Midhowe Broch in Orkney, Scotland

Midhowe Broche
Midhowe Broche by the sea (photography Eva Hopman).

On the south coast of the Scottish island of Rousay in the Orkneys stands a so-called broch: Midhowe Broch. A broch is a circular stone tower dating from the Iron Age, sometimes measuring more than 10 metres high and constructed with two concentric walls. The word broch is related to today’s word burgh, meaning castle, as in the name Edinburgh. This example, the Midhowe Broch in Orkney, stands eight kilometres west of Trumland, close to the Midhowe Chambered Cairn.

Midhowe Broche viewed from the east (photography Eva Hopman).

Location & settlement

Between the broch and the rest of the island there are two ditches and originally an earthen wall probably stood between them. Later a massive stone wall was built in the outer ditch as a sort of bulwark with its entrance on the southern side. Around 100 AD the broch was extended to include a settlement with houses, outbuildings and gardens.

The entrance to the broch is on the western side (photography Eva Hopman).

 Midhowe broch

This broch was built during the Iron Age about 2200 years ago. The structure was later fortified. Around 100 AD more buildings were erected and about 1800 years ago the broch was altered to accommodate two living areas. The broch was excavated between 1930 and 1933 by workmen under the guidance of the land-owner Walter Grant. A sea wall was then built to protect the structure. The broch is almost circular with a diameter of 18 metres and a maximum height of 4.3 metres. The inside diameter is almost 10 metres. This type of structure is known as a ‘ground-galleried broch’: it consists of two walls on the ground floor. On the west side was an entrance 1.9 metres high and 1.1 metres wide. This passageway had two doors, one at the entrance and another two metres further in. Inside the building the remains of walls, hearths, a cellar and a water reservoir were found, as well as a staircase. The reservoir was fed by a spring. Sometime during the Iron Age part of the broch collapsed and was then strengthened.

Midhowe Broch (photography Eva Hopman).
Midhowe Broch (photography Eva Hopman).
Midhowe Broch (photography Eva Hopman).
Midhowe Broch (photography Eva Hopman).
Midhowe Broch (photography Eva Hopman).
Midhowe Broch (photography Eva Hopman).

Unusual finds

In addition to the cellar, staircase and water reservoir mentioned above, other remarkable finds include a stone with cup and ring marks, dating from around 3,000 years ago, and beakers made from whalebone. From the finds it is clear that spinning, weaving, grain harvesting, trade and metallurgy (bronze and iron) all took place here. There was even a hearth for the smith. Evidence of trade comes from Roman imports. Other finds include bones of domestic and wild animals.

Midhowe Broch, Rousay, Orkney, Schotland – zuidelijk deel van het interieur. Door Otter [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) undefined CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.


Midhowe Broch
Orkney KW17 2PS,
Verenigd Koninkrijk




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