Ancient Monuments

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Erne's Ward, house 270m WNW of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.896 / 59°53'45"N

Longitude: -1.3126 / 1°18'45"W

OS Eastings: 438563

OS Northings: 1112523

OS Grid: HU385125

Mapcode National: GBR R23L.386

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.9JVF

Entry Name: Erne's Ward, house 270m WNW of

Scheduled Date: 13 August 1975

Last Amended: 5 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3723

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument is a prehistoric circular structure, probably a house of the Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, dating to the first or second millennium BC. The monument comprises a discontinuous ring of large stones, some set on edge, with the inner and outer elements forming a near circle about 17m in diameter. A well-defined entrance is visible on the southern edge of the circle, delineated with large earth-fast stones. Within the structure, offset from the centre, there is an oval-shaped mound of earth and stones, standing up to 0.7m in height. The monument lies at about 70m above sea level, on improved grazing land on a W-facing hill, and overlooks the Bay of Quendale about 350m to the west. The monument was first scheduled in 1975 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular, measuring 37m in diameter, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument survives in relatively good condition on improved grazing land. The structure has been interpreted as the remains of a hut circle of probable Bronze Age or Early Iron Age date, which would make it an important survival as hut circles are unusual in Shetland. The circular arrangement of upright stones of medium and large size, with some slabs set on edge, is significantly different from the wide wall-base typical of earlier prehistoric house sites in Shetland. The oval mound in the middle of the stone ring, which shows signs of disturbance on its SW side, has been described variously by researchers as a cairn or the product of more recent dumping. If it is part of the monument, the surrounding stone circle could be the outer kerb of a prehistoric burial cairn. There is only minor evidence of disturbance of the monument and it is therefore likely that the site retains significant archaeological potential. The precise function and date of the monument, and the relationship between the circular stone setting and the oval mound, could only be determined by archaeological excavation.

Contextual characteristics

Our understanding of this monument and its significance is enhanced by its location within a landscape overlooking the Bay of Quendale that is rich in prehistoric monuments. Some 200m to the southeast, a prehistoric house, also identified as a 'hut circle', was excavated during the 1960s and produced Iron Age pottery. To the northwest are located a standing stone, a burnt mound and a field system. The position and significance of this monument in relation to its contemporary agricultural land and settlement is likely to be significant and merits future detailed analysis. This monument has the potential to further our understanding of the structure of prehistoric society in Shetland.

Associative characteristics

The stone circle is named as 'Erne's Ward' on the Ordnance Survey first edition map.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of prehistoric structures. Whether it is a domestic dwelling or a burial monument, the buried evidence could enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly valuable because it lies in a landscape rich in prehistoric monuments of various types, including other settlement remains and cairns, and a standing stone. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of prehistoric monuments within the landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU31SE16. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN573.


Calder, C, S, T, 1965 'Cairns, Neolithic houses and burnt mounds in Shetland', PSAS, 96, 50-52.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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