Tour Guide Wanted for Prehistoric Wonder in Scotland

The prehistoric site of Jarlshof includes Iron Age, Norse and Scottish settlements dating back over 4,000 years. (Photo: Stephan Ridgway/flickr)

If your idea of the perfect summer job includes regaling tourists with stories of human history spanning thousands of years, a recent job vacancy at one of Scotland's best known prehistoric archaeological sites might be worth pursuing.

Historic Environment Scotland, a government agency tasked with protecting the country's vast history, is seeking a guide to help lead tours and maintain the ruins of Jarlshof. Located in the Shetland Islands, the site represents thousands of years of human occupation, with the main settlement dating as far back as 2500 B.C. to the Bronze Age.

The ruins of Jarlshof are located near the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland, close to the settlements of Sumburgh and Grutness. (Photo: Ronnie Robertson/flickr)

Subsequent inhabitants from the Iron Age to later Pictish and Norse peoples built their settlements in and on the remains of previous structures. Ruins of note include a Bronze Age smithy, Iron Age roundhouses, a Viking longhouse, and a medieval stone farmhouse abandoned in the 17th century. It's estimated that the site was in constant use for at least 4,000 years.

Remains of a wheelhouse at Jarlshof dating back to the late Iron Age-Early Medieval eras. (Photo: Cowrin/flickr)

While Jarlshof today enjoys international fame and annual visits from thousands of tourists, it wasn't until the late 19th century that the site was known. A violent storm in 1897 eroded a massive part of the promontory on which the site resides, exposing the ancient structures hidden within its banks. A landowner by the name of John Bruce began the initial excavations, with archaeologists exposing the rest of the ruins over the next 50 years.

The maze of tunnels and hidden outcrops represent thousands of years of human occupation. (Photo: Lindy Buckley/flickr)

Jarlshof, which means "earl's house," was given to the site by Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, who set part of his 1821 novel "The Pirate" within the medieval stone farmhouse that rises above the wind-swept promontory. Scott's description of the brutal climate paints a vivid picture of the difficult conditions generations of settlers likely faced.

"Amid this desolation, the inhabitants of Jarlshof had contrived, by constant labour and attention, to keep in order a few roods of land, which had been enclosed as a garden, and which, sheltered by the walls of the house itself, from the relentless sea-blast, produced such vegetables as the climate could bring forth, or rather as the sea-gale would permit to grow; for these islands experience even less of the rigour of cold than is encountered on the mainland of Scotland; but, unsheltered by a wall of some sort of other, it is scarce possible to raise even the most ordinary culinary vegetables; and as for shrubs or trees, they are entirely out of the question, such is the force of the sweeping sea-blast."

The Old House of Sumburgh dates from the early 17th century. (Photo: Stephan Ridgway/flickr)

In 2013, Historic Environment Scotland captured an aerial view of the site utilizing a camera attached to a kite and added CGI footage to show how the various settlements appeared over thousands of years. It's offers not only a spectacular look at the vast size of Jarlshof, but also a reminder of just how many lives played out on this rugged point of rock and sand.

Those interested in making Jarlshof a part of their own work history, can apply here. The gig, which includes a salary of between £16,800 - £17,914 (roughly $24,500) for 22.5 hours per week, runs until the end of September.

Sunset at Jarlshof (bottom right) over the Scatness peninsula. (Photo: Ronnie Robertson/flickr)