Shetland Islands – prehistoric, ancient and medieval history, with ruins and historical sites to visit

Welcome to the enchanting world of the Shetland Islands, a remote archipelago steeped in history and dotted with captivating historical attractions. Nestled off the northeast coast of Scotland, these islands boast a rich tapestry of ancient wonders waiting to be explored. From prehistoric archaeological sites to formidable brochs, crumbling ancient ruins, and majestic medieval castles, the Shetland Islands offer a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Embark on a journey through time as we uncover the secrets of these remarkable historical sites. Discover the remnants of a prehistoric civilization, where mysterious standing stones and ancient burial grounds evoke a sense of wonder. Marvel at the ingenuity of the Iron Age inhabitants as you explore the well-preserved brochs, formidable circular stone towers that once served as fortified dwellings.

Immerse yourself in the stories of medieval power struggles as you wander through the ruins of grand castles and fortresses that bear witness to a turbulent past. These architectural gems stand as silent witnesses to the battles, alliances, and ambitions of centuries gone by.

Join us as we delve into the captivating history of the Shetland Islands, unearthing the mysteries of the past and uncovering the enduring legacies of those who once called these lands home. Prepare to be captivated by the rich heritage and remarkable historical attractions that await your discovery.

Prehistory and ancient history of Shetland

Prehistoric Shetland witnessed the earliest human occupation in the Shetland archipelago of Scotland. With over 5,000 recorded archaeological sites, Shetland holds a significant historical legacy.

Excavations at West Voe, a midden site on the south coast of Mainland, revealed Mesolithic human activity dating back to 4320-4030 BC. The site also provides evidence of early Neolithic activity, with additional finds at Scord of Brouster in Walls dating to 3400 BC.

This site showcases walled fields and stone circular houses, including the earliest-known hoe-blades in Scotland. Stone tools known as “Shetland knives,” made from felsite sourced from Northmavine, are attributed to this period.

Distinctive features like heel-shaped cairns, such as the notable example on Vementry Island, and the ruins of Staneydale Temple near Bixter, contribute to Shetland’s prehistoric landscape.

Neolithic standing stones, including those at Yoxie and Boardastubble, dot the islands. Funzie Girt, a remarkable dividing wall stretching 4 kilometers across Fetlar, suggests a relatively high population during the Neolithic era, estimated at around 10,000 individuals.

Jarlshof, a significant site, contains pottery shards indicating Neolithic activity. However, the primary settlement dates from the Bronze Age, featuring a smithy, a cluster of wheelhouses, and a later broch. Evidence of habitation spans various periods, extending into Viking times.

During the Iron Age, numerous brochs were constructed, with the Broch of Mousa being Scotland’s best-preserved example. Other notable broch ruins include those at Clickimin, Culswick, Old Scatness, and West Burrafirth, although their origin and purpose remain debated.

In 2011, the collective site known as “The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland,” including Broch of Mousa, Old Scatness, and Jarlshof, was added to the UK’s “Tentative List” of World Heritage Sites.

Roman references to Shetland are found in the works of Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, and Tacitus. While their precise meanings are disputed, these references suggest an awareness of the islands.

However, there is no concrete evidence of direct contact between Shetland and Roman forces. The later Iron Age inhabitants of the Northern Isles were likely Pictish, although historical records are limited. These inhabitants viewed figures like King Bridei I of the Picts as distant influences.

The Viking and Scottish eras in the history of Shetland

Shetland was colonized by Norsemen in the late 8th and 9th centuries. The indigenous population’s fate remains uncertain. Vikings used the islands as a base for pirate expeditions against Norway and mainland Scotland.

In 875, Norwegian king Harald Hårfagre annexed the Northern Isles, including Orkney and Shetland. Rognvald Eysteinsson received Orkney and Shetland as an earldom. Shetland transitioned from prehistoric times to written history during the Viking era. Christianization of Shetland took place in the 10th century.

In 1194, during the rule of King Sverre Sigurdsson and Earl Harald Maddadsson, an army called the eyjarskeggjar was raised in Orkney and sailed for Norway. The pretender king was Sigurd, foster son of Olav, brother-in-law of Earl Harald. The eyjarskeggjar were defeated in the Battle of Florvåg, leading to Olav’s death and Harald’s punishment. The earldom of Shetland came under the direct rule of the Norwegian king.

