Featured Destination

Shetlands the Noop of Noss and Prehistoric Jarlshof

Part 2

Last Chance to sail in the Shetlands this Summer


The Noop of Noss and Prehistoric Jarlshof, 

The Noop of Noss

This is a very special place and I regard it as one of the top nature sights I have ever been to. It is only about five miles away from Lerwick as the crow flies but getting there is part of the fun.

Take the car and passenger ferry from Lerwick to Bressay that runs every half hour in summer and takes about seven minutes to cross. From there follow the sign to the island of Noss about three miles over the top of Bressay and down to the east side. You get a great view of Noss as you walk down to the foot ferry to Noss. The small inflatable ferry is run by Scot Nature and you get your own life jacket: if the red flag is flying it is too rough to run. Once on Noss the ferry driver will give you instructions on the island and areas to avoid, how long it may take and charge you for the ferry. All very helpful.

It is about a 90 minute walk to the Noop of Noss going anticlockwise around the island. Here’s what is says on Nature Scot website.

A very apt way to describe the Noop of Noss by Scot Nature

A seabird skyscraper

The towering 180-metre sea cliffs of Noss are dramatic. In summer especially, gannets, guillemots and fulmars seem to occupy every available nook on the cliffs. Marauding great skuas – or bonxies, as they’re known locally – nest further inland.

Scot Nature

Jarlshof really is an extraordinary place

If you were amazed by Skara Brae on Orkney, then prepare to be even more astonished by Jarlshof. It’s just an hour’s bus ride south of Lerwick, near Sumburgh Head and the journey itself is interesting.

Here you can walk into neolithic buildings, touch them and look out the doorways to views that have only changed by the sea being a bit nearer.

You’ll find a fascinating sequence of buildings from different eras. The earliest homes, similar to those in Skara Brae, date back around 5000 years. However, Jarlshof has seen the rise and fall of structures across several periods.

Starting with the Neolithic era, known as the New Stone Age, we encounter the earliest settlement remains from around 3600 BC. After a bit of a gap, we enter the Bronze Age, which spanned from 1800 to 800 BC. Interestingly, this era highlights the significance of international trade, as the production of bronze required tin, primarily sourced from Cornwall. Nothing new in trade then.

Iron Age

Moving forward, we step into the Iron Age, where the landscape is adorned with intriguing wheelhouses, built between 800 BC and 400 AD. These circular structures showcase the architectural ingenuity of the time.

Enter the remaining half of an enormous twin walled broch, majestic stone towers that once dominated the horizon. The Norse period also left its mark here, reminding us of the cultural influences that shaped this site.

But the surprises don’t end there. Jarlshof has building remains from the Pictish period and Viking long houses. Right next to a mediaeval farm, offering a glimpse into the agricultural practices of that era. And as a grand finale, we come across the Lairds House, which emerged around 1500, reflecting a more recent chapter in Jarlshof’s story.

We met a couple of would-be Picts but they failed to impress us.

Bus through the villages and hamlets

If you time it right you can catch the 3:12 bus back to Lerwick in term time, the bus picks up school children and diverts off the main road to drop them off in tiny hamlets and villages. The bus is a fair size but the roads are tiny so you get a really interesting scenic tour.

Lerwick Museum is both FREE and fascinating.

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