Scalloway has a beautiful natural harbour. Small islands shelter it from the fierce Atlantic Ocean. People have lived here since earliest times largely because the area has fertile soil and many natural springs.
Originally covered with scrub woodland, the first settlers soon cut down the trees. This was in the Neolithic period some 5000 years ago. There were three brochs in this region, all built about 2000 years ago.
People believe that some of the first Vikings to come to Shetland, before AD 1000, settled in this prime location. It may even have been home to a Viking who had his own group of warriors.
There is a small promontory at the north end of Tingwall Loch known as the Ting Holm. Its name comes from the Old Norse language: ‘thing’ means parliament. During the period 1300s to 1500s the assembly which met here in Tingwall was the Lawting for the whole of Shetland.
The castle was built for Earl Patrick Stewart. Building began in 1599 and took several years. Earl Patrick forced local people to work on building the castle and to contribute to its maintenance.
Scottish clerics and lawyers conducted many witch hunts during the period 1600 to 1650, with trials often held in the great hall of Scalloway Castle. Convicted witches would be strangled then burned on the Gallow Hill.
From Viking times each area of Shetland had its own gallows. Judging from place-names, there were 14 ‘gallows hills’ in all. The site of the Scalloway gallows is a rocky outcrop to the west of the village. It is visible for miles around.