MHG10886 - Broch - Backies


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Type and Period (1)

  • BROCH (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Backies, NC80SW0001

NC80SW 1 8345 0261.
Broch (NR) OS 6"map, (1969)

An excavated broch which now consists of an immense pile of stones. The diameter of broch is 27ft within a wall which is visible to a maximum height of 8.5ft internally but much less externally. The entrance passage, whose lintelled roof is almost intact,has no guard chamber. Opposite entrance is a mural chamber; and to the north of entrance is entrance to stair gallery. An outer wall encircles broch at a distance of 40ft and encloses many secondary structures. Excavation finds are in Dunrobin Museum.
RCAHMS 1911.

The broch was scheduled in 1939.

The broch, set on the summit of a hillock, is generally as described by RCAHMS. The wall is obscured by debris but the whole circuit of the inner face is visible, as is the external end of the entrance and a short stretch of the outer face on east. These indicate that the wall was 4.9m thick on west and 5.1m in east. Both the main entrance and the entrance to the stair-gallery have have door-checks. The stair-gallery and the unroofed mural chamber on the NE are both visible from above. A scarcement about 0.2m wide survives in intermittent lengths at a height of 2m above floor-level.
The outwork which rings the broch is mainly fragmentary and is obvious only on the ENE and particularly on the NNW, at which point several courses of the outer face are visible and where the apparent strength of the wall may indicate the existence of an earlier 'dun'. Outside and below this wall an apparently artificial scarp follows the base of the knoll from the WNW round the north and mounts the slope on the east to terminate in the south. Along part of this latter stretch it adopts a counter-scarp and suggests a bank or wall. Outside this feature, in the NNW and ESE, are two stretches of banking the first of which is of a doubtful nature.
The relation of these outworks to the broch is open to doubt since they apparently defend in depth the steeper access, while the easier approach from the SW remains relatively vulnerable.
An earth and stone bank, probably associated with neighbouring abandoned settlement, impinges on the west ascent to the broch.
Revised at 1/2500. Visited by OS (J M) 28 November 1975.

The finds from the broch in Dunrobin Museum are: Shale rings (Acc.Nos: 1866.1-6); 2 sherds (Acc. Nos: X90-1) and shale rings, discs and bead (Acc. Nos: X92-100a: bead, No. X98) from either this site or Cinn Trolla broch (NC90NW 5).
Information contained in TS of Catalogue of Dunrobin Museum by A S Henshall.

Brochs are round, tower-like houses, their monumental size intended to display the wealth and status of the agricultural communities who lived in them. They were occupied in the later Iron Age and occur frequently in the north and west of Scotland. (41)
From a distance, the broch at Backies appears to be simply an enormous pile of stones. The outer wall face of the tower is obscured by tumble; however, the interior and most of the still roofed entrance passage are still visible. A ledge, on which an upper wooden floor may have rested, can be seen running around the interior, 2m above present floor level. (64)
Both the main entrance and the doorway to a staircase and passageway within the thickness of the wall have door checks against which wooden doors would have rested. These suggest that security was important to the occupants of the broch. (40)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
Gourlay, R., 1996. Sutherland. An Archaeological Guide.70-1.
RCAHMS. 1911. Sutherland. Edinburgh: HMSO, 92-3, No. 272
Information fron SCRAN Project, March, 2000

This site was included in Mackie's 2007 'The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700 BC - AD 500: Architecture and material culture'. See link below to HES Canmore record which includes the chapter on this site. <1>

Lynn Fraser submitted a photograph of the broch via the Highland HER Facebook page. <2>

The broch was re-scheduled in 2016 by Historic Environment Scotland. <3>

The objects fron Backies or Kintradwell (see MHG9777) broch were catalogued during an inventory of Dunrobin Castle Museum's collection in 2019 by ARCH. They comprised shale rings and fragments (X95-X100, 1866.1-5) and sherds of pottery (ARC 422, 424, X90-1). The shale objects are on display in case 24, shelf B and the sherds are in cupboard A and possibly B. <4>

Sources/Archives (18)



Grid reference Centred NC 8345 0261 (70m by 70m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC80SW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish GOLSPIE

Finds (4)

  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • BEAD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • RING (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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