Jarlshof attraction receives top tourism award

A popular south-mainland visitor attraction has been awarded Visit Scotland’s highest Quality Assurance grading.

Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements, in Sumburgh, allows visitors to delve into more than 4,000 years of human settlement.

The site traces the area’s historic settlers from the Neolithic people onward. Jarlshof remained in use from around 2700 BC until the AD 1600s.

Vikings from Norway settled at Jarlshof in the 800s and by the late 1200s the Viking longhouse and farmstead had been replaced by a farmhouse to the east, with a barn and corn kilns attached.

The headland above the natural harbour of West Voe was the ideal place to settle for communities spanning several millennia.

Layer upon layer of settlement built up on the headland. Earlier houses were abandoned and later ones were built on top. Sand blown by the wind from the nearby dunes settled in between the layers and eventually sealed and protected the whole site.

Storms eventually revealed the hidden site in the 1890s and excavations then, as well as in the 1930s and 1950s, uncovered a sequence of stone structures spanning the low headland.

Now, the tourist attraction which is managed by Historic Environment Scotland, has attained a 5 Star Historic Attraction Quality Assurance award from the national tourism organisation.

Susan Loch, head of community engagement at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Providing great customer service is important to us at Historic Environment Scotland, so we are really pleased that the team at Jarlshof have been recognised for their world class service with an upgrade to a five star visitor attraction.

“Jarlshof is a monument rich in history and has a range of different types of interpretation, which all help our visitors to engage with and learn about the history of the site and Shetland. It is great to see that this has been recognised by VisitScotland, and has helped Jarlshof become a five star visitor attraction.”

Steve Mathieson, VisitScotland’s islands manager, said: “Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements thoroughly deserve this recognition following all the excellent work done at the site, which is one of the best known and important of Shetland’s numerous world-class archaeological sites.

“This historic attraction is an ideal fit for Scotland’s themed year for 2017 – the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Discoveries made here include a wide range of archaeological treasures in one place, such as late Neolithic houses, a Bronze Age village, an Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, a Norse longhouse, a medieval farmstead and a 16th century laird’s house.”


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