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

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User Reviews

Simon Bunegar (2 years ago)
Lovely place to visit. Beautiful scenery and impressive broch.
Elaine Mackie Wright (2 years ago)
Nice island to visit, with short ferry ride and easy walk to the broch.
Paul Deason (2 years ago)
Unbelievable archaeological and architectural treasure. I've not seen anything quite like it in the world. And to think it is 5,000 years old.
Rob Cheyne (2 years ago)
The boat out was great. The Captain and his son Brendan were friendly, good humoured and knowledgeable. Worth every penny and more!
Mark Craig (2 years ago)
This is a great place to visit. Nice hike around the island, and saw the most complete, tallest Broch in Scotland!
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Late Antiquity and Byzantine periods

In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.

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