5000 Years of Human Settlement
Fair Isle has been more intensively studied by archaeologists than almost any area of its size in Scotland. They've found evidence that the isle may have been settled by Neolithic people up to 5,000 years ago. There are traces of oval-shaped stone houses, perhaps 3,000 years old, and lines of turf and stone walls, or dykes, which snake across the landscape. The "Feely Dyke", a massive turf rampart which divides the common grazings from the crofts, may also be prehistoric.
The archaeological remains include curious "burnt mounds" - piles of blackened stones which appear to have been heated in a fire and then dropped in stone troughs to warm water. The purpose is unknown but may have been cooking, tanning, preparing cloth or even a primitive sauna.
There are two known Iron Age sites - a promontory fort at Landberg and the foundations of a house underlying an early Christian settlement at Kirkigeo.
Most of the place-names date from after the ninth-century Norse settlement of the Northern Isles. By that time the croft lands had clearly been in use for many centuries.
In all, Fair Isle has 14 scheduled monuments, ranging from the earliest signs of human activity to the remains of a World War II radar station. The two fine lighthouses, now automated, are also listed buildings.