Shetland’s Brochs

Brochs, Iron Age stone towers, are unique to Scotland. Estimates are that there were once as many as 700 brochs, mostly in the North of Scotland and across the islands. Of the brochs that are known about, 120 of them are in Shetland.

Clickimin Broch, Lerwick, Shetland

Today’s capital of Shetland, Lerwick, even has a broch : Clickimin Broch. There’s enough of that drystone built structure left that you can imagine its walls once towering about you.

A key point of interest is a stone sculpted with a pair of feet, situated on the causeway. This rare sculpture could date from the late Iron Age or early historic period and may be associated with kingship and inauguration rites.

Historic Environment Scotland

The archeological evidence found on excavation sites of brochs tell of them being domestic settings. That doesn’t mean to say they didn’t have other purposes but they are definitely where people are living daily lives: weaving, farming, cooking and making things.

At Jarsholf, there is a complicated multilayered array of settlement use. This site also has a broch and a fascinating wheelhouse.

Jarlshof – wheelhouse

Brochs, had levels within them with a stone stair case between the inner and outer walls.

We don’t know what the roof was like or what it was made of. Inside there was a hearth and it may have been that internal wooden ladders could have take you up to a different level. These are just some of the many things we simply do not know.

The most complete broch we have in the whole of Scotland is Mousa Broch in Shetland. To get to it requires a short boat journey. Normally only open during summer, this year, 2022, it has unfortunately had to remain closed due to Avian flu. There is no visitor access to the site, however, Bruce Fummey who runs Scotland History Tours, was sponsored by Promote Shetland to produce one of his excellent short videos of his visit: Why You’d be Crazy Not to visit this Shetland Island Broch

The Caithness Broch project has ambitious plans to build a replica broch. Perhaps then we will have much more understanding about brochs and the people who built them. Of course, building a broch will open up many more areas for question and conjecturing. It certainly will be challenging.

And here’s some more fascinating images from Clickimin Broch, Shetland:

The Orkney News features many articles about brochs. You can find them by using the search button on our website.

Fiona Grahame

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