The Hjaltadans Stone Circle – Fetlar, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Fetlar, Scotland

The Hjaltadans Stone Circle

On a remote island, legend has it that a fiddler and his wife were turned to stone.  

If you are fortunate enough to negotiate the rugged, peaty, boggy landscape of Vord Hill on the remote island of Fetlar, you might be rewarded with a closer look at the Hjaltadans Stone Circle. Many visitors and even local residents who have attempted to visit the circle come away disappointed.

The Hjaltadans Stone Circle is considered to have been built in the Neolithic period and consists of a ring (37ft in diameter) of 38 stones with two stones in the center. The story goes that the two pillars are the remains of a fiddler and his wife, who got so carried away playing music, the sun rose and turned the two of them to stone. The surrounding stones are considered to be the immortalized guardian ‘trows’ (Shetland Island equivalent of trolls). 

The name ‘Hjaltadans’ has been said to originate from another way of spelling ‘Shetland’ - Hjaltland and also old Norse for the hilt of a sword: hjalt. The name: Hjalti is an Icelandic male name.

On one of the aerial photos, you can see the vestiges of the most Northern part of the Finniegirt Dyke; a wall supposedly built by the magical race of people called the Finns. This ancient wall cut the island (uncannily accurate) into two parts: East and West. Parts of it are still visible across the island. Myth has it that the Finns were shape-shifters and there are many stories attributed to them across the Shetland Islands and further afield in Europe; however, Fetlar boasts of having more Finn stories attributed to it than any other island on Shetland.

Nearby, and even harder to reach is the Fiddlers Crus. This stone circle consists of three rings of stone and was likely to be the place of a ‘Thing’ or ‘Ting’ where local justice was carried out before it became centralized on the mainland of Shetland.

The Hjaltadans and the Fiddlers Cruss stone circles feature strongly in a fictional Fetlar novel series called ‘The AdderStane’. It is replete with fact and fiction and according to one of the guides at the local museum/Interpretive Centre has been said to be a ‘reference work’ for the island of Fetlar.

Know Before You Go

Fetlar is nearer to Norway than the furthest Northern reaches of the UK. You can travel there by plane or overnight ferry from Aberdeen, Scotland. It is advisable to hire a car as public transport to Fetlar will only be one connection, once a day and you would need to stay overnight and travel back via the North Isles bus the following day at the earliest.

If you travel by car, you have more options as Fetlar is well served by an inter-island ferry. It is still a two and a half hour journey from mainland Lerwick to Fetlar, longer if you are arriving by plane at Sumburgh Airport. After miles of road, you will have to make two ferry crossings before you arrive on the remote island of Fetlar. The Bluemull Sound is the longest ferry ride from Gutcher, Yell to Fetlar - 20 mins - and can sometimes be a little rough due to competing tides in the Bluemull Sound. The inter-island ferry timetable can be hard to understand, so it might be worth studying it well before having to use it in a hurry! Accommodation is limited, so it is best to book in advance.

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