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Moving to… the Shetland Islands

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Shetland is a place for magical sights, stunning landscapes and peaceful vibes filled with coastline walks, a strong community and plenty of nature. Situated in the subarctic archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland and also known as the Shetland Islands, here you will find a different way of life from mainland UK. And in this guide, we’ve got everything you need to know about moving to Shetland. 

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A brief history of Shetland

The islands have been through many names and were first referenced in AD 43 when the Roman author Pomponius Mela called them the seven islands known as the Haemodae. Then, in AD 77, Pliny the Elder called them the islands Acmodae before they were referred to as Hetlandensis, a Latinised adjectival form of the Old Norse name Hjaltland. When the Scandinavian Norn language was replaced by the Shetland dialect of Scots, it became Ȝetland before moving onto Zetland and finally Shetland in modern-day language.

Where is Shetland?

Located in the Northern Isles of Scotland, Shetland is a cluster of over 100 hundred islands, so there’s plenty of choices when it comes to somewhere to lay down roots. Lerwick is Shetland’s only town with a population of around 7,500, while Scalloway has just under 1,000 residents. 

Moving to the Shetland Islands

Shetland is a cluster of over 100 hundred islands, so there’s plenty of choice when it comes to somewhere to lay down roots. Lerwick is Shetland’s only town with a population of around 7,500, while Scalloway has just under 1,000 residents. 

Buying in Shetland

The average house value in Shetland is £165,559, with actual paid prices marginally higher at £168,277. Expect to pay around £180,350 for a detached home, £172,276 for a terraced house and £132,700 for an apartment.

Shetland property prices are considerably lower than the UK national average of £251,000. Over the last 12 months, house prices have increased by around two per cent and 18 per cent in the last five years.

There’s a varied selection of estate and letting agents in Shetland, with chain and independent options available to help you find a home. 

Shetland Islands - coastal view

Cost of living

If you’re moving to Shetland, you can expect to pay lower UK national average prices when it comes to everyday living. A meal for one person is around £10, which is lower than the UK average of £12. A cappuccino is about £2.69, and a litre of milk is £0.50p. Petrol costs are in line with the UK national average, but you can expect to pay less for your car insurance (£343 per year) if you own a vehicle in Shetland. 

Life in Shetland

Open spaces

Where do you start with open spaces in Shetland? You’re never more than four miles from the sea, whether you’re wandering the fantastical St Ninian’s Island or Yell’s Breckon. 

Transport links

There are regular flights from Sumburgh, which means you can be in Edinburgh or Glasgow within a few hours of leaving your home. Like most islands, Shetland doesn’t enjoy the same transport connections as cities and towns on the mainland. 

Shopping 

Shetland has a range of shops, including many independent boutiques where you can buy a local gem. The Shetland Times Bookshop is the place to go for the latest novel, while The Shetland Fudge Company has you covered for the best fudge in the land. 

Eateries

You can expect great seafood in Shetland, from fresh mussels to cod and just about everything else. There is more fish land on the isles than in England, Wales and Northern Island combined. And even if seafood isn’t your thing, you can tuck into tender lamb, doughy bannocks and black potatoes. 

Nightlife

While you won’t get the same type of nightlife found in big cities, Shetland has a range of local pubs where you can mix it with the locals and enjoy the warm and friendly atmosphere. 

Art & culture

For an island with a small population, Shetland has a thriving creative scene. The November Craft Fair is a celebration of artistry in Shetland, while Shetland Wool Week lets people from all over the world discover the island’s world-class wool-making facilities. 

Things to do

From golf courses on Mainland and Whalsay to facilities at Lerwick’s Clickimin Leisure Centre, there are plenty of activities across Shetland. So whether you’re into yoga, archery or 5km runs, the island has you covered. Or perhaps you’re after something more laid back? In that case, grab your camera and spend the day snapping Shetland’s beautiful coastline.

What’s not to like?

It’s remote. There’s no getting away from the fact that Shetland is an island and therefore doesn’t offer the same connectivity found on the UK mainland. 

Who lives there?

Shetland has a population of just 22,000 and a median age of 42. 

Typical broadband speeds

The average broadband speed is 7.4mbps in Shetland, which is some way behind the UK national average of 67mbps.

Crime rates

Crime rates in Shetland average 1,259 per year and are lower than the national average of 10,000.

Everything you need to know about moving to Shetland

Get a rounded opinion about the homes in Shetland with Move iQ’s property report, which provides an in-depth analysis of specific properties as well as details about the local area of Shetland.  

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Last Updated: November 19th, 2021

Phil Spencer

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