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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy"s most lavish country retreat: during Spain"s Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer"s house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King"s Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince"s Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King"s Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince"s Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI"s old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette"s gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.