Whimsical crafts handmade in the Shetland Isles

My Imaginarium

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The ups and downs of island living.

Hi guys,

I have been asked many many times about the reasons for living where i do considering i am not native to Shetland or even Scotland for that matter so i thought today i would just write a few reasons why its a fab place to live and a few reasons why it isn't. OK LETS GO!!


1, Shetland is beautiful, stunning and magical all rolled into one. The scenery is breath taking in all weathers and its extremely peaceful and allows you time to breathe. Having lived in cities this is so so different and just what i needed to wash away the city life smog.[ps..i love city life too]

2, Time.. you seem to have more time to do what you truly want to do. Ok so there is rushing around for the school runs or work for some folk but for me i have none of that[my daughter is picked up from the drive in the school bus..whoo hoo and i work form home] Also there is no real need to go out to dinner every night, actually for me that would be a nightmare living where i do but when i was south we were out 4 or 5 times a week doing something so to just be able to sit and be at home without having to make excuses to do so is brilliant.

3, The folk..Ok Ok ..so people are lovely everywhere in the world but i will have to say i have never had such a warm welcome as i did when i moved to Shetland. At least 10 different folk came with flowers,cards,biscuits,wine etc etc to welcome us to the isle, that was unexpected and delightful...although the house was a state and we had no supplies to offer them a cup of tea so i felt a little bad about that...and the dog wee'd on the carpet in front of someone as i hadn't noticed she wanted to go out as i was too busy chatting...yeah..that was a moment i will never forget....so mortified!! Overall i have found the people here to be kind and helpful.

4, Schools.. The schools in general are smaller then you would find south and with that comes better education on the whole. It's not perfect,what is? but there is a better sense of community and understanding if your child needs help. I have an autistic child and she has been helped a lot and managed to get brilliant grades.

5, Heath care.. I can only talk from my own experience but i believe that Shetland and Scotland actually has brilliant healthcare. You don't have to pay for medication here at all and that in itself is amazing. My daughter was diagnosed with autism here and she saw the mental health team before that....The waiting list to be seen was about a month and about four months to be seen for the diagnosis. I know someone south who has been waiting 2 years to be seen with her child,that is just not acceptable so for us the healthcare here has been outstanding.

6, There isn't much to do. Haha...I say this in the nicest way as there is actually lots to do but i mean there isn't lots of funfairs,zoos,arcades....that sort of money draining things to do. I have found this to be brilliant for us as a family because the children stayed young for longer and when we went south for a family visit and went to a zoo or whatever they were over the moon. They haven't been desensitized to the wonder that is watching a penguin take a bath ..lol...and they get so happy to have a day at the shops for clothes now they are a bit older. We don't have big things like that here and its good we don't i think. We have smaller fetes and family days, beaches and walks...generally Shetlanders make their own entertainment and its wonderful.

7, Sport.. Now i am not one for sport but if you are that way inclined then Shetland is for you. With so many leisure centers dotted all over Shetland you will never find an excuse not to join in with sport. There are so many team sports going on you will struggle to do them all,also swimming is a big thing here too. So if you want to run on track,play netball or hockey,football or even horse riding or roller derby there is something here for you. You will never have to be inside at home if you love sport....i don't so am happy to be at home hahahaaha.

8, Sunday teas.... ah yes the delights of a Sunday tea in a hall. The locals will make and cook up a storm to produce the most amazing spreads of cakes etc etc...the list is endless so i won't even try. Anyway..you pay your entry price..never more than £5..and usually less and you can sit for the few hours and stuff your face while the lovely ladies serve you tea or coffee...and juice if you are like me and don't drink tea and coffee[weirdo that i am] It's brilliant for nattering the afternoon away ,for gaining a few pounds and for helping a local charity as they are always put on to raise money for a good cause. They are held every Sunday throughout Shetland so you will always be able to find somewhere to indulge in your sweetie cravings.

9, Endless summers.. Throughout the summer we have what is known as light nights as it hardly gets dark and if the weather is good we all make the most of it by staying outside working on outdoor projects like gardens or fixing up this or that. Of course you have to hide from the vampire midges at times but mostly its good to make the most of the light nights and the good weather[if we have any]

10, Family.. Alright ,this isn't a Shetland thing but for me i have been able to spend so much more time with my family having moved to Shetland. It was a choice me make in a hurry actually..we moved in 6 weeks of finding a house having never ever been to the isle before...we bought the house from the online specs...crazy some would say but for us we knew it would enable us to be together more as a family...it worked and still is working well. Obviously as the children get older they fly the nest to university and beyond but that's ok, we put in the grounding and i truly do believe it has been better for everyone lining where we do....mostly.

and now to .....


