Ever heard of a Scottish broch? Most folks haven't and these are some of the greatest and most intriguing archeological mysteries in Scotland today. They are over 2,000 years old and are still poorly understood. To see some truly ancient history in Scotland, consider visiting the neolithic Skara Brae Prehistoric Village in the Orkney Islands (around 5,000 years old).
The iron age Scottish brochs are one of the most intriguing and mysterious types of building ever constructed in the British Isles. They were elaborately built and made out of drystone structure and rose several stories high and are only found in Scotland. They are yet another thing to add to one's bucket list in Scotland - Scotland is much more than tours of the distilleries.
Mysteries of Brochs - The Ancient Scottish Skyscrapers
They were only ever built in Scotland with hundreds of them being built between 600BC and AD100. There remains much to learn about them and the people who built them - even the identities of the people who built them remain a mystery.
- Mystery: The Purpose of Brochs Are Not Yet Understood
- Time Period: Between 600 BC and AD 100
Even the purpose of the buildings is not yet fully understood. They were huge windowless structures and would have dominated the landscape for miles. One school of thought is that they were refuges for people seeking shelter from Roman slave ships. Another suggestion is that they were more status symbols of people showing off their power and status.
Most of them are located in the northern Scottish Highlands and on isles off the coast - like the Orkney and Shetland Islands.
- Thickness: Brochs Have Walls Often 3 Meters or 9 Feet Thick
The brochs were double lined with spiral staircases that ran between their inner and outer lining. It is also likely that would have had wooden roofs, a central door, and other features now lost.
They first appeared over 2,500 years ago at the end of the British bronze age and at the beginning of the iron age in Britain.
- Number Built: Around 500 Brochs Known In Scotland
These ancient dwellings were inhabited to around 1000 AD. The imposing towers have been described as "cooling tower" shaped.
Broch of Mousa
Today only one relatively intact broch remains today on the tiny isle of Mousa. Mousa is part of the Shetland Islands and is today uninhabited and is accessible by boat from neighboring Sandwick, Shetland. It stands on the flat rock surface of a low promontory near the shore overlooking Mousa Sound.
- Broch of Mousa: The Best Preserved Broch
- Access: By Boat From Sandwick, Shetland
It is considered both the tallest broch still standing and one of the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe today. But despite being the best-preserved broch, the Mousa Broch also has one of the smallest overall diameters of any broch.
Its preservation has been attributed to its thick walls as well as its remote location. It continues to stand some 13 meters or 44 feet high rising nearly to its full original height. It is only accessible by a single entrance at ground level and the entrance passage is 5 meters or 16 feet long.
- Height: 13 Meters or 44 Feet
Today it is managed by the Historic Environment Scotland. On their website, they say it is open in summer only.
There are plans in the United Kingdom to build a replica of these odd and iconic Scottish landmarks. The plan reported in the Guardian is to build one in the wild Caithness landscape at the northern edge of mainland Britain.
- Proposed Location: Caithness In Northern Scotland
Caithness is the north-eastern extreme of Scotland and has the highest concentration of broch sites in Scotland. The Scottish Highlands are a very remarkable part of Scotland that everyone should visit.
This iron age Scottish "skyscraper" would rise to 50 feet.
- Ken McElroy: Co-Founder Of The Caithness Broth Project
The plan is being put forward by Ken McElroy (a director of the Caithness Broch Project). The plan is to build one using traditional techniques and construction methods like drystone walling. He proposes that building a replica this way is a way for archeologists to learn more about them and even why they were built in the first place. He told the Guardian:
“Experimental archaeology is a more practical and innovative way of dealing with the difficult questions posed by these enigmatic constructions.”
Additionally, he thinks it would be a boost for the local economy that has seen years of population decline in Caithness. One can learn more about this project, the small group of enthusiastic volunteers, their vision, and donate if one would like on their website.