BROCH AT BURROUGHSTON, SHAPINSAY, ORKNEY

Sunday, April 5, 2009




Situated on the NE coast of Shapinsay, the walls of the Iron Age broch at Burroughston still stand above first-floor level in places. Its entrance and adjacent 'guard' cell are similarly well preserved, while a wall, ditch and rampart, which probably once encircled the broch, are evident around the structure. These extra defences may have been constructed because of the broch's low-lying position in the landscape.

A broch, the base of which is fairly complete, stands close to the sea, some 32 yds from the low rocky beach. The site was excavated by Petrie and planned by Dryden about 1862 and the plan incorporates some features taken from Dryden's plan which are no longer to be seen.


Except on the E towards the sea, the broch is surrounded by a rampart rising 6'- 7' above the bottom of a ditch nearly 20' wide. The ditch is bounded on its outer edge by a parapet, parts of which still stand from 2'6" to 3' high and Dryden found traces of a stone wall on the inner side of the rampart some 9' from the broch wall. The broch has an average diameter of 33'6" within a wall 10' - 14' thick. The inner wall-face, showing a scarcement, stands approximately 12' high but the outer face was not laid bare in the 1862 excavations. The roofless entrance passage in the E has door-checks, bar-hole and guard chamber and the interior contains a 10' deep well and a later work now hidden by debris, but traces of radiating walls and compartments can still be seen. In the sloping area in front of the entrance the 1862 excavations revealed traces of "out-buildings" connected to the broch by an extension of the entrance seawards. These structures have now become covered with turf.


A broch with outworks . The outer face has been exposed in two or three places giving a wall thickness of 3.7m except in the N where it is only 3.0m but here the coarser masonry suggests a later reconstruction. The outworks probably once completely encircled the broch, but have been destroyed in the E by the later buildings. The name, though still known, is no longer commonly applied to the broch.


About 150m ENE from Easthouse, on the NE shore of Shapinsay, stands one of the most visually interesting brochs of Orkney. It was excavated c.1862 by Colonel D Balfour's estate-workers under the direction of George Petrie, and was subsequently meticulously recorded by Sir Henry Dryden. Excavation was confined to the interior of the broch and to a small area immediately outside the entrance; the interior is now choked with rubble which obscures the architectural features below the level of the scarcement. The entrance-passage is well preserved, and there is an impressive cell within a length of walling that still stands to a height of 3.5m above the rubble. Grazing has recently ceased on the site, which has thus become overgrown; the wet outer ditch and bank are still clearly visible.

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