What's living in Shetland like?

With our friendly, vibrant community, thriving economy, and thrilling natural environment, Shetland really is an exciting place to call home. We offer a safe and welcoming haven for people from all walks of life.

What are the benefits of moving to Shetland?

Shetland offers something for everybody, young and old, and there are lots of reasons people choose to move here. Some are attracted by the islands’ exceptional scenery and wildlife. Others come here for a year or two to study or because taking a job here is a logical career move – and 10, 20, 40 years later, they’re still here, having found a settled home and lifelong friendships in a magical place. Then there are others who are looking for a better quality of life for themselves and their families, which they find in Shetland’s first-rate education, culture and leisure facilities and inclusive, supportive community. If you’re used to the stresses of a busy town or city, Shetland definitely offers a more relaxed pace of life and an opportunity to achieve the perfect work/life balance.

What is it like living in Shetland?

There’s so much to see and do in Shetland that you will never grow bored. We have impressive landscapes, coastlines and wildlife right here on our doorstep – not to mention the freshest of air and crystal-clear waters. If you’re interested in natural history, this is one of the best places to live in northern Europe. There’s also a fascinating human heritage to explore, whether your interests lie in archaeology, history or folklore.

If you’re creatively inclined, you’ll find yourself in the company of artists, writers, poets, photographers, musicians, architects, textile designers and a whole range of craftspeople. There’s also a varied programme of theatre, music and arts to keep you entertained during the winter months. If active living is your thing, we have a huge range of indoor and outdoor facilities to keep you fit and healthy all year round.

Shetlanders accept everything. You see all these different cultures and backgrounds up here, and everyone’s just accepted. You’re not judged for anything.

How does Shetland differ from other parts of Scotland?

Shetland has similar services and facilities to those found in mainland Scotland – schools, public transport, supermarkets, cinemas, leisure facilities and so on – but the scale and quality of those facilities is better than you’d expect in a comparable rural area. If you’re used to being stuck in traffic on the way to work or crammed on a busy train, you’ll be pleased to hear there are none of those commuting stresses here. The only reason you might be late is if you stop to watch an otter or a pod of orcas at play!

Then there’s the strength and warmth of the community; Shetland has been welcoming people for centuries. And, despite Ann Cleeves’ murder mystery novels – and the popular ‘Shetland’ TV series based on them – we have one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, making it a great place to raise young families.

Our northerly latitude means that in the summer we can enjoy up to 19 hours of sunshine a day, meaning there’s plenty of time to make the most of the great outdoors. And, in winter, even though the days are shorter, you have the opportunity to see the thrilling aurora borealis, or northern lights.

Is it easy to find work in Shetland?

Shetland has a thriving local economy with a total output worth £1 billion. Employers are always on the lookout for enthusiastic workers and there is a range of opportunities available at all levels of employment. Primary and secondary teachers, social care workers, administration staff, accountants, hospitality workers, nurses, fish processors and aquaculture specialists are just some of the types of job available.

Growing industries in Shetland include fishing and aquaculture, tourism, hospitality, renewable energy, oil and gas, and the creative arts. There are also opportunities to work for the NHS and for the Shetland Islands Council. See our Current Vacancies and Jobs in Health Care pages for the latest posts.

If you run your own business or are looking to set up a new enterprise, there’s plenty of assistance available locally, too. Check our Do Business page for more information.

What are the public services like?

Our public services are of a high standard. If you have children, they’ll receive excellent free education in some of the best-equipped schools in the country. We’ve also got two colleges, offering a range of subjects. Our local NHS reaches every corner of the islands. We have excellent roads and convenient internal ferries and bus services.

For shopping, we’ve got two main supermarkets in the town of Lerwick and another in Brae, in the north mainland. There are also lots of great independent shops selling local food, drink, homeware and gifts. Online shopping is popular, too, with most retailers happy to send products direct to Shetland.

It’s a great way of life. It’s clean, it’s friendly, it’s happy, there’s this real sense of community. Everyone looks out for each other, and it’s really safe. It’s a positive place to be, and we’re proud to call it home.

How good is the internet in Shetland?

High speed broadband is available in the isles’ most populated areas, with good connections capable of handling online streaming services. Some of the more remote areas of Shetland don’t yet enjoy the same high speeds but broadband roll-out is continually progressing. Our network of 4G mobile phone coverage is also improving all the time, across the range of providers.

Are there good transport links to and from Shetland?

Flights fly in and out of Shetland regularly from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Kirkwall, plus there are seasonal flights to Manchester and Bergen. If you move to Shetland permanently, you can benefit from the Air Discount Scheme, which is operated by the Scottish Government. Currently, non-business travellers enjoy a 50% discount on the fare, though not on the additional taxes and charges.

Shetland is also accessible by ferry, with departures seven nights a week in both directions on the Aberdeen to Lerwick route all year round, with three calls a week at Kirkwall, Orkney, en route. For full details and bookings visit the Northlink Ferries website.

What is the weather like in Shetland?

Shetland has the most extraordinary light and a calm sunny day is a truly magical experience. The sun shines and the sea is like a mirror, creating complete stillness and tranquillity. In July and August, temperatures average between 14°C and 18°C, but on some days, it can climb into the low to mid 20s – much like the rest of Scotland.

There's usually a light breeze and, in winter, wind speeds can reach up to 60-70 miles per hour. The sight of huge waves crashing on cliffs, spray rising a hundred feet in the air and the taste of salt on your lips are all part of the Shetland experience; it is spectacular and invigorating.

Winter temperatures tend to be mild. Frost is much less common than farther south and heavy snow is rare. Annual rainfall is around 1220mm, not very different from much of western Britain.

Shetland’s weather can be changeable – sometimes you’ll experience four seasons in a single day – but it’s all part of the islands’ enduring beauty and charm.

What is the cost of living like in Shetland?

House prices, particularly in rural areas, tend to be lower than in other parts of the UK, as are home insurance and council tax rates. Heating bills may be slightly higher due to our cooler climate, but many of our modern houses are built to Scandinavian standards of insulation and feature incredibly efficient heating systems.

Our shops and supermarkets charge much the same as in the rest of the UK, although some rural stores may be slightly more expensive for everyday items. Those first-class cinema, performance and sports’ facilities are very affordable, too, and we have excellent free schools and nurseries.

If you intend to make frequent visits to friends and relatives on the UK mainland, the fares will mount up; but if you’re currently spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on your annual commute, that saving needs to be factored in. Local residents benefit from substantial discounts on air and ferry services. If you’re driving, petrol and diesel fuel are a little more expensive, but they’re comparable with most other rural areas in the UK.

We hope we’ve answered some of your immediate questions about living in Shetland but, if you have a more specific query about moving here, please email us at info@shetland.org. Or, join our friendly Living and Working in Shetland Facebook group.

For more on living and working in Shetland, plus the latest job opportunities, sign up for our newsletter using the form below.

We look forward to welcoming you.

We have been really happy with how we’ve been welcomed into the community. Everybody’s always been very happy to see us, and very happy that we’ve come as a family. This is our home now.
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