1, Money.. On the whole it is more expensive to live here. Petrol is a lot more expensive and is actually the most expensive in the UK. More or less everything is more expensive if you buy it here which is probably understandable seeing as most of it has to be shipped over to us. For us we try to plan for things and tend to do a lot of internet shopping to finds the deals that most of you guys take for granted by walking to the high street.

2,  Public transport... I find this absolutely terrible. You almost have to have a car,certainly where i live one is needed as there is no buses to be had. The bus service in Shetland as a whole is limited to say the least and in my opinion needs to improve. Its Ok if you want to get in and out of the town...even the south end of the isle doesn't do too badly but if like my kids they want to get to Yell or Unst from where we live they have to go into town...hang around for 4 or 5 hrs and then get the bus that connects with the isles bus the other side...its really not great at all. We have no trains here so its always fun to have a train ride when we are away..haha. There are taxis but they are costly so in a way its best if you have a car or you will end up spending half your life hanging about waiting on the one bus that's goes your way to take you home....far from ideal.

3, Getting to and from Shetland.. Most of us will want to travel out of at some point ,you have two options. The fist being a flight from Sumburgh which is at the far south of Shetland. This is fine,usually delayed but normally ok if you can afford to fly and you don't want a car at the other end. There is some discounted flights for registered shetlanders but even with that if you don't book months in advance it works out the expensive option if there is a few of you going. That said your other option is taking the overnight ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen. Now you can take your car with you and have a nice evening on board ..you can have a meal,a drink ..even take in a film but its all so overpriced.!! The cabins are ok but small and have two fixed single beds and two fold up bunks, this is fine if you have a family of four or less but we are a family of 6 so that's two cabins or like we have done in the past all squeezed into one cabin...not the best start or finish to a break away. The weather can stop the passage being fun and personally whenever i get on that boat i just want to get to sleep as soon as i can in case its a rough sailing... i am not the best at sea if i am honest! We mainly use the boat because we like to take our car, i guess if we were using onward flights from Scotland we may choose to fly.

4, Gossip....The good old Shetland gossip,i hate it. Where i live you can sneeze at on end of the isle and by the time you have driven to the other end of it you are rumored  to have Pneumonia..haha. OK so that's something i can handle and it usually doesn't bother me but there are times when i can't stand it. The weird thing is no one believes any of it really so why do it? it's just a thing to ignore and be aware of i think. Honestly sometimes it feels like living in a goldfish bowl and everyone knows what you are doing....not that i am doing anything but ya know...its annoying having come from the relatively anonymous world of town living.

5, The weather.. Don't move here and expect to have summers like you get in England,that's not happening. Shetland gets to about 25c max on a few days in the summer and with the wind that will feel a lot less. Don't get me wrong we have lovely sunny summer days where i sit out in a little suntrap and get totally burnt to a crisp but its not the same as being south and being able to have paddling pools out for a couple of months etc etc. Also the gales..haha...you think you know what a gale is ? come stay with me over the winter and sit and wonder if the roof tiles will still be there by morning. I guess you just have to hope it will be ok and clean up any mess when you can get back outside. 

6, Jobs... They say if you are willing to work then you will get a job in Shetland, i think that is on the whole true enough although it may not be what you were wanting to do so you do have to be a bit flexible with what your expectations are. Also a lot of thought needs to be taken if like me you can only really do the low paid jobs out there....travel costs[if you can get there at all on public transport] can be expensive and can sometimes make it pointless taking the job at all. Of course its far better to work and overall i would say the jobs are there but its in my list of down sides because they are limited and not as varied as you could  expect living south...although there are less folk going for every job so maybe it should be bounced into the up sides of living here too...lol.

7, Cars... If you are not buying brand new then it can be hard to find a bargain. On the outer isles of Shetland you are able to drive cars with no MOT so ALL cars here have a value which pushes up the price of used cars...we tend to go south for a cheapy car[its all we can afford] and make the most of the trip by seeing friends or family at the same time.

8, Isolation.. This isn't a down side for me but for a lot of folk it will be. Unless you make the effort to go out and do things you will be very much on your own here. I was very lucky as i had school children so i was almost forced into speaking to folk. Then i got a job in a factory and made a few friends there but had i come here with no children and no need to work i really am not sure how i would have made friends, you really need to make an effort to go out and mix. Now saying that Shetlanders can be a little stand off ish to start with but on the whole they are very welcoming and a friendly bunch...certainly in my experience anyway.

You may notice i have stopped at 8 for the down sides,..for now i can't think of anymore although i am sure there are more to be spoken about as well as far more up sides too. For now that's all i have to say...Do you think you could live somewhere so remote? or do you and love it like i do? i would love to know your ups and downs...please comment below and we can have a chat about it. Also check out the rest of my website and see what you think...let me know in the comments boxes and if you fancy a little splurge why not hit my shop up for something special sent to you from Shetland.

Speak soon 

N xx


Natasha SmithComment