Jarlshof – Sumburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura


Sumburgh, Scotland

This picturesque archeological site looks like it was pulled straight from a fantasy novel. 


Located on the edge of green Scottish cliffs, the extensive archeological site known as Jarlshof holds artifacts and structures dating from the Bronze Age right up to the 1700’s covering thousands of years worth of human history. 

The impressive array of remains at Jarlshof were not discovered until the 19th century when violent storms razed the low cliffs where they are located, exposing the ancient stones. Explorers of the site found the remains of a Bronze Age village dating back to 2,500 BCE, which were beneath Iron Age structures from around 200 BCE, which in turn were built into Norse ruins that were likely in use for hundreds of years beginning in the 9th century CE. The Norse ruins seem to be the most extensive which is likely due more to their comparative youth than just sheer numbers.

Finally, while most of the ruins are beneath ground level there are also the remains of a castle built by the first Scotsmen, that is known as the Old House of Sumburgh. This rounded structure is dated back to medieval times when it was simply a farmhouse that was fortified in the ensuing centuries before finally being abandoned in the 1600’s.

The astounding amount of historical remains at Jarlshof are impressive enough as a linear trip through history, but to add to the site’s appeal, the lush grasses that have grown on and around the ruins make them look like like something straight out of a fantasy novel.

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