This Iron Age broch and associated settlement, and later Pictish wheelhouses, was discovered when the airport access road was built..but it took 20 years before it was excavated.
Excavations went on for 11 seasons, and now the site is open to the public.
You will have a guided tour of the excavations themselves and can also send time with the re-enactors who spend time at the site weaving, carving and so on in appropriate costume and using appropriate artefacts. Kids can dress up and play the type of games they would have played in Pictish and Viking times.
The site is only open June - August, from Sunday to Thursday. Opening hours for 2011 are in the photo below.
Even if you have no real interest in birdlife you cannot fail to be impressed by Sumburgh Head, especially if you visit wen the puffins are there (they have mostly left by mid-August).
You can get remarkably close to the colonies of puffins, skuas and fulmars and will see many more birds flying around and past.
You will probably see seals as well, and maybe even whales.
Take your binoculars and enjoy a bracing walk around the cliffs. It's a steepish haul up to the lighthouse but the surface is tarmac, and after that walking is easy on the short springy turf. Much of the site is walled so it's an especially safe place to take children even on the windiest of days (when the sea must be very impressive indeed).
Have a look at Stevenson's lighthouse too. For a structure built in 1821 it is in remarkably good condition..but imagine the effort it must have taken to build!
Parking is free on a tarmac area and there is a grassed overflow area as well.
Lots of info on the RSPB website.
I've written quite a lot on my Sumburgh page, and you can read more at the official website. I especially liked the many querns (grinding stones) which lie on site in exactly the same places as they were abandoned thousands of years ago. It is so easy to imagine the women grinding their grain there, day in and day out.....
If you have any interest in history or archaeology at all then Jarlshof is unmissable. It's easy to tie in your visit with your arrival or departure, because the site is so near the airport.
If you are using the bus, get off at the Sumburgh Hotel. The site is signed from there and accessed through the hotel car park.
Parking is easy (in the hotel car park) and free. Entrance to the site is 5.50GBP, with audiguides provided free.
Open every day from 1 April - 30 September, unless the weather is very extreme. 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
Sumburgh Head, Sumburgh, United Kingdom
Good for: Solo