Brochs

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that th ...
Founded: 500-200 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Dun Carloway Broch

Dun Carloway is one of the best preserved examples of a broch towers in Scotland. Broch is a type of fortification found only in Scotland. There are well over 500 of them across the country, the majority in northern and western Scotland and the islands. Brochs emerged in the Iron Age around 2,300 years ago. They stopped being built in the early centuries AD. Brochs developed from strong circular houses into tall, imposin ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Midhowe Broch

Midhowe Broch is an iron-age structure situated on a narrow promontory between two steep-sided creeks, on the north side of Eynhallow Sound. The broch is part of an ancient settlement, part of which has been lost to coastal erosion. The broch got its name from the fact that it"s the middle of three similar structures that lie grouped within 500 metres of each other and Howe from the Old Norse word haugr meaning mound ...
Founded: 500-200 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Jarlshof

Jarlshof is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland Islands. It lies near the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland and has been described as 'one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles'. It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD. The Bronze Age settlers left evidence of several small oval houses with thick stone walls and various artefact ...
Founded: 2500 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Clickimin Broch

The Broch of Clickimin is a large and well preserved, though somewhat restored broch near Lerwick. Originally built on an island in Clickimin Loch (now increased in size by silting and drainage), it was approached by a stone causeway. The water-level in the loch was reduced in 1874, leaving the broch high and dry. The broch is situated within a walled enclosure and, unusually for brochs, features a large 'blockhouse' betw ...
Founded: 200-100 BC | Location: Lerwick, United Kingdom

Dun Telve

Dun Telve is one of the best preserved Iron Age brochs in Scotland. The neighbouring broch of Dun Troddan lies 470 metres to the east, and the 'semi-broch' known as Dun Grugaig is around 2.5 kilometres further east. Dun Telve is over 20m in diameter and the portion that still stands is about 10m high. Behind the narrow, west-facing entrance doorway, a 5m-long passage leads into the interior. Along the passage is a small ...
Founded: 100 BC - 100 AD | Location: Glenelg, United Kingdom

Mousa Broch

Broch of Mousa is the finest preserved Iron Age broch (round tower) in Shetland. It is the tallest still standing in the world and amongst the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe. It is thought to have been constructed circa 100 BC, one of 570 brochs built throughout Scotland. The site is managed by Historic Scotland. It has one of the smallest overall diameters of any broch, as well as one of the thickest wal ...
Founded: 100 BC | Location: Sandwick, United Kingdom

Dun Troddan

Dun Troddan is one of the best preserved brochs in Scotland. It stands on a level rock platform north of the Abhainn a’Ghlaine Bhig, in the lower reaches of Gleann Beag. The neighbouring broch of Dun Telve lies 470 metres to the west, whilst the 'semi-broch' known as Dun Grugaig is around 2 kilometres to the southeast. Dun Troddan was first sketched in about 1720 when it was still an intact tower. It is t ...
Founded: 100 BC - 100 AD | Location: Glenelg, United Kingdom

Dun Beag

Dun Beag is an iron-age broch situated at the north end of a small rocky knoll. The broch consists of a drystone tower with a diameter of around 18.6 metres with walls about 4 metres thick at the base. The broch currently stands to a maximum height of 2 metres. The interior has a diameter of about 11 metres, and the entrance is on the east side. Internally three openings are visible in the broch wall. One leads to a smal ...
Founded: 200-300 BC | Location: Isle of Skye, United Kingdom

Burroughston Broch

Burroughston Broch is an Iron Age structure located on the island of Shapinsay. Excavated in the mid 19th century, Burroughston Broch is still well-preserved. The drystone walls are up to four metres thick in some parts and there is a complete chamber intact off the entrance passage. Some remains of stone fittings are evident in the interior. The walls of Burroughston Broch have an external diameter of around 18 metres, ...
Founded: 500-200 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Dun Dornaigil

Dun Dornaigil is an Iron Age broch in Sutherland. The broch has an external diameter of about 14.5 metres. The walls generally survive from 2 to 3 metres around the circumference of the broch, but above the doorway they rise to nearly 7 metres. The entrance is on the northeast side but is filled with debris.[1] There is a massive triangular lintel over the entrance which measures 1.4 metres along the base, and 0.9 metres ...
Founded: 300-0 BC | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Old Scatness Broch

