In all of my travels around Scotland, I have never been anywhere that allows you to walk through over 4000 years of habitation in a matter of minutes.
The walls are so well preserved that if you just added a roof, Jarlshof feels ready to move in right away. There really is no better place to start your Shetland journey and learn about almost the entire island’s history in one fell swoop.
Most of Jarlshof was hidden underground until the late 19th century. That’s when an especially violent storm washed away a section of sandbank and revealed part of these ancient stone buildings. As archaeologists continued to dig lower, they peeled away layer after layer of time.
Starting with the Neolithic homestead, visitors can see how the buildings developed into more elaborate Bronze Age homes, carrying on into the Iron Age with half of an enormous broch followed by beautiful wheelhouses. Suddenly, Viking longhouses appear with their conspicuous 90-degree corners and topping it all off is the ruined Laird’s House that would eventually give this place the name Jarlshof.