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  • Writer's pictureStephen Jennings

Site in Focus - Pinhoulland

Pinhoulland represents one of the largest Neolithic-Bronze Age settlements on Shetland. It is also a very pleasant and easy (if rather wet) walk.

Approaching along the sign posted route from th

e Walls road you can park near the croft and walk past the front of the house and outbuildings. There was reputedly a broch immediately behind the existing croft house according to antiquarian accounts however, if this is the case, it has been so badly robbed out in the past for building material it is now impossible to identify with any certainty.

As you move onto the slope down to the Voe of Browland laid out before you is an apparently undisturbed prehistoric landscape. The area can be very wet now but in prehistory, before the substantial peat growth, it was probably good fertile agricultural land. Field boundaries and clearance cairns show the land was cleared and divided up for intensive agriculture and a dyke crossing a boggy area may indicate where a small loch was dammed for watering livestock. The house sites are reasonably clear once you get your eye in and realise they are not natural rock outcrops but their remains instead and in some cases are layered on top of the remains of even earlier prehistoric buildings. Some of the structures overlooking the Voe of Browland and Loch of Grunnavoe may be the remains of burial cairns. There is a distinct cluster of houses near the centre of theslope which are surrounded by dykes and banks and may have been interconnected with passages in the manner of the famous Skara Brae settlement of a similar period on Orkney. This is the only cluster of houses of this type currently known on Shetland. Due to the site being unexcavated we do not have any definite dates but by house style it appears to begin at some point in the Neolithic and continue on into the Bronze Age with several distinct phases of building during this time.

If you decide to go explore please remember this is farmland so follow the Scottish access code... and keep your eye out for otters at the edge of the voe!

While you are in the area don't forget to visit the Scord of Brouster, another Neolithic settlement and field system which is nearby and if you are driving back towards Lerwick look out for the unexcavated West Houlland broch which is visible as a large lump behind a croft house on the crest of the hill almost immediately opposite Pinhoulland.

If you fancy making a really full day of it you can also visit Staneydale Neolithic “Temple” Site and the prehistoric settlements over the hill at Gruting and Ness of Gruting. All of these have parking and are either near the road or an easy walk.

Links for further information:

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