About this property
As described by the 20th century English Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, ‘I can think of few nicer places in the world’. The island has over 6.5 miles of diverse coastline and extends to about 757 acres in total.
The island rises to its highest point in the south at Ward Hill with West Ward (266 ft), Mid Ward and East Ward (312 ft) providing spectacular views across the island to its sheltered bays and array of caves and natural arches. The natural topography of the island provides a great diversity of habitat including grassland, heathland and freshwater lochans.
Current management of the island by the owners as an organic farm has ensured its diversity of flora and fauna has flourished. A great variety of bird life visits the island including seabirds such as fulmars, great skuas, kittiwakes and puffins and estuary birds including curlews, snipe, and oyster catchers. Other visitors include otters and orcas which are often seen playing in the turquoise waters in the surrounding Vaila, Wester and Easter Sounds.
HISTORICAL NOTE – The Isle of Vaila has been inhabited for thousands of years. By about 1450, a number of Norwegian landowners held major estates in Shetland, based on the isles of Papa Stour, Noss and Vaila.
Following generations of Norwegian ownership, Vaila was passed to Gorvel Fadersdottir who granted a lease to Robert Cheyne which was confirmed by King James VI in 1576. The island was then passed to James Mitchell of Girlsta who built the Old Haa in 1696 and then to his descendants, the Scotts of Melby. Following the Scotts’ ownership during the 19th century, Arthur Anderson, the founder of the P&O Shipping company, leased Vaila in 1837 from the Scotts family and established the Shetland Fishery Company there. A significant moment in history, this broke the power of the lairds who had previously controlled the Shetland fishing industry.
By the mid-19th century, Vaila was supporting a number of tenant crofters and fishermen. However, by 1873 the island proved to be insufficient to support the tenants and in 1893 the island was sold to Herbert Anderton, a Yorkshire mill owner, who developed Vaila as a farm, building Cloudin Farmhouse and expanding the Old Haa as a summer residence into what is now known as Vaila Hall.
The first decade of the 20th century saw many lavish parties held at Vaila Hall and in 1901 30 people were working on the island. By 1915, Anderton was developing plans to extend the Hall by the addition of a chapel and a servants wing to the east with a courtyard beyond. However, the First World War put an end to these plans. The Andertons’ reign lasted 100 years until 1993 when the current owners purchased the island.
VAILA HALL – Situated in an elevated position to the north, the mansion is a prominent landmark on approach to the island. On arrival to Vaila Hall you are met with impressive stone steps that lead up to the wooden front door. The Mitchell’s coat of arms dated 1696 is carved above the doorway inside the baronial great hall and the corbelled turret features a bartisan, whilst battlements and crow steps go over the great hall combining both wings of the mansion. Since the owners purchased the island in 1993, the house has undergone an extensive and sympathetic restoration to provide a well-appointed and comfortable home.
The well-proportioned accommodation is arranged over three floors. The Great Hall is furnished with the original late 1800s furniture and is centred around a massive stone arched fireplace. Full height stained glass windows depicting the Anderton crest lead up to the ornate Moroccan mahogany panels that line the ceiling with the Minstrels’ Gallery lying opposite. Very much the heart of the house, the Great Hall has retained its unique architectural features and is from where the rest of the ground floor rooms are accessed.
Off the Great Hall lies the study that enjoys delightful views over Vaila Sound. Featuring a bell tower, the room also has a concealed entrance through to the functional kitchen. To the south of the Great Hall lies the library boasting original cornicing and fitted bookcases. The focal point of the Morning Room is the grand, carved wooden fireplace providing an ideal place to host intimate dinner parties. The adjoining conservatory provides useful entertainment space. The room is warm and light with fine views westwards towards Mucklaberry Tower and to the sea beyond.
The first floor has four bedrooms which all enjoy fine views towards the surrounding coastline. The second floor has two further attic bedrooms and an additional bathroom.
- The Isle of Vaila lies in the west of the Shetland Islands archipelago, the northernmost part of the United Kingdom, comprising 100 scattered islands at the crossroads of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Vaila is separated from mainland Shetland by Vaila Sound, just a short 10 minute boat journey from the island’s private shore base into a sheltered bay with a pier. With a coastline of approximately 6.5 miles, Vaila encompasses rugged cliffs, rocky outcrops, caves and pebble beaches.
- Vaila looks north and east over the Shetland mainland towards Muckle Roe and Lerwick. On a clear day, there are uninterrupted views to Fair Isle to the south and to the Isle of Foula to the west.
- Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, is about 27 miles from the shore base. Dating from the 17th century, the town today offers many 21st century services and amenities such as boutique shops, art galleries (including the owners’ Vaila Fine Art Gallery), a hospital and a high school as well as the local livestock market, Lerwick Mart. There is also a Tesco and a Co-Op. The village of Walls, approximately 2 miles north east of the shore base, has a well-stocked local shop, post office, GP surgery, primary school and marina.