In 1262, Alexander III of Scotland declared his intention to pursue his father’s aggressive policy towards the western and northern isles. He demanded Norwegian King Håkon Håkonsson to cede the islands. King Håkon, considering the islands part of the Norwegian realm, rejected the demands and prepared for war. However, a storm disrupted his fleet, and negotiations ensued.

The Battle of Largs in 1263 resulted in a stalemate, but King Håkon’s position became untenable. He returned to Orkney and died later that year, ending Norwegian expansion in Scotland.

In the Treaty of Perth (1266), King Magnus Lagabøte surrendered Norwegian possessions, including Man and the Sudreyar, to Scotland. Norway maintained sovereignty over Orkney and Shetland. Trade issues with England and the desire for peace influenced Norway’s decision.

Over time, Orkney and Shetland came increasingly under Scottish influence. In 1468, King Christian I of Denmark and Norway pawned his interests in Orkney and Shetland to pay his daughter’s dowry to James III of Scotland. The Northern Isles were later annexed to the Crown of Scotland in 1472.

Attempts by the Danes to reclaim the islands were avoided by the Scottish monarchs. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Shetlanders traded through the Hanseatic League. The influence of Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney, dominated the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

After his execution, the Crown regained control until 1643 when Charles I granted the islands to the Earl of Morton. The Mortons held the rights intermittently until they were sold to Sir Laurence Dundas in 1766.

If you want to read a continuation about the modern history of the Shetland Islands, after the 1707 Act of Union, and the historic attractions from this period, here is the article.

Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement

Jarlshof is a renowned prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland, Scotland. Considered one of the most remarkable sites in the British Isles, it spans from 2500 BC to the 17th century AD.

Managed by Historic Scotland, Jarlshof is open to visitors from April to September. In 2010, it was included in the “tentative list” of World Heritage Sites as part of “The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland” along with Mousa and Old Scatness.

Located near the southern tip of Shetland Mainland, Jarlshof overlooks the West Voe of Sumburgh. Its proximity to settlements, freshwater springs, and building materials made it an attractive location for settlers. The area’s arable land and high density of prehistoric settlements further contributed to its appeal. Scatness, just a mile away, also contains ancient ruins.

The name “Jarlshof” was coined by Walter Scott, who visited the site in 1814. Excavations later confirmed Viking Age settlement, although there is no evidence of a Norse jarl residing there. The remains at Jarlshof offer a glimpse into thousands of years of human occupation and reflect Shetland’s history.

Formal archaeological excavation started in 1925, unearthing Bronze Age relics. Jarlshof was one of the first broch sites to be excavated using modern scientific techniques between 1949 and 1952. The site contains a variety of buildings, including a Bronze Age smithy, Iron Age roundhouses, a complex of Pictish wheelhouses, a Viking longhouse, and a medieval farmhouse.

The Bronze Age structures feature small oval houses with stone walls. Artefacts found include tools, a bronze dagger, and a mysterious bone plaque. The Iron Age structures include a roundhouse and an “aisled roundhouse,” both showcasing the use of querns. The broch, a tall tower, served as a vantage point with defensive fortifications.

The wheelhouse complex, dated to 200 BC, demonstrates evolving architectural styles. Pictish artifacts, such as a bone pin and painted pebbles, indicate cultural and artistic influences. The Norse period showcases evidence of fishing, farming, and animal husbandry.

The Norse-era houses, along with outbuildings, highlight aspects of daily life, including wool production and deep-water fishing. Drawings on slate depict ships and figures, reflecting a blend of Norse and Pictish influences.

The Scottish period is represented by the Old House of Sumburgh, also known as Jarlshof House. Initially a medieval farmhouse, it was converted into a fortified house during the 16th century. The structure went through further modifications in the early 17th century before being abandoned in the late 17th century.

Jarlshof offers a comprehensive view of Shetland’s history. From its earliest settlement to the Scottish period, the site reveals the cultural and architectural transitions that took place over thousands of years.

The Broch of Mousa

The Broch of Mousa, situated on the island of Mousa in Shetland, Scotland, is a remarkable testament to the Iron Age. As the tallest and one of the best-preserved brochs in Europe, it stands as a fascinating historical monument. Dating back to approximately 100 BC, the broch is believed to be one of over 500 similar structures found throughout Scotland. Managed by Historic Environment Scotland, the site offers a glimpse into the ancient past.

