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Five Stars For Jarlshof

by Alastair Hamilton -

Jarlshof, an archaeological site that allows people to delve into more than 4,000 years of human settlement has been awarded VisitScotland’s highest Quality Assurance grading, gaining five stars.

On the site, which is managed by Historic Environment Scotland, visitors can journey from prehistory into history. Neolithic people first settled on this site around 2700 BC and it remained in use until the 1600s AD. Vikings from Norway settled at Jarlshof in the 800s. The traditional longhouse at the heart of the farm is still clearly visible.

...visitors can journey from prehistory into history...

The farmstead grew and shrank in size over some 12 to 16 generations. By the late 1200s, this settlement had been replaced by a farmhouse to the east, with a barn and corn kilns attached.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 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 the remarkable sequence of stone structures spanning the low headland that are still visible today

...the ideal place to settle for communities spanning several millennia...

Developed and improved for over 30 years, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance (QA) schemes are world-leading and provide a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. They allow businesses not just to meet visitor expectations, but exceed them.

Susan Loch, Head of Visitor Operations and Community Engagement at Historic Environment Scotland, said:

“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.”

...a monument rich in history...

Steve Mathieson, VisitScotland 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.

“Our Quality Assurance scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door - it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as it can possibly be.”

...Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements thoroughly deserve this recognition...

Jarlshof is one of several important archaeological sites in southern Shetland. Nearby, recent excavations at Old Scatness have revealed a complex site and a wealth of information; and a few miles farther north, the Broch of Mousa is the best-preserved structure of its type anywhere. It's hoped that the area will, in due course, gain UNESCO World Heritage recognition.

For more information on Jarlshof, visit:

For more information on VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme, please

Posted in: Heritage

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