MHG11376 - Broch, Upper Suisgill


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Type and Period (1)

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

Protected Status

Full Description

Upper Suisgill, NC82NE0012

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 later Iron Age and occur frequently in the north and west of Scotland. (41)
Unlike all the other brochs in Kildonan, which are on valley sides, overlooking an extensive area of ground, Suisgill is positioned on the valley floor at one of its narrower points. The broch stands right on the edge of a terrace, above a bend in the river. (48)
If approached from this direction, Suisgill is still very impressive, as a curved entrance way extends up the slope, passing through substantial heather covered mounds to the broch tower, itself. These mounds represent banks and ditches, which, since it was overlooked by higher ground, must have been necessary to increase the defensive nature of the broch. (56)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
Gourlay, R., 1996. Sutherland. An Archaeological Guide. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 72.
RCAHMS. 1911. Sutherland. Edinburgh: HMSO, 105, No. 308.
RCAHMS, 1993. Strath of Kildonan. An Archaeological Survey. Edinburgh: HMSO.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

(NC 88752530) Broch (NR) OS 6"map, (1962)

The remains of a broch with outworks situated on the summit of a mound some 30' above the river to which the site slopes steeply. Of the broch little remains, a considerable portion of the north wall having been removed about 1909, but surviving wall faces indicate that it has measured 40' in diameter within a wall 15' thick on N and 12' thick on S where the remains of a mural chamber are visible.
The outworks consist of a wall, with an external ditch on the east and west and a fragment of outer rampart on the SE. The wall maintains a distance of 18' from the broch except on the south where it is closer. The ditch, immediately outside the wall is 34' wide and 8' to 10' im maximum depth and the outer rampart, 12' broad at base runs at a distance of 28' from the ditch. The approach is through the defences on the south.
RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909

The site was Scheduled in 1938.

The broch is generally as described by the RCAHMS. A small modern gap in the north gives entrance to a later rough enclosure cleared out of the broch debris.
Revised at 1/10,000 Visited by OS (J B) 14 Janurary 1977

The robbed remains of this broch and its outworks occupy the E end of a low ridge which, on the S, falls steeply to the River Helmsdale.
Roughly circular on plan, it measures about 12m in diameter within the remains of a wall up to 4.5m in thickness; the N quadrant of the wall was removed before 1909 but, elsewhere, it stands to a maximum height of 1m with what is probably an entrance on the ESE there are traces of two intramural structures, one on the NNE, possibly part of a passage or chamber, and the second, on the S, may be the remains of a guard-cell opening off the W side of the entrance-passage. The court is choked with tumbled stone in which at least three huts have been created.
The broch is surrounded by an outer wall, measuring 1.5m in thickness and 0.6m in maximum height which, on W, N and E has been accompanied by a ditch, 9m broad and 2.5m deep. The entrance through outwork lies on ESE; here ditch was expanded in breadth and the wall extended around the ditch terminal. On E and S there are traces of a counterscarp bank, and on E a further short stretch of bank cuts across crest of the ridge.
Visited by RCAHMS (DCC) 4 June 1991.

NC82 4 SUISGILL NC/8875 2530
This probable broch in Kildonan, Suth-erland, stands about 0.75 miles above the junction of the Suisgill burn and the river Helmsdale and on the summit of a mound 9.2m (30ft) above the river. It is in the centre of the pass at a narrow point of the Strath. This broch seems to have been much better preserved 250 years ago. The Rev. Alexander Pope, in discussing the “Pictish” buildings of the north of Scotland in 1774, says –
"There is one of them entire in the parish of Loth" (probably NC90 1, Kintradwell). "It is the only one that is, as far as I could find, excepting one at Suisgill in the parish of Kildonan." [3].
Little of the broch is left – much of the wall having been removed at about 1909 [2] – and the north wall has disappeared entirely. The remains of a mural cell are visible on the south and there are no signs of the entrance. The interior diameter is about 12.2m (40ft), the wall on the north is 4.58m (15ft) thick and 3.7m (12ft) thick on the south (the river side). In 1985 signs of a mural gallery about 0.9 m wide were seen on the south-east side [4].
There are massive outer defences on the level approaches to the site on the west, north and east [4], which “bear a close resemblance to those of the neighbouring broch of Kilphedir” (NC91 7) [2, 105]. These are most complex on the east, away from the river, and consist of three ramparts with two deep ditches between them starting about 5.49m (18ft) from the broch. On the north there is a single rampart with a gap, perhaps recent, through it on the north-east [4]. The original entrance through these outer defences is on the south-east, between the steep drop to the river and the eastern defences; it is defended by a forework mound 3.7m (12ft) wide and 8.5m (28ft) further out. The innermost rampart appears to surround the broch completely [4].
Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 82 NE 12: 2. RCAHMS 1911a, 105, no. 308: 3. Pope 1774, 318 - 19 4. Swanson (ms) 1985, 800-801 and plan: 5. RCAHMS 1993. <1>

The Scheduling was amended by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016. <2>

Sources/Archives (14)



Grid reference Centred NC 8875 2530 (70m by 70m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC82NE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish KILDONAN

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