Perched on the western shore of Mousa Island, the broch boasts a commanding view of Mousa Sound. Its towering height of 13.3 meters (44 ft) and sturdy dry stone construction contribute to its exceptional preservation. Visitors can enter through the original ground-level entrance and ascend the internal staircase, reaching the top of the broch.

Inside, the broch reveals intriguing features, including a central hearth, a floor tank, and a stone bench encircling the interior wall. The ground floor contains three large cells with recesses or cupboards set into the thick walls. Above the solid base, six galleries, illuminated by voids, provide access to the upper levels.

Throughout its history, the Broch of Mousa remained a site of significance. It found mention in Norse Sagas, with tales of eloping couples seeking refuge and sieges conducted by Earl Harald Maddadsson in the 12th century. Renowned figures like Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Hibbert documented their visits to the broch in the 18th and 19th centuries, adding to its allure.

Over the years, the broch underwent repairs and reconstructions, with recent 3D laser scanning employed for detailed analysis. Today, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity and endurance of the Iron Age people, captivating visitors with its impressive stature and well-preserved architecture.

Exploring the Broch of Mousa offers a rare opportunity to step back in time and discover the ancient heritage of Scotland.

The Broch of Clickimin

The Broch of Clickimin, located in Lerwick, Shetland, is a well-preserved and restored broch. Originally built on an island in Clickimin Loch, it can be reached by a stone causeway. The broch is unique as it features a large “forework” or “blockhouse” between the enclosure’s opening and the broch itself. It is considered one of the best-preserved broch sites in Shetland and is maintained by Historic Scotland.

Situated on the south shore of Clickimin Loch, the broch sits on a small promontory extending into the loch. It has an external diameter of approximately 20 meters and an internal diameter of around 9 meters.

Surrounding the broch is a stone-walled fort comprising a blockhouse and ringwork. Access to the broch is through the entrance on the western side, which may have had a “guard cell” at one point.

Inside the broch, there are two ground-level cells, postholes for internal timber buildings, and remnants of radiating stone piers. Additional entrances at upper levels lead to an interior staircase and an intramural gallery. Excavations have uncovered various artifacts such as stone lamps, whetstones, bone and whalebone objects, bronze objects, and fragments of Roman glass.

The broch was initially excavated in 1861-1862 and later restored by the Office of Works between 1908 and 1910 due to vandalism and deterioration. Further excavation work was conducted from 1953 to 1957, suggesting a complex chronology of occupation.

The Broch of Culswick

The Broch of Culswick, an unexcavated coastal broch in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area, including Foula and Vaila isles, and Fitful Head and Fair Isle in the south.

Perched atop a rock platform, the broch reaches a height of approximately 3 meters at its tallest point, although rubble has accumulated in the central area. Drawings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries by Low and Skene depict the broch in a remarkably well-preserved state during that time.

Situated about a kilometer west of Culswick in the parish of Sandsting, the Broch of Culswick stands on a steep and smooth knoll near cliffs and the sea. With an external diameter of around 16 meters, its walls are preserved up to a height of 3.5 meters.

Although the main entrance is clearly visible, it is partially obstructed by debris. Notably, the entrance is adorned with a massive triangular lintel stone. Adjacent to the main entrance, a “guard cell” can be observed on the right side. Inside the broch, the interior is filled with debris, while the inner wall face reveals an upper gallery and another void or doorway.

George Low’s drawing from 1774 provides valuable insights into the previous state of the Culswick Broch. The drawing shows three intact intra-mural galleries situated atop the buried lower storey, along with a scarcement ledge on the inside face.

The broch’s wall, preserved to a height of up to 12 feet (allowing for buried sections near the entrance), exhibits a clear batter on its outer face. The broch stands as an exceptional example of skillful construction using unsuitable stone.

The Stanydale Temple

Stanydale Temple, located on Mainland, Shetland, is a Neolithic site of great intrigue. Situated in a field south of the village of Stanydale, the remains of this once-roofed structure now consist of a large walled enclosure. Although the original purpose remains uncertain, its notable size suggests a potential communal function or the residence of a prominent individual. Designated as a scheduled monument, the site holds historical significance.

