Unst is the most northerly island in Britain, in the heart of the Viking seaways. It was one of the first landfalls of the westward Viking expansion and is rich in Viking and Norse remains. Over 50 settlement sites have now been identified and Unst therefore has a greater density of rural longhouses than anywhere else, including Scandinavia.
enlarge The excavation of three Viking/Late Norse settlements in Unst forms the centre of the much larger, multi-faceted Viking Unst project, which includes historical research, place names interpretation, landscape survey, environmental history, heritage interpretation and community involvement and regeneration.
Many of the Unst longhouse sites initially appear to be short-lived single phase settlements, often on poorer, less fertile land. Archaeological excavation in Shetland as part of the Viking Unst project has revealed a complex picture, with sites subject to modification, longevity of occupation and idiosyncratic structural details.
During 2010, a replica longhouse will be constructed at Brookpoint, Haroldswick in order to show visitors what a longhouse in Unst might have looked like. Its design is based on the excavation results.
Adjacent, a replica longship, the Skidbladner, is a copy of the 9th century Gokstad ship, discovered in Vestfold, Norway. The Skidbladner was built by a team from Sweden who planned to sail it to North America, emulating the Viking explorer, Leif Eriksson.
A team of demonstrators will work in the longhouse and on the ship during the summer. Visitors can get involved in activities related to Viking life both at home and at sea.