village on Mainland, Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK

Sumburgh is a village near the southern tip of Mainland in the Shetland Islands, with a population in 2011 of about 100. Its main attraction is Jarlshof, continuously inhabited for 4000 years. For convenience other visitor sights and amenities in the bottom ten miles of Mainland are also described here, up as far as Sandwick which is the access for Mousa Broch.

Get in

Beach at Sumburgh

By plane: see Shetland Islands#By plane for flight connections, and car hire and taxis.

1 Sumburgh Airport (LSI  IATA). This is the main airport serving Shetland. Car hire is available.    

By bus: Bus 6 runs from Lerwick daily every 90 min — 2 hours, stopping at the airport, Jarlshof and hotel, adult single fare £2.90.

By boat: a ferry sails between Fair Isle and 2 Grutness. May to Sep it sails once on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, taking 2 hr 40 min; a day trip is not possible. Every two weeks, one sailing is from Lerwick instead of Grutness.

Get around


The airport, hotel and Jarlshof are a short walk apart. You need wheels to reach the further sights.

The main road crosses the airport perimeter and is briefly closed when flights are landing or taking off.

  • 1 Jarlshof, Sumburgh ZE3 9JN, +44 1950 460112. Apr-Sep: daily 9:30AM-5:30PM. A prehistoric site with over 4000 years of human habitation. It has structures from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking and Medieval eras. Not routinely open in winter but enquire at the hotel to see if access is possible. Adult £6, conc £4.80, child £3.60.    
  • 2 Sumburgh Head, Sumburgh ZE3 9JN. Th-M 10AM-5PM. The Head has a lighthouse and visitor centre open in summer, and Nature Reserve open all year. Take care near the east cliffs, which not for nothing are called "The Slithers". Adult £6, conc £4.    
  • 3 Old Scatness, Sumburgh ZE3 9JW. mid-May to Aug. An Iron Age Broch and village, discovered when the main road was built in the 1970s. It was re-used in the Pictish, Viking, medieval and early modern eras.    
  • 4 Ness of Burgi is the peninsula west of Sumburgh, with a stout fort from 100 BC. This was not designed for defence and may have been built to impress, an early "bling-castle". It's free to enter, follow the grassy path from Scatness. The peninsula ends in rocks ("Hog of Ness") with Horse Island half a mile further south.
  • Lady's Holm and Little Holm are the islets west of the Ness, with a teensy-weensy Holm closer inshore.
  • 5 Quendale Watermill, Dunrossness ZE2 9JD (4 miles north of airport), +44 1950 460969 (when open), +44 1950 460550 (at all other times). Mid-Apr to mid-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM. Restored corn mill, built in 1867. Adult £4, conc £3, child £1.
  • The Lost Town of Broo obviously can't be shown on the map, but it's somewhere around Quendale, buried by sand in the 1700s. Work continues to map its extent, and to understand why it was so rapidly engulfed, so you may see archaeologists busily burrowing.
  • Fitful Head is the line of cliffs reached by the track west of Quendale.
  • 6 Crofthouse Museum, Boddam, Dunrossness ZE2 9JG (5 miles north of Sumburgh, in lane off main road), +44 1595 695057. May-Sep: Tu-Su 10AM-1PM, 2-4PM. Small museum in restored traditional croft house. Free (donation).
  • 7 Spiggie Loch and the smaller Brow Loch just south are freshwater lochs with an RSPB reserve.
  • 8 St Ninian's is a "tied island", uninhabited since 1796. In summer a 500-m sand tombolo connects it to Mainland, in winter storms wash this away so (depending on their ferocity) it becomes a true or at least a tidal island. There's the ruins of a 12th-century chapel; in 1958 a hoard of 8th-century silverware was discovered within. These are now in the National Museum in Edinburgh, with replicas in the Shetland Museum in Lerwick.
  • 9 Mousa is an uninhabited island on the east coast ten miles north of Sumburgh, with a broch — an Iron Age tower, the best preserved in Britain. You clamber in along a passage through the thick stone wall. In summer a boat runs to Mousa from Leebitton, near Sandwick off the main road to Lerwick.
  • Say hello to Shetland ponies, they seem to appreciate this, but don't feed them. See Bressay for their history.

Souvenirs are available at Jarlshof and the hotel.

Mousa Broch

Sumburgh Hotel has the West Voe restaurant.



Sumburgh Hotel has a small public bar independent of the dining room.


  • 1 Sumburgh Hotel, ZE3 9JN, +44 1950 460201, fax: +44 1950 460394, . Baronial-style small hotel with decent bar and restaurant. Near Jarlshof and airport. B&B double from £110.
  • The lighthouse has self-catering accommodation. They also run Bressay and Eshaness lighthouse accommodation.



As of Nov 2021, Sumburgh and the main road have 4G with EE but no signal from other carriers. 5G has not yet rolled out in Shetland.

Go next

  • Go north by road to Lerwick and the rest of Mainland Shetland.
  • Take the ferry to Fair Isle, but you'll have to sail back here.

This city travel guide to Sumburgh is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.