Building an Iron Age broch in Caithness

The reconstruction will be built using prehistoric techniques

Brochs are hollow, circular towers that were built in Scotland between 400 BC and AD 100. The best-surviving and perhaps the most famous is the Broch of Mousa in Shetland (see CA 308), but Caithness, in the far north of mainland Scotland, is home to the largest number of broch remains in the country. None have survived intact, though, prompting archaeological charity the Caithness Broch Project (CBP; see CA 322) to build a new, full-sized reconstruction based on archaeological evidence, which will be the first broch to be erected in two millennia. Founding member, building surveyor, and project director Iain Maclean has been working with historical reconstruction artist and illustrator Bob Marshall to develop the building’s design since 2020. ‘We wanted to capture a variety of features found in broch construction from all over Scotland, so the design isn’t a carbon copy of any individual broch but instead is a kind of chimera of elements chosen for a number of reasons, whether structural robustness, health and safety, or purely because they were interesting,’ he said.

IMAGE: © Bob Marshall (

The 16.5m-high drystone structure will feature walls that are 5m thick at the base, narrowing towards the roof. Upon entering the broch through its single doorway, visitors will walk through a dark corridor leading towards a number of partitioned rooms and a staircase. The ground floor, featuring hearths and a well, will be divided in three, and the first floor will house sitting and sleeping areas. The second floor will be a mezzanine platform (accessible via a ladder), representative of an area which may, historically, have been used to store grain, and the conical-shaped roof will be thatched. The building will also incorporate triangular doorway lintels, staircases, and internal cells, as well as outbuildings, including wheelhouses, blockhouses, and ‘wags’ (a type of aisled building unique to Caithness).

The reconstruction will be built using prehistoric techniques, although Bob has used rather more modern technology to create an initial 3D model (pictured above). CBP hopes to acquire land for the construction of the broch within the next year and to begin the project in 2023, with the support of a range of funders and heritage craftspeople.

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