of Edinburgh.
“She does quite often say that she misses Shetland - the views, the sea, the quietness of the place and the friendships she made,” Mark said.