What to See
Out and about in Shetland?
Below are a variety of sites of interest covering a multitude of periods in Shetland history. Use caution when undertaking any outdoor activity as the weather can change with little warning and the terrain can be challenging at times. If you wish to share a snapshot or two of your adventure or share what you experienced then please do so and we'll in turn share the information with other visitors to our site.
A quick tip: a click on the title will take you either to a website with more information or a map, sometimes both.
One of the most striking sites in all of Scotland, Jarlshof is almost unique in the visibility of continuous habitation for over 4000 years from the Bronze Age until the Middle Ages. Among its remarkable structures are four Iron Age wheelhouses one of which is nearly complete. Located minutes from Sumburgh Airport it's sited nearly at the southernmost tip of Shetland.
Is it a temple? The only truly Megalithic structure in Shetland it could have been a village hall, courtroom or chieftain's home. It's situated in an area rich in prehistoric structures so take your time on the site, explore the surrounding landscape and decide for yourself what you believe its function to be.
The WWII coastal battery on the Ness of Sound is an excellent example of the type of defenses put up during WWII to guard against German incursions and invasion. Consisting of two six inch naval gun emplacements, magazine, engine room, battery observation post and three searchlight emplacements all connected by tunnels it's a wonderfully scenic walk as well. Be sure to start at the Tesco carpark and take a moment to view the seals always in attendance along Sea Road.
Originally believed to be 12-15 metres high, Clickimin Broch stands out quite stark on the Lerwick landscape. Partially rebuilt by Victorian enthusiasm the site wasn't professionally investigated until the 1950s. Still a magnificent broch, look for the slab of stone with two footprints alongside the causeway.
The Ness of Burgi Gatehouse - sometimes called blockhouse - fort is a curious Iron Age ruin in that there are only three recorded sites and all are in Shetland. In point of fact, another of the three is nearby, Tonga, so if one makes the relatively easy amble out to see the first then one ought to see the second.
Old Scatness should need little introduction as it is one of the premier sites in Shetland. Although only open seasonally, this enormous Iron Age site with a broch and post-broch village with wheelhouses was excavated over 11 summers giving us unique insight into Iron Age life and beyond.
What can we say about Fethaland? That it's the most exciting site not on the tourist track! With breathtaking views on the coastal walk to reach the site it is only surpassed by what was once the largest haaf fishing station in Shetland including a substantial prehistoric chambered roundhouse in the middle, Viking bowl carvings in the massive steatite outcrop and many, many goodies along the way.
Let us just leave this one with some comments from visitors.
“This made our day! Breathtaking!” - Canada
"Fabulous - very informative & beautifully restored" - England
"Kids loved it" - Australia
"Well worth a visit!" - Archaeology Shetland
This is an official Walk Shetland route which can be at times challenging with the terrain. However, we suggest you make it more of a challenge by going off-route and looking at the two Neolithic homesteads. Incidentally, if you've previously visited Stanydale Temple then you may notice more than a few similarities with the site pictured above.
Standing some 15' high with a diameter of approximately 57' it is sited on a well-defended promontory in the Loch of Houlland at Eshaness. A must see location in its own right, it's believed much of the stone came from the nearby Grind o' da Navir, one of the most powerful storm beaches in the world. Likely of hallow wall construction the broch was partially excavated via two trenches on the summit in 1998.
Not just the most northerly island in Britain it is also believed to be the first landing place of the Vikings and has the greatest concentration of rural Viking longhouses known anywhere, including Scandinavia.
This is the finest broch surviving in Scotland today. At just over 13m tall it is the dominating feature on the uninhabited island of Mousa and is open for close inspection. And by the way, the island is also a bird sanctuary so take the time to appreciate nature. Only accessible by ferry, check here for all the info you need.
One of the natural beauty spots of Shetland with the UK's largest active tombolo, St Ninian's Isle is also renowned for the 8th century treasure found in 1958 on the grounds of the 12th century Chapel of the same name which happens to have an older chapel beneath which probably dates to the time of the treasure. Did you get all of that?
Head down to the delightful setting of Dunrossness and step back in time as you enter the traditional 19th century thatched crofthouse. The property is presented in the style of how it would have looked in the 1870s. Mind your head whilst you visit this fantastic feast for your senses.