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

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.