Shetland's West Mainland has a hilly, lochan-strewn heart and the best way to see it is from the A971 as it makes its way north west from Wallsto Sandness.
The roads in the West Mainland are mostly single track, including that to Sandness. Shetland's roads are the best in Scotland, and even their single track roads are maintained to a standard that other, less oil rich, local authorities could only dream of. For more information about Scotland's single track roads and how to drive them, visit our feature page on driving single track roads.
You descend from the moorland as you approach the coast, and encounter a series of tiny settlements strung out along minor roads. These include our candidate for the best named settlement in Scotland, Whistlebere: as well as Norby, Sandness and, on the coast itself, Melby.
Sandness is perhaps the most organised of the settlements and includes Shetland's only wool spinning mill, in a fairly modern industrial building. Nearby are some striking new houses, in the attractive wooden Scandinavian style now seen in many places across Shetland.
To the west of Sandness is the now disused St Margaret's Kirk with its graveyard. This also offers some of the best views over the stunning seascapes to the north. These extend from the island of Papa Stour to the west around to the mountains of North Mavine to the north, and include the small Holm of Melby in the bay. And if you catch it with the wind in the right direction, the sight and sound of the huge waves crashing over the rocks is magnificent.
The end of the road, literally, is at the Ness of Melby. Here a beach curves around to the point, complete with its cottages, slipway and the odd small boat. Inland from the road, which runs round behind the beach, is starkly attractive Melby House, built in 1800. A minor road running west from Sandness takes you to Huxter, which still has three horizontal water mills, one used as recently as the mid 1900s.
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