Top historic sites in Shetland

Fort Charlotte

Fort Charlotte in the centre of Lerwick, Shetland, is a five-sided artillery fort, with bastions on each corner.The first incarnation of the fort was built between 1652-1653 during the First Anglo-Dutch War. Little is known of the original structure and no trace of it has been found. The second structure was built on the same site by Robert Mylne under the orders of Charles II at the start of the Second Anglo-Dutch War i ...
Founded: 1652-1653 | Location: Lerwick, United Kingdom

Shetland Museum

Set on the waterfront within a restored 19th century dock in Lerwick, Shetland Museum and Archives tells the story of Shetland’s heritage and culture. The museum chart the development of the archipelago from its earliest geological origins to the present day. Its galleries contain everything from delicate Shetland lace to Pictish art and even the first telephone introduced in the islands in 1883. Visit the renovated ...
Founded: | Location: Lerwick, United Kingdom

Jarlshof

Jarlshof is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland Islands. It lies near the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland and has been described as 'one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles'. It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD. The Bronze Age settlers left evidence of several small oval houses with thick stone walls and various artefact ...
Founded: 2500 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Scalloway Castle

Scalloway Castle was built from 1599 by Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney to tighten his grip on Shetland. The Stewart family, as Earls of Orkney and Shetland, had a dramatic impact on both groups of islands. Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney was the illegitimate son of James V of Scotland and one of his mistresses, Euphemia Elphinstone. He was born in 1533, and in 1564 he was given the recreated Earldom of Orkney and ...
Founded: 1599 | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Clickimin Broch

The Broch of Clickimin is a large and well preserved, though somewhat restored broch near Lerwick. Originally built on an island in Clickimin Loch (now increased in size by silting and drainage), it was approached by a stone causeway. The water-level in the loch was reduced in 1874, leaving the broch high and dry. The broch is situated within a walled enclosure and, unusually for brochs, features a large 'blockhouse' betw ...
Founded: 200-100 BC | Location: Lerwick, United Kingdom

Mousa Broch

Broch of Mousa is the finest preserved Iron Age broch (round tower) in Shetland. It is the tallest still standing in the world and amongst the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe. It is thought to have been constructed circa 100 BC, one of 570 brochs built throughout Scotland. The site is managed by Historic Scotland. It has one of the smallest overall diameters of any broch, as well as one of the thickest wal ...
Founded: 100 BC | Location: Sandwick, United Kingdom

Old Scatness Broch

Old Scatness is an archeological site consisting of medieval, Viking, Pictish, and Bronze Age remains. It has been a settlement for thousands of years, each new generation adding buildings, and leveling off old ones. A broch was discovered in 1975 and has been dated to 400-200 BC. The site is managed by the Shetland Amenity Trust. In the summer, costumed guides provide tours of the site and the replica Iron Age and Pictis ...
Founded: 400-200 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Ness of Burgi Fort

The Ness of Burgi fort is an iron-age promontory fort. It is about 1.6 km south from the village of Scatness, and may be reached by foot along a grass path that leads to the headland of the Ness of Burgi. The fort is on a rocky promontory on the east side of the Ness and is open to the public at all times. The blockhouse seems to be excessively large for the area that it protects, and so was perhaps more designed to impr ...
Founded: 100 BC | Location: Virkie, United Kingdom

Lunna Church

Lunna Kirk (church) probably dates back at least in part to the 1100s and is by far the oldest building in use for Christian worship in Shetland. The church has an unusual structure, with both of the side walls supported by a series of massive buttresses. An unusual feature on the east side of the church, which is likely to date back to a major rebuild of the structure in the 1300s or 1400s, is a lepers" squint, desi ...
Founded: 1100s | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Muness Castle

Muness Castle is the most northerly castle in Britain, built by Laurence Bruce, the half brother of Robert Stewart, the Earl of Orkney. Laurence Bruce was appointed Sheriff of Shetland and set to work with a corrupt and cruel enthusiasm that was characteristic of the family. When Robert Stewart was succeeded by his son Patrick, Laurence Bruce felt threatened by the change. He therefore started building Muness Castle in 15 ...
Founded: 1598 | Location: Uyeasound, United Kingdom

Stanydale Temple

Stanydale Temple was a Neolithic roofed building. Today all that remains is a large, walled enclosure. There is uncertainty about the original purpose of the building, but its unusual size indicates some communal purpose, or that it was possibly the home of an important person. The building lies within a field of about 3.2 ha almost completely surrounded by a dry stone wall. The field contains two smaller stone houses an ...
Founded: 2500-2000 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kirkjubøargarður

Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.

The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.

Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.

The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.

Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.