Very conveniently situated near to Sumburgh Airport with free parking at Sumburgh Hotel. At the end of the 19th century, storms ripped open the low cliffs at Jarlshof, near the southern tip of Shetland. They revealed an extraordinary settlement site embracing 4,000 years of human history. Upon excavation, the site was found to contain a remarkable sequence of stone structures – late Neolithic houses, Bronze-Age village, Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, Norse longhouse, medieval farmstead, and 16th-century laird’s house. The excavations also produced a wonderful array of artefacts.
For more information about Jarlshof please visit the Historic Scotland website.
Also close to Sumburgh Airport, recent excavations at this site have proven that the Brochs were built earlier than had previously been believed, as Radiocarbon dating of grain found in 2001 in the construction layer of the broch dated it to between 400 and 200 BC.
Known locally as “Dutch Pool” [local pronunciation of Deutsch] at one time through its use by the Hanseatic League Traders, the Pool could accommodate vessels of a considerable size until it started to silt up towards the end of the 16th century. Business continued from Grutness Voe but this was not as sheltered an anchorage as the Pool although activities continued with merchants from Dundee taking over the operation.
The Pool is now a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest for its intertidal sand and mud flats – an excellent place to see waders.
This typical thatched 19th century Croft house has been restored to how it would have looked in the 1870’s. (see also the depiction of a Croft house Ben end, complete with WWI posters, at the Quendale Mill).
Shetland Heritage Association website
The RSPB reserve at Sumburgh Head is Shetland’s most accessible seabird colony, with Puffins ashore from May until mid-August in most years, while Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills are easily seen during May, June and July. Shags and Fulmars can be seen throughout the year. Sumburgh Head is also recognised as the best place in Shetland to spot Killer Whales and other cetaceans during the summer months.
The engineer was Robert Stevenson, grandfather of the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. In 1814 Robert Stevenson was accompanied on his first visit to Sumburgh by Sir Walter Scott who subsequently wrote the novel “The Pirate” which was set around Jarlshof and Fitful Head. Building work commenced in 1819 and the lighthouse was operational in 1821. As well as making sure the light remained lit and operating the foghorn whenever conditions necessitated, the keepers maintained all the equipment including painting all the buildings annually.
The area is now a Special Protection Area (SPA), classified for its seabird interests due to its important breeding seabird populations. The cliff face has also yielded up mid-devonian fossil fishes
For further information on Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve please see the following website: www.sumburghhead.com
St Ninian’s Isle is linked to the Mainland of Shetland by probably the best example of a tombolo in Britain, if not in the whole of Europe. In 1958 a hoard of Celtic treasure was discovered by Shetland schoolboy Douglas Coutts – it comprised of 28 exceptional silver and silver-gilt decorative objects which included bowls, brooches and parts of weapons. This treasure is the only Scottish hoard of fine metalwork of this date to survive in its entirety.
"The circumstances in which the hoard was found, within the area of a pre-Norse church and concealed under a cross-marked stone, seem to indicate a priori that we are dealing with an ecclesiastical treasure. The approximate date of the hoard, about the year 800, would fit in with the assumption that the hoard is ecclesiastical plate, concealed during the Viking raids, which were being carried out, about that time, against the island monasteries of the Celtic church".
National Museums Scotland give further information and pictures of the treasure on their website. They also publish a booklet entitled, "St Ninian’s Isle Treasure", priced at £3.99
A defensive stone-built blockhouse, probably of Iron Age date, with some features resembling a broch. Situated at the far south-east corner of the Scatness peninsula this is a nice place for a walk with wonderful views of Sumburgh Head to the east and Fitful Head to the west. As access to the site is across rocks you would be advised to wear suitable walking boots
There are many other archaeological treasures in the area which remain undisturbed but may contain even more fascinating insights to our past. Dunrossness currently has 1,505 known archaeological sites with 181 of them scheduled. The prolific archaeology in the area indicates that there have been settlements in the area since Neolithic times.
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