The name Sumburgh comes from Norse – Sunn Borg, the South Broch. The 56 foot high white tower has walls with two leafs of masonry to keep out the driving rain, a very early form of cavity wall.
The site is understood to have been a much earlier Iron Age Fort. In addition to the early 19th century and early 20th century lighthouse buildings, the site also includes the remains of WWII concrete buildings which were a Chain Home Low Radar Station, one of the earliest in the UK. In 1991 the Station was fully automated and the keepers finally left the Station. The former keepers cottages and out buildings (not the tower) are now owned by the Shetland Amenity Trust.
The work involved the repair and restoration of the existing group of small scale buildings at the site. The project aimed to improve the access and facilities at the site and provide significantly improved interpretation of the special natural, cultural, archaeological and technological histories of the site. The build project included a small exhibition within a former keeper’s house covering the history and wild life at the site; offices for the RSPB; the display of various elements of technology related to the light and fog horn; and interpretation of the WW2 history of the site (in particular the experimental use of radar on the site). Holiday accommodation is also provided in one of the former keeper’s houses. A new education room was constructed at the site for visitors and school parties. Work also included improvements on the access to and the parking at the site.
The project involved close coordination and liaison with the various stakeholders including Historic Scotland (Listed Buildings & Archaeology), Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA, Shetland Amenity Trust as client, RSPB as tenants, Shetland Islands Council (Planners, Roads, Building Control), local land owners and the local community. Additionally, the various funders who include the Scottish Rural Development Programme, European Rural Development Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish RSPB, the Wolfson Foundation, Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Development Trust and Shetland Amenity Trust.