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Heading for the stars in Shetland

Press Release   •   Oct 20, 2016 13:44 BST

A unique visitor attraction in Shetland which allows people to delve into more than 4,000 years of human settlement has been awarded VisitScotland’s highest Quality Assurance grading.

Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements, in Sumburgh, managed by Historic Environment Scotland, have attained their 5 Star Historic Attraction Quality Assurance award from the national tourism organisation.

Visitors to Jarlshof can journey from prehistory into history. Neolithic people first settled on this site around 2700 BC and it remained in use until the AD 1600s. Vikings from Norway settled at Jarlshof in the 800s. The traditional longhouse at the heart of the farm is still clearly visible.

The farmstead grew and shrank in size over some 12 to 16 generations. By the late 1200s, this settlement had been replaced by a farmhouse to the east, with a barn and corn kilns attached.

The headland above the natural harbour of West Voe was the ideal place to settle for communities spanning several millennia. Layer upon layer of settlement built up on the headland. Earlier houses were abandoned and later ones built on top. Sand blown by the wind from the nearby dunes settled in between the layers and eventually sealed and protected the whole site.

Storms eventually revealed the hidden site in the 1890s and excavations then, as well as in the 1930s and 1950s, uncovered the remarkable sequence of stone structures spanning the low headland that are still visible today.

Developed and improved for over 30 years, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance (QA) schemes are world-leading and provide a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. They allow businesses not just to meet visitor expectations, but exceed them.

QA can open the door to new customers. It is a powerful marketing tool and works well with online review sites in using an independent perspective to measure visitor experience against tried and tested criteria, so visitors know exactly what to expect.

Susan Loch, Head of Visitor Operations and Community Engagement at Historic Environment Scotland, said:

Providing great customer service is important to us at Historic Environment Scotland, so we are really pleased that the team at Jarlshof have been recognised for their world class service with an upgrade to a five star visitor attraction.

“Jarlshof is a monument rich in history and has a range of different types of interpretation, which all help our visitors to engage with and learn about the history of the site and Shetland. It is great to see that this has been recognised by VisitScotland, and has helped Jarlshof become a five star visitor attraction.”

Steve Mathieson, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said:

“Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlements thoroughly deserve this recognition following all the excellent work done at the site, which is one of the best known and important of Shetland’s numerous world-class archaeological sites.

“This historic attraction is an ideal fit for Scotland’s themed year for 2017 – the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Discoveries made here include a wide range of archaeological treasures in one place, such as late Neolithic houses, a Bronze Age village, an Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, a Norse longhouse, a medieval farmstead and a 16th century laird’s house.

“Our Quality Assurance scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door - it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as it can possibly be.”

For more information on Jarlshof, visit:

For more information on VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme, please

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