Vikings

The name of Scalloway is a derivative of the older Norse name Skalavagr, which is translated as either “the bay of the huts” or “the bay of the hall” according to different sources, which in either respect places Scalloway firmly on the Viking map as a place of occupation of some type. How much they themselves occupied the area is unclear, but an arcaeological excavation of Upper Scalloway in 1989/90 revealed that an earlier broch and settlement located there were demolished to a further extent during the time of Viking migrations to Shetland and a scattering of fish bones and some artefacts suggest the nearby location of a Viking settlement of some kind.

Another historical aspect of Viking presence in Scalloway is the theory that further travelled chieftains travelling to the lawting, or parliament, up the valley in Tingwall would have moored their vessels in Scalloway to travel the short distance to the central meeting place. The lawting, or ting, was a gathering of leaders to sort out local civil and punitive issues in a form of early democratic rule. The word “law” is¬† itself a Viking word and the literal translation of the English term “by-law” literally translated as town-law from the Norse origin for localised legislation.

The lawting at Tingwall was located on a small promontory  at the northern end of the Tingwall loch.

Incidentally, as a later addition, the excavations at Upper Scalloway also revealed a Mediaeval graveyard. It is assumed this would have had a chapel associated to it, but this has never been found.

The Voling heritage of the area and Shetland in general is celebrated each year at the beginning of January at Scalloway’s own Fire Festival.