Old Scatness is an archeological site consisting of medieval, Viking, Pictish, and Bronze Age remains. It has been a settlement for thousands of years, each new generation adding buildings, and leveling off old ones. A broch was discovered in 1975 and has been dated to 400-200 BC. The site is managed by the Shetland Amenity Trust. In the summer, costumed guides provide tours of the site and the replica Iron Age and Pictis ...
Founded: 400-200 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Carn Liath

Càrn Liath is an Iron Age broch on the eastern shore of the Scottish Highlands. The broch has an external diameter of around 19 metres and an internal diameter of around 10 metres. The entrance passage is on the east side and is over 4 metres long. The entrance has elaborate door checks and a bar-hole to control access to the interior. On the right-hand side of the entrance passage is a small guard cell. The surrou ...
Founded: 300 BC | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Broch of Borwick

The Broch of Borwick is an Iron Age living structure. It has an external diameter of 17 metres and an internal diameter of 8 metres. The walls which are 3.5 to 5 metres thick currently stand to a maximum height of 2.6 metres. The eastern half of the broch and the entrance passage are well preserved, but the western half has been destroyed by erosion. The entrance passage, which is still lintelled over, is 5.6 metres long ...
Founded: 500-200 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Dun Mor Vaul

Dun Mor Vaul (or simply Dun Mor) is an iron-age broch situated on a rocky knoll on the northern coast of island of Tiree. The broch consists of a drystone tower with an internal diameter of 9.2 metres with walls about 4.5 metres thick. The outer face of the wall survives to a maximum height of 2.2 metres. The entrance is on the southeast side. On the north side of the entrance passage is a small side-chamber, of a type us ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Isle of Tiree, United Kingdom

Caisteal Grugaig

Caisteal Grugaig is an Iron Age broch standing on a small rocky knoll on a grassy slope. The 'Glenelg Brochs' of Dun Telve and Dun Troddan are a few miles to the south. Caisteal Grugaig should not be confused with the 'semi-broch' known as Dun Grugaig which is also near Glenelg. The broch has an external diameter of around 16.5 metres and an internal diameter of around 9.6 metres. The broch was built on uneven ground, so ...
Founded: 100 BC - 100 AD | Location: Lochalsh, United Kingdom

Dun an Sticir

Dun an Sticir is an Iron Age broch situated approximately 9.5 kilometers north of Lochmaddy in a lake on North Uist. A building was erected on the site in the late-medieval period. Dun an Sticir was probably built in the Iron Age in the period between 100 BC and 100 AD, like most brochs. Limited excavations resulted in finds of pottery. The broch was probably inhabited during the Viking period. In the Middle Ages the bro ...
Founded: 100BC - 100AD | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Crosskirk Broch

Crosskirk Broch was a fortification near the present day hamlet of Crosskirk. After thorough archaeological exploration it was destroyed in 1972 since the site had become unsafe due to sea erosion. The site was unusual in having a broch, a large circular fortification, built within an older promontory fortification with a ring wall and blockhouse. Crosskirk was occupied at the end of the Bronze Age. From the early Iron A ...
Founded: 200 BC | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Culswick Broch

Culswick Broch is an unexcavated coastal broch, an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure. Built of striking red stone, it has beautiful views all around, including Foula and Vaila isles, and Fitful Head and Fair Isle in the south. The broch stands commandingly on the top of a massive rock platform and is about 3 metres high at its tallest point. Much rubble has fallen into the centre. This broch has a massive triangul ...
Founded: | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Dun Ardtreck

Dun Ardtreck is a D-shaped dun, or 'semi-broch', situated on a rocky knoll on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. It encloses an area of about 13 by 10 metres. It was constructed with a ruidmentary hollow-wall. The entrance is particularly well-preserved with door-checks characteristic of brochs. The entrance to a guard cell led off to the right behind the door-checks. Dun Ardtreck was excavated by Euan W. ...
Founded: 115 BC | Location: Isle of Skye, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.