Blog – Huxter Fort: Whalsay: Loch of Huxter: Loch of Hogsetter: Haugh Setter.

  • Huxter.
  • Shetland.
  • OSGB – HU 55865 62005.
  • Scheduled Monument.
  • Monument Number – Canmore 1320.


Iron Age. Blockhouse Fort. Gatehouse Fort. Causeway.

This amazing little site sits on an island on the southern shore of the Loch of Huxter. It is approached by a short causeway. The causeway measures 19.5m in length and between 1.8 and 3.6m in width.

Plan of Huxter Fort

The actual site was surrounded by a dry stone ring wall forming an enclosure – however, it is believed that this wall is a later addition to the original buildings constructed on this site. The wall measured 1.2-1.5m and had a diameter of 21.4m.

The site is described as a blockhouse – a defensive structure – but also as a gatehouse fort. The gatehouse measured 12.5m in length with walls of 3.4m thick. It included a central passageway through which the internal area of the site was accessed. The gatehouse included two chambers – one to the north and one to the south. The northern chamber measured 4.27m by 1.22m, with the southern chamber measuring 3.2m by 1.07m. In the main area of the gatehouse were the remains of a door frame.

The site is unusual in the fact that it does not show, or has shown, any signs of defense. The walling was not that of the defensive type and it is believed that the site may have stood alone as a residence, albeit an isolated one.

Huxter Fort.
By Robert Sandison, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The main walling of the site resembles that of a Broch and stands separate from the surrounding wall. It was recorded that there was evidence of a second storey, however no evidence of a staircase, or stairwell, has been identified. But – that does not mean there wasn’t one – the site has never been excavated. There is also the possibility that there may have been timber buildings erected within this area, but that would need to be confirmed through archaeology.

There is evidence of two small round structures within the site, however, these were a later addition.

Aerial View of Huxter Fort, Shetland.

The Iron Age period in the Shetland Island dates from 800BC to 400AD, this is the period that the first iron items have been found in the Islands. The Iron Age date for this site has been questioned though, and again this query can only be answered after the site has been investigated archaeologically.

Huxter Fort is believed to be contemporary with the other sites of Clickhimin, Scatness and the Ness of Burgi, but is still believed to have been occupied in isolation from these and not formed part of a complex of sites. These sites all have the same building style and were either constructed at a time where this was the style, or may have been constructed by extended family who knew the style – all debatable!

There are scant remains today as the stone has been robbed over the years, particularly for the building of the local school.


Timeline for the site,

100BC               Believed to date from.

1863                 Remains of the site included a second floor, but this was dismantled when stone was taken to build the local school.

1935                 Field Investigation. Enclosing wall measured to a height of three courses.

1946                 Field Investigation. Surveyed.

1963                 The gatehouse walling stood to a height of 2.4m.

1968                 Field Investigation.


I leave you with the words of archaeologist Sir Barry Cunliffe,

“All, in their initial stages, were free-standing, all were sited on promontories or islands, and none makes sense as defence or as settlement. It is tempting to suggest that in their style of architecture – appearing as monumental gateways – and their liminal locations they may have served as foci for rituals associated with the passage between land and sea” (Cunliffe, 2010).


Iron Age Fort, Loch of Huxter, Whalsay, Shetland
Looking south east across the Loch of Huxter at the remains of the Iron Age Fort situated on an islet in the loch. In the background is the Ward of Hevdafield.
By John Dally, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Further Questions –

  • No archaeological investigations have been undertaken at the site. Why?
  • Are any archaeological investigations planned?
  • How high did the blockhouse and the internal building stand?
  • What was this sites purpose?
  • How long was this site inhabited for?
  • Why was the site abandoned?



References & Bibliography.

Breeze. D. J., & Fairhurst. H. 1984. Excavations at Crosskirk Broch, Caithness. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Carter. S., McCullagh. R. P. J., & MacSween. A. 1996. The Iron Age in Shetland: Excavations at Five Sites Threatened by Eoastal erosion. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 125, 429-482. Retrieved from

Cunliffe. B. 2010. Iron Age Communities in Britain: An Account of England, Scotland and Wales from the Seventh Century BC Until the Roman Conquest. Taylor & Francis.

Halliday. S., & Ralston. I. 2022. The Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland: A Consideration of the Coastal and Inland Promontory Forts and Enclosures of Scotland. In Wendy Morrison (Ed.). 2022. Challenging Preconceptions of the European Iron Age. Essays in Honour of Professor John Collis. pp. 1-20.

Harding. D. W. 2004. The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, Natives and Invaders. Routledge.

Harding. D. W. 2012. Iron Age Hillforts in Britain and Beyond. Oxford University Press.

Harding. D. W. 2017. The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Britons and Romans, Natives and Settlers. Taylor & Francis.

Henderson. J. 2007. The Atlantic Iron Age: Settlement and Identity in the First Millennium BC. Taylor & Francis.

MacKie. E W. 1965. The Origin and Development of The Broch and Wheelhouse Building Cultures of The Scottish Iron Age. Proceedings of the Prehistorical Society, vol. 31, 1965. pp. 101-2 128,

Mitchell. A. 1881. Notice of Buildings designed for Defence on an Island in a Loch at Hogsetter, in Whalsay, Shetland. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 15, 303-315.

Ritchie. J. N. G. 2019. Scotland: Archaeology and Early History. A General Introduction. Edinburgh University Press.

Tudor. J. R. 1883. The Orkneys and Shetland: Their Past and Present State. E. Stanford.

Turner. V. 1998. Ancient Shetland. B. T. Batsford.


Image References. Huxter Fort Connected to the shore by a stone built causeway this iron-age blockhouse still has some fine walling visible, although a great many stones must have been taken away for other use throughout the centuries. By Robert Sandison, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Iron_Age_Fort,_Loch_of_Huxter,_Whalsay, Looking south east across the Loch of Huxter at the remains of the Iron Age Fort situated on an islet in the loch. In the background is the Ward of Hevdafield. By John Dally, CC BY-SA 2.0,



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