Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ness of Burgi Blockhouse, Scatness

The Scat Ness peninsula, just SW of Sumburgh airport, is a headland less than a kilomtre across at its widest point and is about 2.3km long. The area is exceptionally well populated with Iron Age sites, with brochs at Scatness (HU 390 106), Jarlshof (HU 397 096) and Toab (HU 389105). The promontory itself has two sites - the much eroded Scat Ness Blockhouse (HU 389 086), half of which has fallen into the sea and the Ness of Burgi blockhouse (HU 387 084). There is also a promontory fort under the lighthouse at Sumburgh (HU 407 079).

To get to the Blockhouse go to the end of the Scatness road and go through the gate following the track alongside the dry stone dyke. 
The blockhouse is almost at the end of the peninsula (its just visible in this picture), follow the track.
Along the east side of the peninsula are some excellent examples of Devonian Conglomerate - previously blogged here.
The upper part of this entire small peninsula is conglomerate.
Near the end is a narrow part of the track that is being eroded. A walkway handrail has been provided to enable a safe crossing of this narrow part of the track.

After the narrow eroded area the peninsula opens up to a flat grassy area with the blockhouse at the end.

The Iron Age blockhouse.

The blockhouse is a defensive structure in a spectacular position at the southern tip of Scat Ness. The large  blockhouse lies behind two ditches that cut off the promontory from the mainland and, between them, a 6.4m thick stone rampart.

The blockhouse was once 22m long, but its south end has been destroyed by cliff erosion. As visible on the left of the photo, the wall unusually does not reach the cliff edge to the north side.

There is a single entrance leading to a stone-lined passage with door-checks and bar-holes. The blockhouse is 1.5m high and there are three cells within its 6m wide wall. The site was excavated in 1935 and is currenly in the care of Historic Scotland.

The blockhouse with Sumburgh Head and lighthouse in distance.
Looking south from the blockhouse at the extreme tip of Scat Ness and Horse Island.
There's also the opportunity for some excellent views. Looking NW from the entrance of the Scat Ness track, back at Garth's Ness and Fitful Head with the Loch of Gards in the foreground.
The Sumburgh Hotel from Scat Ness with Jarlshof to the left.
Sumburgh Head and Lighthouse from the Ness of Burgi.

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