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, and an internal diameter of around 10 metres. From the outside, the building appears as a grassy mound, and little of the outer wall is exposed.

The entrance passage is on the east side, and is about 4 metres long, 1.2 metres wide and 1.8 metres high. There is an elongated guard room opening from the left side of the passage. Inside the broch, the outer face of the upper gallery is still visible, and traces of an opening to the upper gallery are still apparent. A deep well is present in the broch floor: the upper part being dry stone masonry, the lower being cut into the rock.

In the sloping area in front of the broch entrance are traces of 'out-buildings' now covered with turf. A wall, ditch and rampart, which probably once encircled the broch, are still evident around the structure.



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B9058, Orkney, United Kingdom
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Founded: 500-200 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in United Kingdom


4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jim Badger (13 months ago)
The best kept secret on Shapinsay, a very peaceful place.
Lauren Moss (14 months ago)
Very well preserved broch with a chamber in the wall which fascinated our kids. It's blessed with a peedie beach to itself and although there were no seals, there was plenty of interesting bird and insect life to be seen!
alicja pludowska (15 months ago)
Very well preserved building from the iron age era.
Mario P (15 months ago)
Absolutely must when on Shapinsay!!!
Martyn Smith (17 months ago)
Remote and atmospheric. Nice place for a picnic.
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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 there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.