Visitor Attractions around Skeld
Tresta and SandsoundThe steep hill overlooking Weisdale Voe is the traditional boundary to Shetland’s West Side. Travelling downhill means crossing the Burn of Tactigill, where a short walk reveals a major geological fault and Shetland’s largest deposit of china clay. The fault runs south to emerge at the secluded pebble beach at Sandsound, which can also be reached by car.
At the foot of the hill is the township of Tresta where trees grow to substantial heights. The remarkable gardens at The Lea demonstrate how much can be cultivated from a bare croft with effort and imagination.
Tresta Voe is one of Shetland’s most sheltered sea lochs and a favourite haunt for birdwatchers on the lookout for ducks, divers, grebes and waders. Seals love it too and haul out along the shoreline.
SandstingPast Bixter, the junction opposite the derelict folly of Park Hall leads into the Sandsting peninsular, which has hidden delights well worth seeking out.
At Sand are the remains of 12th century St Mary’s Chapel. Legend says that shipwrecked Spanish Armada sailors helped build it in thanks for their deliverance from the sea. Nearby the Haa of Sand is a fine example of a Shetland laird’s house, the stones reputed to come from Scalloway Castle.
Sand’s beach is worth a visit and further on, Reawick has a perfect beach of pink sand. Over the hill, the village of Skeld is a hive of activity with its modern marina, caravan site and fish processing factory providing valuable local employment.
From here the wise will tell any visitor to take time to explore two of Shetland’s most scenic bays at Westerwick and Culswick, where green valleys end in pebble beaches fringed by sea stacks, cliffs and caves. At Culswick the ruins of a Pictish broch look out on an awe inspiring view over Gruting Voe and Vaila Sound.
There are many prehistoric sites in the area, but none surpass Stanydale Temple thought to date back 4,000 years. The real purpose of this large, heel-shaped structure remains a mystery, but parallels have been drawn with goddess temples found in Malta and Gozo. Around the footpath nearby are cairns and Neolithic houses.
Out WestOver the Bridge of Walls the road forks. A short distance after turning right towards Sandness lies Scord of Brouster where the remains of a Neolithic agricultural settlement are littered. Several oval houses have been found which were occupied for an estimated 3,000 years from around 2,500BC.
The road winds through hills to Sandness, a crofting township in a spectacular setting overlooking St Magnus Bay and Papa Stour. Visitors are welcome at Shetland’s only woolen spinning mill. They should also enjoy the sandy beach at Melby and the coastal walk past the restored watermills at Huxter to enjoy breathtaking views from the mainland’s most westerly point.
The entire west coast between Sandness and Walls has some of the finest walking in Shetland, especially around Watsness and Deepdale where there are superb cliffs, coves and sea stacks, and across the wild Atlantic lies the dramatic silhouette of Foula.
The village of Walls is a good base for exploring the West Side with plenty of accommodation, a shop, bakery, marina and friendly boating club. The village was a 19th century centre for fish curing with three churches. It is sheltered by the privately-owned island of Vaila, with its magnificently restored Edwardian mansion, Vaila Hall.