Jarlshof to Sumburgh Head

Medieval farmhouse
Jarlshof and the Sumburgh Hotel
On a glorious morning we set out for the southern tip of Mainland Shetland to visit Jarlshof and Sumburgh Head – there’s a lovely cliff walk between the two sites. We started off with morning coffee in the Sumburgh Hotel and thought we might be back in time for lunch, but there was so much to do that we only made it in time for afternoon tea and cakes. Not complaining….

You might think Jarlshof sounds like a Viking name, but it was actually coined by Sir Walter Scott. It’s my favourite of all the archeological sites we visited on Orkney and Shetland because its multiple layers cover such a long period from the late Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. The picture at the top of the post shows the remains of a medieval farmhouse. There are also oval-shaped Bronze Age houses, an Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, Viking long houses and a 16th century lairdโ€™s house. The site is run by Historic Scotland and includes a small visitor centre.


Norse house
Norse house

Laird's House
Laird’s House
After a wander round Jarlshof, we set off along the cliff-top path, with the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head clearly in view ahead of us.

It’s not very far, but there were many stops to look over the cliff edges (safely!) to see birds – so many birds. The puffins are my favourite – and presumably John’s too as he took umpteen photos of them.

We spent a lot more time at the lighthouse than we expected – I don’t remember there being such an extensive visitor centre last time we were there. You can even rent holiday accommodation there if you wish (though not in the tower itself).

Finally, it was time to turn round and return to the Sumburgh Hotel via the other side of the Head. As the lighthouse retreated into the distance behind us, Sumburgh Airport came into view ahead, and from there it was a short drop down to the hotel.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. I wonder where everyone else is taking us this week?


44 thoughts on “Jarlshof to Sumburgh Head

  1. Becky B August 24, 2015 / 11:29

    What a beautiful walk, and weren’t you lucky with the weather. It is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go . . one day I will head north to Shetland rather than south to Portugal!

    PS Adore the photo of the puffin with the daisies.


    • Anabel Marsh August 24, 2015 / 11:44

      Thank you! We were extremely lucky with the weather all the time we were there. However, unlike Portugal, it’s far from guaranteed. Still, I hope you make it there some day. I like that wee puffin too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. VioletSky August 24, 2015 / 12:18

    Puffins!!! I long to see a puffin.
    It looks like a fairly long walk to me. But the views are spectacular, so it would have taken me forever what with so much stopping to gape in awe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 24, 2015 / 12:24

      It’s about 2.5 miles round trip. There are loads of places to see puffins in Scotland – they are so cute!


      • Jill's Scene September 14, 2015 / 10:26

        I’d love to see a puffin, too. Just one would do. All my life, it seems, I’ve read about them. It’s nostalgia really, from the Puffin books of my childhood. Nevertheless, they really are the most exotic looking bird. From the photos they seem quite large – are they?


        • Anabel Marsh September 14, 2015 / 10:33

          They are gorgeous and as comical as you might think from the way they look. They land in an ungainly fashion but it seems to work! Quite small, to answer your question – Atlantic puffins are under 12 inches, though there are larger species.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jill's Scene September 14, 2015 / 10:36

            Hah! I imagined they would be much bigger than that. Nevertheless, they sound as cute as I’ve imagined.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Suzanne et Pierre August 24, 2015 / 13:55

    Lovely post. The puffins are very cute bird and very photogenic. We saw them in Iceland and totally loved them…the archaeological site seems very interesting. (Suzanne)


    • Anabel Marsh August 24, 2015 / 14:12

      Thank you, Suzanne. The puffins are so comical and ungainly in many ways, but still cute.


  4. Heyjude August 24, 2015 / 14:24

    I don’t know where everyone else is walking, but I was happy to accompany you two. Those bird photos are brilliant. Not sure I’d want to be looking over the cliffs so glad to leave these photos to your hubby ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Anabel Marsh August 24, 2015 / 15:15

      Thank you, I will let him know! He’s getting very keen on bird photography and would probably do better without me a) getting impatient and b) scaring the birds off with my constant shouts of “Come away from the edge.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heyjude August 24, 2015 / 17:10

        He’s very good. And yes you do have to be patient and quiet. Separate walks perhaps?


