Lerwick's largest open space lies around the Loch of Clickimin, on the south west side of the town. The most obviously impressive building here is the Clickimin Centre, complete with its sports facilities, swimming pool and camping and caravanning site. But the most enduring building lies on an island connected to the southern shore of the loch and dates back 3,000 years: the Broch of Clickimin. Mousa Broch may be the most well preserved on Shetland, but the Broch of Clickimin is certainly the most easily accessible.
About 1000BC a bronze-age family built a small farmhouse on a grassy islet surrounded by loch or marsh, and they walled the islet to enclose their cattle and sheep. Evidence has been found on the site of barley cultivation, which was ground in stone troughs, one of which can still be seen at Clickimin. The visible remains of the farmhouse lie to the north west of the main broch.
Some time around 200BC a ditch was dug across the neck of land connecting the farm with the southern side of the loch, probably crossed via a draw-bridge, and a much stronger wall was built around the islet. The aim now was less to keep livestock in than keep people out.
The farm continued to be the main residence, but other wooden buildings with thatched roofs were built within the defensive wall. Around this time the Loch of Clickimin was cut off from the sea and ceased to be tidal.
A hundred years later, about 100BC, a "blockhouse" was built immediately inside the only gate through the wall. This provided additional defence at the weakest point of the islet and may have been intended as the start of a feature that encircled the inner part of the settlement. Originally much taller than it is today, it was never finished, and work quite quickly began on the broch, the most striking feature of the site today.
The broch was originally up to 12-15m high and came with the usual rooms, enclosures and stairs within its thick, dry stone walls. It would also have had internal wooden structures providing shelter and accommodation for a significant number of people. Some time later it was reduced in height and converted for use as the residence of a single family. At the same time the original bronze age farmstead was reoccupied, by this time anything up to 1,500 years after its original construction.
It is thought that it was during this period that one of Clickimin's oddest features was added: a slab of stone with two footprints carved into it on the causeway leading to the broch. A similar feature with one footprint at Dunadd in Argyll was thought to be associated with kingship. The purpose here is unknown, but was perhaps more mundane.
From around AD500, occupation became less organised and the houses in use were poorly built and partly dug into the ruins of the earlier structures. By the time the Norse arrived in the 800s, Clickimin had been abandoned and forgotten.
The site remained simply a mound on an islet for more than a thousand years. Then the inquisitive "gentlemen of Lerwick" succumbed to the Victorian penchant for fairly crude archeology in the 1850s and dug up part of the mount and "restored" what they found within. The area was professionally excavated in the 1950s and the result is what you see today, complete with the various different phases on show.