The field encompassing the building spans approximately 8 acres and is enclosed by a dry stone wall. Within the field, two smaller stone houses and around 30 mounds of stone can be found, remnants of cleared stones for cultivation purposes.

The settlement likely originated between 2500 and 2000 BC when Neolithic farmers first arrived in Shetland. Excavations have revealed evidence of occupation during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age as well.

The smaller houses feature a central space and smaller rooms, while the main building possesses a distinct heel-shaped design with a concave facade. An alcove outside the door suggests a possible guardroom, and the building can be accessed through a short, dog-legged passage. Its walls enclose an oval area with six shallow recesses.

Excavations have uncovered two post holes containing carbonized remains of 10-inch-wide spruce posts, likely driftwood from Scandinavia. The presence of Scots Pine charcoal indicates a wooden ridge roof for the building.

Scottish archaeologist Charles S. T. Calder, who explored the site in 1949, theorized that Stanydale Temple was a temple influenced by Mediterranean designs. While some archaeologists have questioned the “temple” designation, they agree that the building’s unique characteristics suggest communal use or association with a high-status individual.

Discoveries within the site include pottery sherds, burnt barley grains, and remains of sheep and cattle. Saddle-querns and grain-rubbers found in one of the buildings indicate the grinding of barley. Stanydale Temple offers a glimpse into the past, posing intriguing questions about its purpose and significance within the Neolithic landscape of Shetland.

Old Scatness Broch & Iron Age Village

Old Scatness is a historic site located on Scat Ness, near the village of Scatness in Dunrossness parish, Shetland. It has served as a settlement for thousands of years, evolving with each generation’s construction and renovation. The site encompasses remains from various eras, including the medieval, Viking, Pictish, and Iron Age periods. Notable discoveries include the Ness of Burgi fort, an Iron Age broch.

Unearthed during airport improvement work in the late 1970s, the site has been extensively excavated and documented by the University of Bradford, professional archaeologists, and local volunteers since 1995. The findings reveal a multi-period settlement featuring brochs, wheelhouses, and later dwellings.

Managed by the Shetland Amenity Trust, Old Scatness offers guided tours in the summer, showcasing replica Iron Age and Pictish buildings. The visitor center hosts exhibits and demonstrations of ancient crafts.

The broch at the center of the settlement stands several meters high, displaying a weathered outer wall. It underwent three significant usage phases, including the construction of the primary tower, a rebuilding of the interior with added structures and piers, and the creation of an additional building inside the broch with curvilinear cells and a corridor.

The settlement’s boundaries are established on the western side of the broch. Noteworthy features include a large circular aisled roundhouse, a second building, and an oval-shaped roundhouse. Additional structures and unique architectural elements, such as inward-tilting stones and a semi-subterranean building, contribute to the site’s historical significance.

Artifacts from the later Iron Age buildings suggest Viking reuse, while evidence of post-medieval activity includes a 17th-century barn and corn-drier. The site also contains a crofthouse constructed in the mid-19th century on its north side.

The Broch of West Burrafirth

The Broch of West Burrafirth, an Iron Age structure, is located on the west side of Mainland, Shetland, specifically on a low rocky islet known as the Holm of Hebrista. Positioned near the head of West Burra Firth, access to the site is limited to low tide or by boat, as the causeway connecting it to the shore is no longer discernible.

Although the broch is in a dilapidated state with significant debris, certain features can still be identified. The entrance, obstructed by stones, retains the visible lintel at its inner end. Two guard cells flank the entrance passage. Internally, the broch exhibits four mural cells, including two with a dumbbell shape and short passages connecting their halves. Recognized as a scheduled monument, it serves as an archaeological landmark.

The broch’s overall diameter measures 58 feet, and the wall thickness averages 15 feet. Approached through a cleft in the rocks, the entrance faces the Firth and is currently sealed off. The original layout of the broch is partially obscured by fallen materials.

The plan reveals the presence of four additional chambers within the wall thickness, with two oval-shaped cells and two shaped like dumbbells. One of the dumbbell cells is accessible via a short entrance passage, while the other features a longer passage that turns at an angle, resembling the entrance to one of the oval cells.

