Shetland, Scotland. Day 29, 27th July 2013.

On the southern tip of Shetland there is a most remarkable site, uncovered in a storm in the 1890s, that shows evidence of different periods of occupation over nearly 5,000 years.  There are remains of neolithic habitation, bronze age and iron age houses, a broch and several wheelhouses, viking longhouses, a mediæval farm and a mediæval Laird’s house.  These are built up on layers and much has been lost to erosion from the sea.



This is part of a house from the Bronze Age settlement.



A view from a nearby viewpoint.  In front is the remains of the smithy.



This is what the smithy may have looked like while it was in operation, from an Information Board on site.



This is an area close to but not part of the bronze age settlement according to the booklet I purchased.  Probably remains of iron age buildings.



This is the remains of the Laird’s House.  The original buildings were constructed by Earl Patrick Stewart, bastard half brother of Mary Queen of Scots, but the ruins as we see them were mainly constructed by his son Earl Robert Stewart.  It was abandoned by the end of the seventeenth century.



This is what it may have looked like around 1600.



Another view of the Laird’s House.  The stones at the right are a grave yard, dating I think from the 18th century (but I can’t find the reference I saw a few days ago).  In 1814, Sir Walter Scott visited Sumburgh and Shetland as Commissioner of Lighthouses.  In 1822 he published a novel The Pirate which features the Laird’s House and which he named Jarlshof (or the Earl’s House).  This name has stuck for the settlement in place of the earlier name of Sumburgh (a Viking name referring to a fort).



From the viewpoint in the Laird’s House as shown in the previous image, we are able to look down on the site.  There are four wheelhouses, from the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD.  This is what you see here and in the next few images.









This is what like may have been like inside a wheelhouse.



There was also a broch from the last century BC or the first century AD, which later had a wheelhouse built inside it.  In the foreground is some of the remains of the broch, though much of it has been removed by the sea.



The design of the broch must have been similar to the cutaway above.  It would originally have been about 15 metres high.

I might have been better to purchase and read the information booklet before taking photographs and I may have found other views worth of note.  For example, I am not showing you remains of viking-age buildings or one of the iron age souterrains or underground storage tunnels, 6 metres long and 60cm high.


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From Jarlshof I then went to catch my plane to Aberdeen.  Except that it didn’t happen.  I had somehow managed to book the flight for the same day on the next month.  So when that was sorted out I had another day in Shetland and one less in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.

Fortunately I was able to stay another night at Burrastow and the image above is from the evening there.