Jarlshof, Shetland

Site Overview

One of Shetland's most extensive historic sites

Shetland, at the northern tip of Scotland, was the gateway for Viking exploration of the North Atlantic seaways. Today the place names and dialect point us to where the Vikings settled and archaeological remains are clearly visible in the landscape. The most extensive archaeological evidence of Viking settlement occurs at either end of the islands: Jarlshof in the south and Unst in the north.

There are pre-Viking buildings both at Jarlshof and close by, at Old Scatness, which contained Viking objects. The first recognisably-Viking “longhouse” building went through many modifications during its life-span. Excavated in the 1930s and 1940s, the house probably began as a hall-house, about 21m long, dated to the 9th century on the basis of the finds (although this may be optimistic), with a long hearth in the centre, timber posts and side benches. Later, a cattle byre was attached and there were a number of outbuildings.

A series of later Norse buildings were built at right-angles to the original house, and each of these went through a number of alterations. The complex continues until the 13th or 14th century.

Some of Shetland's sites have interpretive panels. A pack of Viking guided walks literature is available for Unst.

Contact Details

Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, Sumburgh, Shetland, ZE3 9JN

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Visitor Information
Season - Months Open
Summer: 1 April-30 September
Winter: 1 October-31 March
Opening Hours - Days and Times
Summer: 09.30-17.30
Winter: Restricted hours, telephone +44 (0) 1856 841815
Charge applies
Key Attractions
  • Village
  • Excavations