Ancient Monuments

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Inner Skaw, houses and field system, Unst

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.8181 / 60°49'5"N

Longitude: -0.783 / 0°46'58"W

OS Eastings: 466299

OS Northings: 1215643

OS Grid: HP662156

Mapcode National: GBR S0D4.RSR

Mapcode Global: XHF70.7CQ0

Entry Name: Inner Skaw, houses and field system, Unst

Scheduled Date: 2 March 1998

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7664

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 series of farmhouses, the earliest of which may be of early Norse date, and a nearby series of abandoned fields of various dates and forms which would have been associated with different phases of the farming settlement.

The monument lies on either side of a small stream valley draining N to a sandy beach. The settlement site lies just to the N of a wartime access road, immediately N of a modern fence. It comprises the remains of a succession of farmsteads. The most recent of these survives as the ruinous upstanding walls of several rectangular structures grouped around an elongated rectangular house.

These structures are built along the slope. Underneath and to the S of these upstanding remains are the grass-covered footings of a series of earlier structures, all rectangular in plan and all elongated up and down slope. The lowest discernible walls appear to be slightly bowed, which may indicate an early Norse date.

To the NE of the settlement stretch traces of former fields underlying the most recent drystone walls. Immediately N of the settlement these old fields appear to be approximately rectangular on plan, but to the NW, across the stream, the old fields take the form of narrow strips, now marked by lynchets on the hillside, which in places are so pronounced as to resemble deliberately constructed terraces.

The fields themselves show signs of having been created over a period of time, with subdivisions along the strips either being of slighter construction or else falling out of use earlier.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, with maximum dimensions of 260m E-W by 250m N-S, to include the settlement site, its adjoining fields and the area of old fields stretching across to the top of the slope opposite.

It runs to the top of coastal cliffs at the N and on the S is partly bounded by a line running just N of a modern fence. The area is marked in red on the accompanying map extract. All modern fences are excluded from scheduling to simplify maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a remarkably fine example of a long-lived agricultural settlement, which may have its roots in the period immediately after the Norse settlement of Shetland in the ninth century AD, and which has been re-used on several occasions up to the nineteenth century.

The settlement's importance is enhanced by the adjacent field systems, which represent several episodes of use, and although the earliest visible remains are probably Medieval rather than Norse, there is the potential for further investigation to clarify this and the whole settlement sequence.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as HP 61 NE 7

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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