Shetland

We arrived early and in a thick mist.  After breakfast on board – a small but powerful loudspeaker situated near my pillow told me it was 6.30am and that breakfast was available.  It repeated the core message at 15 minute intervals to allow all passengers to enjoy that point between sleep and not sleep for an extended period.

Steve on deck, the sun almost visible, the rest of Shetland hidden

Steve on deck, the sun almost visible, the rest of Shetland hidden

We visited a couple or three brochs during the day.  They only exist in Scotland – a double skinned drystone tower with storage and stairs built into the intra-wall space.  Built in the Iron Age – perhaps 200BC to 100AD.  Perhaps celebrations of status and locations for trading – or not.

Biggest and best preserved broch on the island of Mousa - 13 m Talland we climbed to the top up the intra-wall stairs

Biggest and best preserved broch on the island of Mousa – 13 m Talland we climbed to the top up the intra-wall stairs

Mousa broch from inside.

Mousa broch from inside.

diagram at Jarlhof showing broch structure and possible construction detail

diagram at Jarlhof showing broch structure and possible construction detail

In the middle of the day we went to see puffins at the southern tip of Shetland (Sumburgh Head cliffs).  Cute, captivating and almost careless of our presence – Alison had to use a big stick to move us back onto the coach.

Cute puffins canoodling

Cute puffins canoodling

Jarlshof was the days big event.  The name is made up – Sir Walter Scott used the place in a novel, and he gave it the name Jarlsburg.  The site contains everything from stone age dwellings, bronze age smithy, Iron Age homes, a broch, Viking settlements, a medieval farm and a laird’s house built by Patrick Stewart the Bad (more on him later) around 1590.

Looking across the remains of a 2500 year old Iron Age house to the remains of Earl Patrick Stewart's house

Looking across the remains of a 2500 year old Iron Age house to the remains of Earl Patrick Stewart’s house

Me in a 2nd or 3rd century AD house called a wheelhouse because of the radiating stone 'spokes' which supported the roof.

Me in a 2nd or 3rd century AD house called a wheelhouse because of the radiating stone ‘spokes’ which supported the roof.

We also walked across a sandy bar connecting the mainland (Shetland speak for the main island) to St Ninian’s Isle where a very early church was excavated, revealing an earlier pagan burial site.

St Ninian's church and the sand bar or Tombolo in the distance

St Ninian’s church and the sand bar or Tombolo in the distance

But my favourite thing was a piece of Pictish art in the Shetland museum – hope you can make out the creature, especially his face – click on the photo to see it bigger.

pictish art (528 x 600)

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