I wanted to visit the Jarlshof next to the Sumburgh Hotel, though had avoided it yesterday afternoon thinking the carpark at the hotel would be overfull with Mothering Sunday lunchers. I hadn’t realised how large the hotel and grounds are, and would have been fine, but was pleased to have spent such a perfect evening and morning at St. Ninian's Isle, and having turned back to Sumburgh I had the best of days there as well.
The hotel is a vast and rambling mansion. Victorian to look at but dating back much earlier. In fact the site there has been occupied for millennia, and in the grounds of the hotel is the world famous Jarlshof or Earl's House. The largest ruin has always been visible and is the remains of a 16th C house destroyed in a local argument between landowners and not rebuilt, but back in the 19th C a huge storm (probably the same one that uncovered Skara Brae in Orkney) washed away part of the cliffs to reveal a settlement dating back to the stone age. As an aside I doubt if in those days they had to put up with endless doom and gloom about Global Warming, which since the weather has got colder is now called Climate Change. Still perhaps they did. In our day it is all our fault as consumers, and to help us mend our ways a judicious use of extra taxation will make things better. In those days when the church held more sway I expect they were told they were causing it through immorality, and by giving more money to the church they would make things better.
Arriving at The Jarlshof it informed me admittance was £5 and to pay at the hotel in the out of season months, and as I have established that I am most definitely travelling 'out of season' I headed for the hotel. I joked earlier with one of the Shetlanders saying -I visited Shetland but it was shut – no surely not he said – getting on the internet to prove his point with the various local attractions. Ummm, perhaps you are right! But although a lot of the places are closed I have benefited by having many places to myself, and on balance I am more than pleased I visited at this time of year.
I probably imagined that visiting Shetland in the winter I would be almost driving around in the permafrost, but in fact it has a very maritime climate, warmed by the Gulf Stream, with very little of the island, which is long and thin (ok your geography is better than mine) has very few places which are more than three miles from the sea. The Shetlanders seem to think it has been a very wet winter, but coming up from England it has actually seemed very pleasant, and when it does rain it is rarely for a whole day at a time, or as in 2013/2014 in the Midlands for days and days and days at a time.
The lovely (and very tall) receptionist, who I afterwards learned was called Holly, gave me a neat little audio recorder thingy. I have not done much sightseeing in the last twenty odd years, so anything like this is a complete novelty to me. But it was very good, and gave directions as to how to walk round the site, but if you wanted to take your own route, then at each salient point there was a neat little sign telling you where you had reached on the audio tour. Excellent!
Once again I had the place to myself which, for me, makes everything that much more atmospheric. It is a similar site to Skara Brae, though probably larger, and with more complex buildings. All in all thoroughly enjoyable. It was quite a long walk to get all the way round it, but I took my time and sat down when I could, to give my legs a bit of respite.
Then back to the hotel to return the audio and book us in for the night, not in rooms of course, but round the side of the hotel they have hookup points for several campers, and at only £5 a night all in terrific value. I also booked Sally, Garry and myself in for lunch the following day, which was so good I went back for lunch on my own the next day.
I spent a lovely restful few days there, as I had to stay over waiting for lunch with Sally and Garry, and then I was enjoying it so much I stayed an extra night. The forecast for the Northern Lights was good, and as I was parked up on the side of the hotel, when I popped my head out late on the one evening and could see there was a good chance I wrapped up warm and walked on down to The Jarlshof and sat amongst the ruins watching the lights over the outline of the broken buildings, with the sound of the sea to my left and the cries of some new lambs over to the right, and thought of all the generations of folk who had sat there and listened to the same sights and sounds over the millennia. Magical! And something I will always remember.
I couldn't take you a photo as my skills are not up to it, and in anycase it wouldn't have conveyed my feelings on that midnight at The Jarlshof.
Just a few shots to give a flavour of the place,
but there is a lot more of it and it made for an interesting afternoon