Dun Carloway Broch

Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

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, imposing buildings. They were drystone structures formed of two concentric walls, with a narrow entrance passage at ground level and small cells entered off the central area. A stone stair corkscrewed its way to the top between the two walls.

Dun Carloway still stands in parts almost 9m high, close to its original height. The collapse of part of its wall provides a perfect cross-section, revealing the characteristic broch design. This was a double-skinned wall with two tiers of internal galleries formed by flat slabs. The low entrance passage into the broch is at ground level. The passage has a small oval cell in its right-hand side, perhaps a guardroom. Opposite the entrance is another small cell and the door to the stairway that originally rose to the wallhead. On the inside face of the wall, at the level of the lower gallery, is a stone ledge, or scarcement. This ledge probably helped to support a raised floor.

Most brochs were built in the period from 100 BC to 100 AD. Dun Carloway was probably built in the 1st century AD. Through the centuries Dun Carloway remained in use until the floor level was too high due to build-up of the occupation layers. The broch was occasionally used in later times as a stronghold. The Morrisons of Ness put Dun Carloway into use in 1601. The story goes that they had stolen cattle from the MacAuleys of Uig. The MacAuleys wanted their cattle back and found the Morrisons in the broch. One of them, Donald Cam MacAuley, climbed the outer wall using two daggers and managed to smoke-out the inhabitants by throwing heather into the broch and then setting fire to it. The MacAuleys then destroyed the broch.

Presumably in the 16th century the walls of the broch was still largely intact. In the middle of the 19th century a large portion of the top of the wall had disappeared, the stones being re-used in other buildings. The situation in 1861 is shown in a drawing published in 1890 by Captain Thomas. To prevent further decay Dun Carloway was in 1882 one of the first officially protected monuments in Scotland. Five years later, the broch was placed under state management. Since this time restoration has been performed on the broch. At the beginning of the 20th century and in the 1970s there was limited archaeological excavation.

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Founded: 0-100 AD
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in United Kingdom

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ebony Rae (3 years ago)
Sadly the information centres shut and there’s scaffolding around it but still a great place to stop, great views on a clear day. If you scan the QR code at the top of the hill before heading into the gate you will get a 3D picture of the broch showing you what’s inside etc.
Luisa Carlow (3 years ago)
Unfortunately, there was scaffolding round the broch but still well worth a visit. Beautiful location, spectacular scenery
Ray Duffy (3 years ago)
Looks amazing but, you cannot enter it and there is a large support scaffold attached to it
Peroline fauvel (3 years ago)
This looks very impressive it is so big. Unfortunately there is a lot of scaffolding surrounding it, holding it up while they do restoration works. The dry stone walls are a feat of engineering in themselves.
gary gallagher (3 years ago)
Great, impressive structure. It's just a pity there was scaffolding around it and Heras fencing to prevent access. Some restoration works or preservation works currently in progress!
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