  5. anotherday2paradise August 24, 2015 / 15:10

    A most enjoyable walk, Anabel. The lighthouse does look worthy of some time spent there. I love the cute puffins. ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Jackie August 24, 2015 / 15:16

    Really enjoyed my walk with you this morning. Thanks for dropping by and visiting the Bata Musuem.


  7. Pit August 24, 2015 / 15:16

    Those Puffins are lovely! ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Birgit August 24, 2015 / 15:54

    Now that is a walk! You see, to me, that is a long walk:) I love the old settlements and wonder what those niches are. I love puffins and watched a show about them and how those other birds (in your photo) are nasty to them.


    • Anabel Marsh August 24, 2015 / 16:28

      A lot of the sites we saw had built-in niches for beds, shelves etc. Fitted furniture, they were very modern!


  9. Sarah Ferguson August 24, 2015 / 16:11

    Just yesterday the hubby and I were discussing how cool it would be to go to Newfoundland to see puffins – I think he would enjoy this as much to see them!


  10. restlessjo August 24, 2015 / 18:43

    Oooh, GOOD one! I love this, Anabel! One I could definitely see myself doing. I really love that opening shot and the puffin close up is gorgeous. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think you make a good double act!
    Many thanks for the link ๐Ÿ™‚


  11. Silvia Writes August 24, 2015 / 18:49

    Such a beautiful place. Must’ve been wonderful walking through those ruins, standing in that very place. And the birds look amazing (interesting beak color). Thank you for sharing the history behind the place, brings me just a tad closer to the area.


    • Anabel Marsh August 24, 2015 / 19:14

      Glad you liked it Silvia. There was an amazing sense of history about the place – and the beautiful birds too.


  12. Alex Hurst August 25, 2015 / 14:57

    Puffins!!! And Nordic houses!!! Those two alone would make the trip worth it. I love puffins…. Like the civilized uptown gentleman cousin of the penguin. ๐Ÿ™‚


  13. Lori L MacLaughlin August 25, 2015 / 23:46

    Back for my Scotland fix. The “umpteen photos” made me laugh. The cliffs remind me of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, one of my favorite places that we visited many years ago.


    • Anabel Marsh August 26, 2015 / 07:37

      “Umpteen photos” covers a lot of sighing on my part. Cute as the puffins are it gets quite boring having to wait while lenses are changed, just the right angle is sought etc etc! I haven’t been to the Cliffs of Moher, but I know there are lots of similarities between Ireland and Scotland.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lori L MacLaughlin August 27, 2015 / 02:25

        Ha, ha, I can imagine. The Cliffs of Moher looked very much like the cliffs in your photos. I could have stayed there all day.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Nadine Feldman (@Nadine_Feldman) August 26, 2015 / 16:57

    I love those cliffs! Those are fabulous.

    We have puffins nearby as well. They hang out on a nearby uninhabited island, so we’ve gone on a boat tour out there to see them — though the last time we went, we found out there were orcas in sight and made a beeline to see them, cutting short our puffin viewing — no complaints.


    • Anabel Marsh August 26, 2015 / 17:05

      Lots more cliffs to come! No more puffins though, not this time anyway. There are other great places to see them in Scotland too.


  15. cassam101 August 27, 2015 / 12:26

    Looks like if Scotland gets good weather there’s no better place to be. Great photos of the Puffins.


    • Anabel Marsh August 27, 2015 / 12:59

      All the time we were there we were getting bulletins about the bad weather at home, so I think we were very lucky!


  16. jazzfeathers September 5, 2015 / 20:13

    This looks like a fantastic walk. I’m happy you’ve posted so many photos. They’re beautiful. I espeically like the farmhouse, it ‘s a glimpse to such a different time.


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