Shetland’s South Mainland is a long, thin finger of land, just three or four miles wide, but 25 miles long, ending in the cliffs of Sumburgh Head (262ft), which rises sharply out of the land only to drop vertically into the sea. The road up to Sumburgh lighthouse is the perfect site for watching nesting kittiwakes, fulmars, shags, razorbills, guillemots, gannets and puffins. South Mainland also harbours some of Shetland’s most impressive archeological treasures – in particular, Jarlshof and Mousa Broch.
Jarlshof is the largest and most impressive of Shetland’s archeological sites. Only half of the original broch survives, and its courtyard is now an Iron Age aisled roundhouse, with stone piers. It’s difficult to distinguish the original broch from the later Pictish wheelhouses that now surround it, but it’s great fun to explore, as you’re free to roam around the cells, checking out the in-built stone shelving, water tanks, beds and so on. Inland lies the maze of grass-topped foundations marking out the Viking longhouses, and towering over the whole complex are the ruins of the laird’s house, built by Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland, in the late sixteenth century, and the Old House of Sumburgh, built by his son, Earl Patrick.