Ness Of Burgi Promontory Fort
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: A well-preserved Iron Age fort in a stunning location
The Iron Age remains at Ness of Burgi are what is called a promontory fort; that is, one that uses a narrow neck of land with the sea and rocks providing defences on all but one side. On the landward side is a double ditch with a stone rampart between the ditches. The main structure is a blockhouse, linked to the defensive wall.
In the centre of the blockhouse is a low entry passage, similar to those often used for brochs. Anyone entering the blockhouse would have to stoop to access the interior of the fort.
This gatehouse area is defended only by ditches and may simply have been built for show. On either side of the passage are small cells with corbelled ceilings, one linked to the interior and the other to the entrance passage. There is a third mural cell, but this is now blocked. The gatehouse is 74 feet long though it may originally have been longer, and averages about 20 feet wide.
Like brochs, the entrance was defended with bar-holes and door-checks. It seems peculiar that there is no evidence of a wall from the gatehouse to the cliffs on the north of the promontory, otherwise an attacker could simply go around the gatehouse and bypass its defences.
The blockhouse style of structure seems to have been a local Shetland concept. There is a similar structure at Clickimin, where a blockhouse stands in front of a traditional broch tower.
An excavation in 1935 found several pieces of pottery, but another dig in 1983 found no artefacts. Records from 1882 suggest that a pair of carved discs were discovered on the site. If so, they are long lost.
As the saying goes, getting there is half the fun! In this case, it involves getting to the end of the Scatness road, then through a gate to follow a well-defined track beside a stone dyke. Follow the track to the end of the peninsula where the rock is crumbling away. A handrail provides a bit of safety to cross the narrow neck of land, and then the peninsula widens out towards the blockhouse at its very tip.
Ness Of Burgi is an open-access site, in the care of Historic Scotland.
About Ness Of Burgi Promontory Fort
Address: Scatness, Shetland, Shetland, Scotland
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site
Location: At the the south easternmost tip of Scatness, South Shetland, off the A970. Access is a difficult scramble over rocks.
Website: Ness Of Burgi Promontory Fort
Photo Credit: Colin Smith, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement - 0.9 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Shetland Croft House Museum - 3.9 miles (Museum)
Mousa Broch - 10.4 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Scalloway Castle - 19.2 miles (Castle)
Clickimin Broch - 20.6 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Fort Charlotte - 21.2 miles (Historic Building)
Shetland Museum - 21.4 miles (Museum)
Bod of Gremista & Shetland Textile Museum - 22.1 miles (Museum)
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