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A971

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A971
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (8)
From:  Tingwall (HU427452)
To:  Melby and Walls (HU241494)
Distance:  26 miles (41.8 km)
Meets:  A970, B9075, B9071, Pier
Former Number(s):  B9076
Highway Authorities

Shetland Islands

Traditional Counties

Zetland

Route outline (key)
A971 Tingwall – Bridge of Walls
A971 Bridge of Walls – Melby
A971 Bridge of Walls – Walls


The A971 is the main road serving the west of Shetland Mainland. As with the A970, it is split at the western end with a lengthy spur stretching out to the west coast. It is also a route which has seen a lot of improvments at the eastern end, while the western section remains largely single track. Finally, despite the rather watery landscape of the Shetlands, with many deeply incised Voes and Firths, freshwater lochs and small rivers, the majority of the Mainland's larger bridges are to be found on the A971.

Route

Tingwall – Walls

The road starts on the A970 just to the east of Lerwick (Tingwall) Airport, a small airfield for local flights only. The route used to start slightly further south in Veensgarth but was moved in the 1970s when it and the A970 were upgraded. The road heads west at first, looping round to the south of the runway, before climbing over the shoulder of Wormadale Hill. A steeper snaking descent then drops down to the scattered communities at the head of Whiteness Voe, which are laid out below making a spectacular vista on a sunny day, before the road cuts across to the Strom Bridge. This crosses the narrow channel between Stromness Voe and the Loch of Strom which remains tidal, creating strong currents under the bridge at times.

Heading north now, the A971 winds through a series of scattered communities strung along the eastern shore of Weisdale Voe, leading to the larger village of Hellister and Kalliness. Here the road crosses Kallie Bridge over the short channel connecting the tidal Loch of Hellister to the Voe. There are fewer roadside properties as the road continues north to the head of the Voe where it meets the B9075 which continues north through Weisdale to the A970. The A971, meanwhile, crosses the river and doubles back down the western shore, climbing steadily up the flank of the Hill of Sound (perhaps ironically topped with communications masts) above Heglibister. For the second time, the road crosses the 100m contour, before dropping down to the west to Tresta and the shores of The Firth.

Approaching Bridge of Walls from the Walls spur

The route then passes behind the low round hill of Ness of Bixter to Bixter village, where the B9071 turns north to Twatt and Aith, ultimately also reaching the A970. The two routes then multiplex for about a mile across the Bridge of Twatt, before the B9071 turns south to Easter Skeld. The next couple of miles sees the route winding between low hills and freshwater lochs until the coast is met again at Bridge of Walls. Along the way, it drops from S2 to single track at a seemingly random point near a council yard. Immediately across the bridge, the route splits, with the mainline continuing ahead on the shorter route to Walls Village, less than two miles away. After crossing the rather bleak, lumpy moorland, the road drops down into the village, where it gains a second lane again for the final 100m or so. The A971 then ends at the junction signed for Sandness, next to the war memorial at the head of the small bay.

Bridge of Walls - Melby

The Melby Spur

The 'spur' to Melby is by far the longer of the two arms of the A971, but as the road to Walls gets priority at the junction, and was indeed the original end of the route, the road to Melby can be rightly considered to be a spur. It starts on the west side of the Bridge of Walls and winds around Gallow Hill as it heads north west. There are a couple of scattered houses to be seen at first, but soon the road passes the minor road back to Walls and heads off into the wilderness. The landscape is a rocky moorland studded with lochs with gentle slopes rising to low hills. There are a few short straights, but for the most part the road winds this way and that, trying to find a route across the moor.

After about three miles of nothing but bleak moorland, the road crosses its summit and dips more steeply down, finding a route through the shallow valley of Trona Scours. Suddenly, the sea comes into view ahead and soon after some signs of civilization appear too. Drystone walls, a cattle grid, a lone farm, and then the scattered buildings of the coastal villages can be seen. Three settlements have almost merged to form a village here, Norby, Sandness and Melby, the road winding through each in turn before finally reaching the shore at Melby. It then curves around the little bay to reach the pier, where the road finally comes to an end.

History

As noted above, the A971 route originally consisted of the section from Tingwall to Walls, with the spur to Melby numbered as the B9076 in 1922. It had already become part of the A971 by 1932, however, which is an unusually early creation of a spur, particularly such a long one. The fact that, unlike almost every other section of A road on Shetland, the spur to Melby has seen very little improvements over the years suggests that it never really warranted being reclassified and should perhaps have remained as the B9076.

Along the eastern section of the A971, numerous improvements have been carried out, not least at the start, where the A971 starts at a new junction, built from scratch in the 1970s to give both the A971 and A970 improved alignments. The old junction lay further south at Veensgarth, with the A971 passing through the village, and crossing the B9074 in the middle. The old road then crosses the new at the south end of the runway and survives to serve the industrial units at the airport. At the end of the long straight, the old road can then be seen continuing ahead, still tarred at first before the moorland has reclaimed it. The current road is actually a realignment of a realignment, and two different routes of the old road can be traced on the hillside here. Old and new roads then cross, with the old road feeding in to the viewpoint layby.

The snaking descent to Whiteness has been realigned, with the old roadline on the inside of the first bend, following the fenceline past the end house, but now completely reclaimed by nature. The second bend has faired better. The gradient on the A971 has been eased, so the old road now emerges from the bottom of the banking, and soon becomes the village road looping back to join the new road at the bottom of the hill. The route up the east side of Weisdale Voe seems to be largely online improvements, but at the head of the Voe, the A971 used to continue a short distance along the B9075, before turning right across the old Weisdale Bridge and doubling back down the west side of the Voe.

At the summit below the Hill of Sound, a series of loops of old road can be traced, mostly to the south of the current road, as it crosses the summit and drops down to the west. The rest of the route then appears to be largely online upgrades, as far as they have got. A couple of bends have laybys or wide verges reflecting the old road line, and a section of old road survives partly as a car park at the second B9071 junction. Around the bend, another piece of old road lies alongside the new road, retained as property access, and something similar survives at the next junction. The 1972 OS One Inch map suggests that the route west of here was all single track, but the part which has been widened all seems to be more or less online.

The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Veensgarth - Walls





A971
Crossings
Roads
Places
Related Pictures
View gallery (8)
Towards Voe of Browland - Geograph - 1297232.jpgOld Voe Head bridge, Weisdale - Geograph - 888248.jpgViaduct across voe - Geograph - 4011434.jpgThe A971 crosses the Loch of Brouster - Geograph - 6184273.jpgBixter- the A971 passes alongside Effirth Voe - Geograph - 2755430.jpg
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Defunct Itineries: A920 (Perth) • A920 (Banff) • A921 (Perth) • A921 (Fife) • A922 • A949 • A951 • A968 • A982


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