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Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork

<b>Jarlshof</b>Posted by notjamesbondImage © notjamesbond
Nearest Town:Lerwick (33km N)
OS Ref (GB):   HU397095 / Sheet: 4
Latitude:59° 52' 8.59" N
Longitude:   1° 17' 27.48" W

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12/09/2021 – Jarlshof – just saying the word out loud makes me happy. I love it round here. The whole area, Old Scatness, Ness of Burgi, Jarlshof and up to Sumburgh Head which has my favourite trigpoint. The beaches, cliffs, even the airport, hotel and coffee shop. The bottom bit of Shetland is just great. As fine a place for a long weekend as you could wish for. Summer's best for birds. Even in mid September there’s stuff still about. We were lucky and saw minke whale the day before in the bay.

This was our first big adventure since March 2020 when half way through a trip to Wales, lockdown loomed and we had to head home. 18 months of not really mixing with folk, we were nervous setting off on our trip. Picked Orkney and Shetland as we love these places and thought they should be quiet. We had been lucky to visit Sumburgh a couple of times before. Ending our big trip at Jarlshof seemed perfect.

We stayed at the Sumburgh Hotel. It’s a really nice place. Proper friendly and right next to Jarlshof. Room 32 has a great view of the site and the bay.

We visited Jarlshof the day before in the rain. As today was our last day, we thought we’d go again. Visitor centre is closed at the moment but you can still walk round. We got up early. Jarlshof before breakfast sounded good to me.

Jarlshof has to be one of my favourite sites. The history here is amazing. It’s a 4000 year timeline that you get to walk around. But most of all, I love the stones. The colours and shapes are just so good. Revisiting places, you always see things you missed the first time. The broch has a ‘well’ like the one we had seen in Broch of Gurness just a few days back. I didn’t remember this from last time. I like all the twisting paths, doorways and curved walls. Very exciting to walk around. Soon it was time to head back and pack for our trip home. We stood for a while, looking out to sea, Sumburgh Head and far away Fair Isle. It felt good to be adventuring again.
thelonious Posted by thelonious
18th September 2021ce
Edited 18th September 2021ce

23/09/2014 - After a lovely morning on St Ninian's Isle we made our way south to Jarlshof. I hadn't been that excited about it beforehand but within a few minutes of being there Jarlshof soon worked a little magic on us. The site has so much history it's hard to get your head round whilst there. The timeline is amazing of all the buildings for such a relatively small site. The audio guide is great and very helpful. Being allowed to enter the buildings and walk round was a big bonus. If anything on Shetland is a must visit, for me this is it. I was so excited by the end I flipped into proper tourist mode and bought a Jarlshof tea towel in the gift shop on the way out. thelonious Posted by thelonious
30th September 2014ce

Visited 11.6.12

My first Shetland site!

After catching the overnight ferry from Orkney we arrived early morning on Shetland.
After staying on board for breakfast it was time to go exploring.
Karen has been desperate to see puffins so we headed south to Sumburgh Head.
If you want to see puffins – this is the place to go all right! (yes – they are cute!)
After what seemed like a couple of hundred photos later it was time to head for Jarlshof.

We didn’t realise that you had to take the side road towards the hotel and instead we incorrectly parked near the beach / toilet block.
Karen stayed on the beach with the children while I walked around the headland and approached the H.S. site from the back. This involved jumping over a fence and walking over to the visitor centre to buy the guide book and use the portable audio device which was very good.

Coming out of the visitor centre the first thing you see are the remains of various houses dating back to the Neolithic through to the Iron Age.
It is a bit like Skara Brae – not so well preserved but you are free to wander around inside.
For me the highlight of the site are the Wheel Houses.
These are well preserved and give a good idea how they would have looked when lived in.
There is not much left of the Broch due to coastal erosion.

All in all, a complicated site which can be hard to understand.
I would strongly recommend using the audio guide as this makes things a lot clearer.
A guide book would also come in handy!

Well worth a visit when on Shetland.
Posted by CARL
20th July 2012ce

After my wonderful visit to the Orkneys last week I visited the Shetlands and Jarlshof. It is similar though much bigger than Skara Brae and visitors are able to wander around freely. Also by the sea, the neolithic bit is now thought to be 7000 years old. Our guide, who was local, produced some oyster shells which had been found in the sandbanks along the shoreline – he told us oysters are not found in those waters so must they have been brought there by the neolthic settlers; these shells had been examined by photo luminescence which dates the last time daylight fell on minerals and were found to be 7000 years old.

Jarlshof reflects a settlement dating back to the Neolithic. In the earliest part of the village a Bronze-Age smithy can be seen.

There was a large Iron-Age roundhouse in the courtyard of the broch which was built about 2000 years ago.

Other additions to the village include a wheelhouse which was occupied until the Norsemen arrived plus the remains of stone buildings right up to the 17th century with the ruins of the laird's house.

It is a wonderful and remote place not far from the stunning Sumborgh Head where I saw puffins close up for the first time in my life.

(I did take lots of photos but had difficulty posting them, will have another try when I get time)
tjj Posted by tjj
4th July 2009ce
Edited 4th July 2009ce

Would recommend taking advantage of the audio guide which comes included in the admission fee, and does a very good job of explaining the various layers of settlement here. Takes about 30 mins for the basic package, though there are optional extras which would take it over an hour. Posted by Ubik
18th June 2007ce

Discovered in 1905 when a tremendous storm uncovered parts of the village. Up until such time the only thing of note on the peninsula was the 17th century manor house.

The remains of many civilisations which inhabited the site have been found there, Picts and Vikings to name but a few.

The site is a wonderful place to look around but alas a lot of the clues that could have been present during the initial excavation were lost due to the innocent naievity of the archaeologists all those years ago.

Luckily a very similar site is at this moment being excavated not to far away at Old Scatness, this new site should help fill in the blanks about Jarlshof.
notjamesbond Posted by notjamesbond
29th April 2003ce


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Here's a bit of Jarlshof related trivia for you: apparently the misleadingly Norse name was made up by Walter Scott, who visited the site in 1814 and made it the setting for his novel 'The Pirate'. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th January 2003ce


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Vimeo - Kieran Baxter

Gathered via Digital Digging, a short video on Jarlshof.

"A short computer generated film based upon kite aerial photography taken at the ancient settlement site of Jarlshof with interpretive reconstructions using imagery from various other locations across Scotland.
The project was an experiment to see how low altitude aerial photography could be used to capture the atmospheres as well as the structural details of our ancient heritage and how these images could be used to create an environment for interpretative reconstruction."
moss Posted by moss
26th March 2013ce
Edited 1st April 2013ce