Jarlshof & Scenic Mainland Drive
Duration: 4 hours
Tour Code: ler-001
Shetland is a mosaic of over a hundred islands where land and water blend, and past merge. The most northerly part of the British Isles; it is inhabited by approximately 22,000 people and an abundance of wildlife. It is a land shaped by the sea, from dramatic sculptured cliffs to tranquil sandy bays.
There are over 100 islands ranging in size from the large island of Mainland, 351 square miles, to the numerous small skerries and islets along the coast. Shetland is a fascinating archipelago, where land and water intermingle. Both the Atlantic Ocean and the Northern Sea wash Shetland's coast which is dramatic and beautiful.
Your tour commences with a scenic 1-hour drive to Jarlshof. A violent storm in 1905 uncovered this remarkable archaeological site, revealing remains from the Stone Age and settlements from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Stone rectangular houses from an ancient Viking community can also be seen. The name Jarlshof, or Laird's House, refers to the community of the Norse Jarls that resided here in the 7th century. During your visit, you will be able to independently explore the remains of these village settlements, sprawled over a low green promontory by the sea.
Continuing on, it's a short distance to the small historic village of Hoswick and a visit to the Hoswick Visitor Center. Here, you can gain an understanding of the history and culture of Shetland from the interpretive displays and by watching the traditional knitting skills of the Islanders. There is also the opportunity to purchase an original Shetland garment from the wide variety of cashmere or lambs wool items.
Of course, one of the most famous attractions of the Shetland Islands is the delightful and inquisitive Shetland pony which has inhabited Shetland since at least the Viking times. Once an essential part of crofting life, the ponies will come looking for food as your coach stops wherever possible for photos. Their shaggy coats and flowing manes equip them to withstand severe weather conditions.
During the course of your tour you will also see the small agricultural areas where sheep farming is important, the distinctive black and brown Shetland sheep grazing in pastures enclosed by neat dry-stone walls, and small crofting communities nestled on narrow peninsulas never far from the inlets of the sea. Peat is still used in Shetland to heat homes and you will pass the areas where it is cut as you continue across moorland on your return to Lerwick.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 1 3/4 hours of walking at times over uneven ground at Jarlshof, as well as considerable number of steps to be negotiated.. This tour is not suitable for wheelchair guests and those guests with mobility concerns are cautioned to evaluate their personal level of stamina and ability. Weather appropriate clothing and flat, comfortable walking shoes are suggested. Guests should be prepared for the possibility of rain. The order of sites visited may vary.