The purpose and characteristics of the fourth chamber remain uncertain. Adjacent to the debris-filled interior, there is a scarcement approximately 9 to 11 inches wide, aligning with the remaining lintel stone of the entrance passage. Above the scarcement, the wall exhibits a slight inward batter.

The broch’s entrances and cells are associated with openings closed by lintels, forming the lower part of a vertical series of similar openings commonly found in brochs. Unfortunately, the upper components of the series, along with the galleries and staircase, have been lost over time.

Overall, the Broch of West Burrafirth stands as a testament to the Iron Age history of the region, its distinct features providing insights into the architectural and functional aspects of ancient brochs.

The Muness Castle

Muness Castle, Scotland’s most northerly fortification, is situated in the southeastern corner of Unst, one of the Shetland Islands. Located near the rocky headland of Mu Ness, it lies approximately 3 kilometers east of the village of Uyeasound.

To reach the castle, one can follow the main road northwest from the Belmont ferry terminal for two miles and then take a right turn towards Uyeasound, where clear signposts direct visitors to Muness Castle.

The castle’s gray stone walls blend harmoniously with the surrounding farm buildings, but it is easily identifiable. Remaining today are two and a half storeys of the original three-storey z-plan castle, distinguished by circular corner towers instead of the more common square design. Decorative corbelling, once supporting turrets at the second-floor level, can still be observed on the remaining corners.

During its prime, Muness Castle boasted a walled courtyard on its southwestern side, likely accommodating additional structures such as living quarters, a bakehouse, brewery, stables, and possibly a chapel. Although these ancillary buildings have since disappeared, their stone may still be seen in the nearby structures.

Access to the castle’s interior is provided through a well-protected door in the southwestern wall. The ground floor encompasses a sizable kitchen and a series of cellars, one of which now serves as a display area for decorative stones and loopholes from the castle.

On the first floor, the main hall served as the hub of social and business activities, flanked by chambers at either end. The principal chamber, situated farthest from the main stairs, offers a glimpse of the remains of a private spiral staircase that once ascended to the no-longer-existent second floor.

Astute castle enthusiasts may notice similarities between Muness Castle, Scalloway Castle on Mainland, and the Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall, Orkney. These structures were all constructed during the same era by the same family. Muness Castle was erected in 1598 by Laurence Bruce, the half-brother of Robert Stewart, the Earl of Orkney.

Bruce, appointed Sheriff of Shetland, embarked on its construction before Earl Patrick Stewart commenced work on Scalloway Castle. Notably, all three castles were designed by Andrew Crawford.

Laurence Bruce had legitimate concerns about his safety. In 1608, Earl Patrick arrived in Unst with a contingent of 36 men and artillery, intending to capture or destroy Muness Castle. However, they inexplicably withdrew, leaving Bruce’s castle unharmed. Yet, this respite proved temporary. In 1627, French raiders attacked and set fire to Muness Castle. Although it underwent repairs, the castle fell out of use by the end of the 17th century.

In 1713, the Dutch East India Company rented the castle to store cargo salvaged from the nearby wreck of the Rhynenburgh. The Bruce family sold Muness Castle in 1718, and by 1750, its new owners had also abandoned it. By 1774, the castle had become roofless, standing as a testament to its historical significance. Today, it is a scheduled monument and operated as a museum by Historic Environment Scotland.

The Scalloway Castle

Scalloway Castle, situated in Scalloway on the Shetland Mainland, is a tower house constructed in 1600 by Patrick Stewart, the 2nd Earl of Orkney, during his period of rule in Shetland.

Stewart’s father, Robert Stewart, an illegitimate son of King James V, gained control over Orkney and Shetland in 1564 and became a powerful yet controversial figure in the region. Despite his land seizures and mismanagement of taxes, Robert Stewart was granted the titles of Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland. However, he faced opposition from local landowners and eventually fell out of favor with King James VI, dying destitute in 1593.

Robert Stewart’s son, Patrick, who had a strained relationship with his father, remained in the king’s favor and was appointed Lord of Shetland in 1590. Following the grant of his Earldom, Patrick initiated the construction of Scalloway Castle, which was completed around 1607.

