As you head south past Quarff and through Cunningsburgh, you’ll begin to catch glimpses of the island of Mousa, lying just to the east of the mainland; it’s pronounced ‘Moosa’. As you move closer, you’ll be able to see the Broch of Mousa, one of Shetland’s most remarkable prehistoric structures.
Brochs are circular, double-walled stone towers, generally constructed during the Iron Age and mainly between about 100BC and 100AD. They’re found almost entirely in the northern and western isles and the north-west highlands of Scotland. There may be as many as 500 and Shetland alone has somewhere between 80 and 120 actual or possible sites.
Almost every theory about the origin and purpose of brochs has been disputed. However, they have the appearance of fortresses, many were built in easily-defended places and at least some locations appear to have been chosen so that they were visible from others.
What isn’t in doubt is that Shetland has, on Mousa, the best preserved broch to be found anywhere in the world. Rising to 13m (43 feet), it is 15m (49 feet) in diameter. The internal diameter is 6m (20 feet). In fact, Mousa Broch is smaller in diameter than most others in Shetland. The Broch is virtually intact and you can climb up the stairs, just as its original occupants did, and enjoy a great view.