If you dock in Lerwick for only 1/2 a day you have two choices –
1 – stay in town where you can go to the Museum (free and terrific) and then wander through shops
2 – take a tour out to Jarlshof.
The distances involved are such that doing both really aren’t possible, at least if you tour doesn’t leave till right about the time that the shops open.
Deciding to use my brain (I don’t need more yarn, patterns or fridge magnets) I did a last minute dash and slide to join our tour group right before it departed the harbor. The drive through the countryside was lovely. Mostly rolling hills covered with grass and underlaid by peat. You can’t live anywhere on this island more than ~ 3 miles from the coast so orientation toward the North Sea vs the Atlantic is relatively important. Economic wise – there is fishing, North Sea Oil, Tourism and land based agriculture (think sheep and whisky).
Jarlshof itself is fascinating. The site was covered for centuries before a huge storm moved sand to expose what appeared to be a pre-historic site. Unusual for such locations, the remains of the iron/bronze age ruins, the Viking Long houses and the more modern (medieval is modern?) were not layered on each other but were built out and around each other.
Like you would expect, I still don’t have photos. Well I do, but no way to upload which I will start doing when I arrive home on the 16th. We were back on the ship which sailed about 1330 heading toward Norway.
(and yes, Cat is correct, Kirkwall is the town, Orkney is the island upon which it is located)