The earliest data regarding human settlement at Vallimäe in Rakvere come from the Viking Age, an arrowhead from the 9th century and some broken pieces of pottery from this period have been found on the territory of the castle. There is more information about the last centuries of the prehistoric age when an ancient wooden stronghold surrounded by a fence stood in the place of the present convent building.
First written records about the stronghold called Tarvanpea come from the year 1226. In the middle of the 13th century the Danes started to replace the wooden stronghold with a more modern stone fortress.
After Virumaa and Harjumaa passed into the possession of the Livonian Order in 1347, a grand-scale reconstruction of the castle was carried out in several stages. In the first half of the 16th century a convent-type castle with a rectangular main tower was completed, it had strong flanks, a large front yard and an eastern gate consisting of several parts: the outer gate included a pitfall and a drawbridge and the inner gate had a lowered lattice. Living quarters and outbuildings were located in the front yard, near the circular wall.
During the Livonian war (1558–1583) the castle was attacked and damaged by the Russians, but it ended up under Swedish control. From 1602 to 1605 Rakvere fortress fell under the control of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. When they retreated from Rakvere in 1605 during the war with Sweden, they blew up the castle.
Today Rakvere castle is open to the public. In addition to the museum you can taste knights’ favourite drink, a Malvasia wine, made after the oldest recipe at the wine cellar.
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.