Tucked away in a hidden corner of Shetland’s West Mainland, Sand is the perfect place to spend a slow day, ambling around the Gairdins and beach. This is the ideal place to visit if you need a rest after a long day hiking and you want to kick back and soak in some of Shetland’s rural magic.

Shetland’s West Mainland is vast, and many parts of it, like Sand, remain firmly off-the-beaten-track. From Sand, be sure to explore the beautiful red sand at Reawick before passing through Skeld and on to the stunning coastal scenery and cliffs of Westerwick.

How to get here:

To get to Sand, follow the A971 towards Walls and turn off (21 miles from Lerwick) towards Skeld onto the B9071. A few miles in the B9071, follow the road signs towards Sand. A few miles in the road, the road forks – bearing left, you will reach Da Gairdins, and a right turn will take you to the Sand beach and ruined Chapel of St Mary’s.

What to do:

As you drive in the road towards Sand, you’ll pass the Sand Cake Fridge, an honesty box selling cakes and bakes. Stop here and pick up a picnic before heading on towards the Sand Gairdins. Honesty boxes and cake fridges are found across Shetland, selling everything from cakes and eggs to fruit, vegetables and jams. Make your selection of goods and leave the correct amount of money in the cash in.

Da Gairdins in Sand is a 60-acre site with around one-third made up of maintained woodland, which is open to the public all year round. The woodland and gardens were started in 1997, andits ambitious planting schemes are for the benefit of the environment and community alike. The gardens are free, but they welcome donations at the entrance gates. There are two sections to explore: the upper area has woodland walks and picnic benches, whereas the lower portion houses the large ponds, wildflower meadows and sunny lawns.

The gardens create a haven for wildlife with the planting, ponds and wildflower meadows encouraging a whole host of different species. With a variety of woodland walks, thousands of trees, picnic areas, and three large ponds that, in spring, are teeming with frogs and tadpoles, there is no shortage of things to catch your eye in this quiet coastal retreat.

These gardens are certainly one of Shetland’s best-kept secrets!

From the Gairdins, visit the beach at Sand, a beautiful sandy expanse that is seldom busy. The beach has stunning uninterrupted views to the south, and the headlands of Fora Ness to the east and Kirka Ness to the west make for a couple of beautiful coastal walks.

Beside the beach is the remains of St Mary’s Chapel and, within the graveyard, an unnamed grave depicts a skull and crossbones. Perhaps from a shipwrecked sailor – or maybe a pirate! All that remains of the chapel is a semi-circular chancel arch framing the sea beyond.

The area is dominated by the impressive Haa that overlooks the beach; this grand three-storey house was built by Sir Andrew Mitchell, a merchant from Scalloway. Haa houses can be seen around Shetland and were constructed by the landowning classes between the 17th and 19th century.

Did you know?

According to Samuel Hibbert, a writer who visited Shetland in the 19th century, the chapel of St Mary’s dates to the 16th century and was built by Spaniards shipwrecked in Shetland from the Spanish Armada. Two ships from the Spanish Armada were lost around Shetland in 1588, and the most famous of these was the El Gran Grifon that was wrecked on Fair Isle.

Written by Laurie Goodlad

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