As you approach Lerwick, your first views of the Shetlands, is that you are indeed arriving in a very special place. I guess many of us have visions of an isolated group of islands to the north east of mainland UK and so close to Norway with whom the Islanders have an affectionate relationship. Then of course there are the many Wildlife and Travel documentaries that portray the Shetlands apparent remoteness, the lack of population (possibly in decline), the wild winters and the sometimes idyllic summers of long days and ever so short nights…. and of course the abundance of wildlife, in particular seabirds.
But head to the south of the islands, in particular to Sumburgh. OK., the Islands Airport is there, but to the west overlooking the West Voe of Sumburgh there is somewhere very special.
This is Jarlshof...
Jarlshof… is old…very very old. Historians and archaeologists reckon there has been significant human occupation here at Jarlshof for over 5,000 years. They have discovered and dated Neolithic structures , Bronze Age and Iron Age. Norse Longhouses and also Medieval Farmsteads and a 16th century Lairds House. This indeed would seem to be a remote location, it has though obviously been of great importance. An area supporting human habitation and their culture over the millennia. Houses, a complete settlement, that would appear to have been built below ground level, perhaps ensuring that we can now see just how complex and solid these building once were. Farmsteads and Longhouses now just outlines are etched on the landscape. It is a complex mix and should you visit an expert guide would be a great help in interpreting the Jarlshof for you. But let me show you some more highlights……
In timeline terms, Jarlshof was only a recent and accidental discovery. A sever storm in 1897 swept away layers of sand and Jarlshof was discovered. It may well be that local historians were aware of a settlement but from all accounts, what was uncovered by these forces of nature, was far beyond anyone’s imagination.
Talking of ‘forces of nature’….. even if your visit is on a sunny day, take a warm waterproof. Shetland weather can and does change quickly. Our visit was in September last year. The sun shone and it was warm, one wondered why we need bring our waterproofs. Within an hour we had rain, heavy!…. more sun to suggest it had just been a shower. Then we had snow…. so go enjoy, but be prepared for both the weather, and to be impressed with what our ancestors have left for us to discover.
But where ever you are……
Please Remember ….
Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other
(C) David Oakes 2020