Jarlshof is a plane journey or long ferry ride away from almost everywhere else in Scotland, yet even it alone is worth the trip to the Shetland Isles. Here at Sumburgh Head lies an amazing sequence of preserved historic settlements like almost nowhere else in Europe. People have found Jarlshof (meaning "earl's house" - a name coined by Sir Walter Scott) an ideal place to settle for over 4,000 years from Neolithic times up to the present day: sometimes next to the abandoned homes of their predecessors, sometimes on top. Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, brochs and souterrains, Pictish, Norse, Medieval and even later - they're all here. Centuries of storms preserved each layer before uncovering them again in the 1890's, and the huge site you can explore today is the result of further excavation over the last century or so. Skara Brae on Orkney has the edge as a Neolithic site alone, but it's the sheer breadth of periods represented at Jarlshof that makes it unique.

[Inside a wheelhouse from the Pictish era]

Name: Jarlshof ★★★★
Location: A970, west side of Sumburgh, G.R.: HU 398095 / saved ranges layover
Open (2017): Daily, but from October to March tickets must be collected at Sumburgh Hotel nearby
Cost (2017): £5.50 (adults), £3.30 (children), free for Historic Envionment Scotland members

[View from the ruined house]


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