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 laird’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?


  1. 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.


  2. 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.


    • “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.

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  3. 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. 🙂


  4. 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.