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 wall bases and smallest interiors; this massive construction (as well as its remote location) is likely to be the main explanation for its excellent state of preservation.

Located on the island of Mousa, it stands 13 m high and is accessible via a single entrance at ground level. Once inside, a visitor may ascend an internal staircase to an open walkway at the top. It is the only broch which is complete right to the top, including the original intramural stair. It is built of dry stone with no mortar, thus any disturbance could cause a great deal of damage. The characteristic hollow-walled construction is very clear at this site.

The broch went through at least two phases of occupation. In its original condition it doubtless contained a complex wooden roundhouse with at least one raised floor resting on a ledge or scarcement 2.1m above the ground. This floor was probably reached by the stone stair inside the wall. A second scarcement about 3.9m up could have supported a second floor or a roof. The entrance passage was low and lintelled with flat slabs and a water tank was cut in the underlying rock. There was also a large rectangular hearth resting on the rock.

Some time later a low stone bench was added round the base of the inside wall and this extended a short way into the entrance passage. The wooden roundhouse may have been demolished at this point; it was certainly demolished before the small wheelhouse (with three projecting stone piers) was built in the interior.

These Norse occupations are probably reflected in the fact that the original low lintels of the broch entrance have been torn out (their stumps can be seen), and the outer doorway doubled in height (it has now been restored to its original low level). This implies that the interior and the entrance were full of debris so the Norsemen had to raise the roof of the passage to get in.

In the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh is a large rim sherd from the broch of Mousa, probably found during the 19th century clearance. It is part of a large Everted Rim jar with a black burnshed outer surface and horizontal fluting along the inner surface of the rim.

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Details

Founded: 100 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Bob Knox (2 years ago)
A highlight of our visit to Shetland.
Joseph Briggs (2 years ago)
Stunning worth every penny to see the Broch
Mark Allinson (2 years ago)
Makes a great day trip if you have a boat. The Broch is in fantastic condition. Well worth the effort to visit.
Hilo Lin (2 years ago)
Practical wisdom is only to be learned in the school of experience.
Michael Stewart (3 years ago)
Eerie and atmospheric. It's so wonderfully untouched since it's habitation that you feel immediately transported back.
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