Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Watlee, rectangular house to north west of chambered cairn, Unst

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.7256 / 60°43'32"N

Longitude: -0.9091 / 0°54'32"W

OS Eastings: 459609

OS Northings: 1205214

OS Grid: HP596052

Mapcode National: GBR S03D.80C

Mapcode Global: XHF7B.LNHZ

Entry Name: Watlee, rectangular house to NW of chambered cairn, Unst

Scheduled Date: 30 March 1998

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7655

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: house

Location: Unst

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a sub-rectangular house of probable Viking or Norse-Medieval date, in an unusual inland location.

The house lies at the foot of a low rocky step on a NW-facing hillside above Loch of Watlee. Its remains take the form of an elongated foundation, aligned approximately NW-SE, up and down the slope. It measures (internally) 16m long by 4m wide. The long walls are slightly bowed, and the more northerly is formed of substantial boulders.

There is a gap in the lower gable and two opposed gaps in the long walls. A small enclosure, perhaps a yard, appears to be attached to the N side, and may be contemporary, as may other less distinct traces of field walling nearby. In addition, there is a much later near-square enclosure nearby to the E.

Current typologies of house plan would place this site earlier rather than later in the Viking-Norse-Medieval timespan.

The area to be scheduled is a square of side 50m, bounded on the SE by the foot of the steep rocky step, to include the house and attached enclosure, the traces of field walls, the later square enclosure and an area around these features in which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a rare occurrence of a house of probable early Norse date identifiable on field characteristics. It gains additional importance as a member of a group of several such sites on the island of Unst. The important evidence regarding Norse settlement and agricultural economy which this monument can provide could be further expanded by comparative study of the related monuments in the island, several of which are being scheduled at this time.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Stummann-Hansen, S. (1994) Report No. 7. Watlee.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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