- Shetland’s sheltered voes and isles have made the archipelago renowned for its quality of sailing and fishing, with the islands’ seafaring traditions dating back to the 16th century. There is an abundance of fish and crustaceans to be caught by anglers both just off-shore including cod, mackerel, halibut, crabs and lobsters as well as further afield into the Atlantic Ocean. Orcas, dolphins and porpoises are frequently seen in the rich waters surrounding Vaila and its clean, clear and sheltered waters provide ideal conditions for yachting and watersports. Due to its natural landscape and surrounding sea, Vaila provides a wonderful, accessible retreat from which to escape the pressures of modern day life.
- WALLED GARDENS – A series of three gardens lie to the south of the hall which are enclosed by stone walls providing shelter to the native, and now mature and well-established, Shetland flora. Most of the plants are small with the growing season short. Yet, this micro-climate has been able to produce an abundance of plants including rosa ragosa, fuchsia, euphorbia and hosta, and their vibrant colours of pinks, blues and yellows can be enjoyed from the conservatory. There is a potting shed and a kitchen garden near the hall, assumed to have been in full operation to produce an array of home produce when Anderton threw his lavish parties. He also developed a walled garden at Ham pier. Dense thickets of sycamores and escalonias provide the aura of a secret hidden garden and whilst only growing to heights of 16ft, the sycamores are over 100 years old. The current owners have organised extensive plantings of trees in the area surrounding the walled garden.
- FARMING – Vaila was the first farm in Shetland to gain organic status in 1994. Currently, the island carries a flock of 200 pure bred Shetland ewes. There are approximately 142 acres grazings centred around the Hall and Cloudin farmhouse to the north of the island and 581 acres of hill grazings to the south. The northern quarter is divided by the hill dyke, separating the hill grazings, moorland and peat banks to the south from the grazings to the north.
- OTHER BUILDINGS:
- Mucklaberry Tower – Built in the 18th century, Mucklaberry Tower is a B Listed tower located at the head of a long narrow peninsula lying about 400 metres west of Vaila Hall. The two storey symmetrical castellated tower is of a square plan and features a corniced and crenelated parapet with a circular angle turret in the north east corner. Re-modelled in the 1890s by Herbert Anderton, it was historically used to watch over the tenants’ fishing operations. Having been fully restored by the current owners, it is now enjoyed as a folly for taking full advantage of the beautiful panoramic views.
- Cloudin Farmhouse – The farmhouse at Cloudin was built in 1894 in an Arts and Crafts style which sits above the coastline and is characterised by two adjoining byres forming a central courtyard. Built of traditional harled stone construction, the accommodation is arranged over two storeys and includes two reception rooms and three bedrooms. One of the former byres known as the Whale House contains the skeleton of a 42ft sperm whale which was beached on the island in 2000.
- Caretaker’s Cottage – This traditional harled stone built detached cottage is arranged over two floors and includes two bedrooms, a kitchen, sitting room and bathroom. Situated a short distance to the rear of Vaila Hall, the cottage is well-proportioned and provides useful accommodation for larger gatherings.
- Shore Base – The island benefits from a convenient shore base on mainland Shetland located at the end of a sheltered inlet off Vaila Sound. Built in 1998, it possesses a distinctive conical tower building comprising a bedroom, kitchenette, washing facilities and useful storage. A parking area runs down to the pier and slipway. A 20th century stone broch, in the style of Mousa broch, sits above the shoreline and acts as a helpful landmark whilst discreetly housing fuel tanks.
- Piers – There are two piers on Vaila. Ham is located to the east of the island and is the main landing point with a floating pier stage and a storage shed. West pier is located on the west near Vaila Hall and is serviced with stone steps.
- Farm Sheds and Ruined Cottages – On arrival at West pier lie two traditional stone ruins which provide the opportunity to be developed into further residential properties or holiday rentals, subject to the necessary consents. There is a large storage shed near the hall which houses two generators and fuel tanks. There is also a farm shed which stores farm machinery.
- Directions: From Sumburgh Airport, head north following the signs to the A970. After approximately 22 miles turn left onto the B9073 and follow this road for 1.4 miles before turning right back onto the A970. After 2 miles turn left onto the A971, past Tingwall Airport. Continue following this road and the signs for Walls for about 18.5 miles. Continue through the village of Walls and follow the road for another 2 miles until you reach the Shore Base in Lera Voe. Shore Base postcode for sat nav purposes is ZE2 9PD. what3words: hobbies.initiated.ruler (Shore Base)
- EPC Rating = F