While his primary residence was the Earl’s Palace in Birsay, Orkney, Scalloway Castle served as his representative’s base in Shetland and hosted meetings of the Shetland parliament. The castle was built using unpaid workers from Shetland, overseen by Andrew Crawford, Patrick’s master of works, who was likely involved in the construction of Patrick’s Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall and Muness Castle on Unst.

In 1609, the Shetland landowners lodged complaints about Earl Patrick’s misrule, leading to his imprisonment at Edinburgh Castle. He was executed in 1615 for encouraging his son’s attempt to reclaim the Orkney possessions.

Control of the islands was then handed over to James Law, the Bishop of Orkney, who held his first court at Scalloway Castle in August 1612. Troops were stationed in the castle in 1653, and by the early 18th century, its condition deteriorated. Some of its ornamental stonework was repurposed in the construction of the Haa of Sand, an 18th-century house.

Scalloway Castle, maintained by Historic Scotland, is an L-plan structure, consisting of a main tower measuring 18 by 10 meters and a square wing to the southwest measuring 8 meters. With four storeys and an additional garret, the castle features a tunnel-vaulted ground level housing kitchens, stores, and a well.

A straight staircase leads to the first-floor hall, while spiral stairs provide access to the upper levels. Decorative corbelling supports bartizans (corner towers) around the third floor. The castle bears an inscription above the door, now illegible, but recorded in the 18th century as referencing Patrick Stewart, the Earl of Orkney and Shetland, and a saying about the strength of foundations.

Scalloway Castle is a scheduled monument, and archaeological excavations conducted in 1979–1980 unearthed remains of 17th-century outbuildings north of the tower.

St Olaf’s Church, Unst

St. Olaf’s Church, Unst, is a medieval ruin situated on the island of Unst in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Built in the twelfth century in the Celtic style, the church is surrounded by a burial ground containing early medieval stone crosses. The site was designated as a scheduled monument by Historic Environment Scotland in 1957.

Located northwest of the hamlet of Lund, the roofless St. Olaf’s Church is a rectangular structure measuring 14.5 m by 6.76 m. The walls, constructed with local rubble in lime mortar, range in thickness from 1.1 m to 1.37 m. A section of the eastern part of the building has been reconstructed, and the overall condition of the structure is poor. The church was active until 1785.

While the original rectangular doorway at the west end of the south wall is now covered, an arched doorway in the west gable serves as the current entrance. The church features Celtic-style inclined jambs. Inside, there are memorials to the Mouat family and a stone slab from 1573 marking the grave of Segebad Detkin.

Notably, a decorative carving of a fish or serpent on a lintel above one of the windows predates its use in the church. The surrounding graveyard, which continues to be used, contains eight small stone crosses dating from the ninth to twelfth centuries.

St. Olaf’s Church and its associated burial ground hold historical significance and have been recognized as a scheduled monument since 1957.

Fort Charlotte, Lerwick

Fort Charlotte, located in Lerwick, Shetland, is an artillery fort with a roughly five-sided structure. It features bastions on three landward corners and half-bastions on the seaward face. Replica guns have been placed to recreate the fort’s appearance in the 1780s, positioned in a battery protected by a zig-zag parapet wall facing Bressay Sound.

The fort’s first iteration was constructed between 1652 and 1653 during the First Anglo-Dutch War, but little is known about its original form and no remains have been discovered.

The second structure, built in 1665 by Robert Mylne under the orders of Charles II during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, cost £28,000. Despite its unfinished walls and limited number of guns, it successfully defended against a Dutch fleet in 1667, creating the impression of a heavily manned and armed fort. However, it was later slighted and left unmanned when the Dutch burned it in 1673 during the Third Anglo-Dutch War.

The fort was rebuilt in its current design in 1781, named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III. Since then, it has not seen any active military action. It served as a garrison during the Napoleonic Wars and later became a base for the Royal Naval Reserve.

Throughout its history, the fort has fulfilled various roles, including housing a town jail, courthouse, custom house, and coastguard station between 1837 and 1875.

Over time, the waterfront area has been reclaimed for development, including the construction of the Esplanade, Victoria Pier, and docks to the north. As a result, Fort Charlotte has become surrounded by the town and is now hidden among the surrounding streets and buildings. Its layout and scale are best observed from the air or when inside the fort itself.

Presently, Historic Environment Scotland manages Fort Charlotte, and it serves as the base for Shetland’s Army Reserves.

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