MHG1937 - Broch, Loch of Yarrows


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • SETTLEMENT (Early Iron Age to Medieval - 550 BC to 1559 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Loch of Yarrows, ND34SW0001

Yarrows broch is one of the most complex brochs in Caithness. Situated on a promontory projecting into the loch, it is surrounded by cellular buildings, built on the middens of even earlier structures. It is overlain by later aisled houses known as ‘wags’, from the Gaelic word for cave. (49)
When the broch was excavated in the late nineteenth century, five human skeletons were found. One of these had been buried with a brass brooch, dating between AD 1200 and 1300. This suggests that, even after the broch had gone out of use, it remained an important focal point in landscape into the medieval period. (56)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 149-51, No. 509.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

ND34SW 1 3083 4349.
Cairns of Yarrows (NAT) Broch & Settlement (NR)
OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

The broch of Yarrows, with secondary structures, including wags, is situated on a spur projecting into the Loch of Yarrows, isolated from the mainland by a ditch 25-30ft wide.
Before excavation by Anderson in 1866-7 the remains appeared as a grass-covered mound 18-20ft high. The broch consisted of a circular wall, 12-13ft thick and then 15ft high, enclosing an area 30ft diameter. The relics were presented to NMAS.
1910 the wall stood c11ft high. Much of structure was still visible, and the walls of the secondary structures were in good condition.
Anderson also found five human skeletons, one with a 13t-14th century brass brooch, in the mound.
J Anderson 1873; 1883; 1868; RCAHMS 1911.

A broch and settlement, generally as described by RCAHMS, partly waterlogged due to damming of Loch of Yarrows. The encircling ditch is now visible as a vague silted-up marshy area. The name 'Cairns of Yarrows' is no longer used locally.
Revised at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 2 May 1967.

This broch is probably an early form. A stretch of lintelled ground-level gallery, unnoted by the excavator, is in NE arc. The entrance in E is probably primary, that at the foot of the mural stair probably being pushed through when the settlement outside was being built. A secondary wall has been introduced to the interior of the broch, which is usually an indication that it has been converted into a dwelling and its high wall destroyed.
E W Mackie 1975.

Active erosion was noted at broch. Date 04/00.
Causes included visitors, stock and unstable walls were visible at broch entrance. See Hlink photos.
J Aitken : 24/01/01.

This broch is situated 230m NE of South Yarrows farmsteading (ND34SW 474), on an islet in the SW corner of Loch of Yarrows. The broch, which has been defended on the W and SW by a ditch measuring up to 11.6m in breadth, stands at the centre of a complex of later buildings. The excavation of the broch, as well as some of the other structures, has left a legacy of well-preserved sections of dry-stone wall interspersed with eroding excavation trenches and spoil-tips.
The broch (YARROWS04 241) exhibits two main phases of construction, in the first of which it measured a maximum of 10m in internal diameter. The wall, which is up to 4.2m in thickness and at least 2.7m in height, is constructed of quarried blocks laid in horizontal courses. The entrance is on the E and its partly roofed passage measures 3.4m in length. The second phase of construction included the addition of a wall, 0.7m in thickness and at least 1.5m in height, lining the inner face of the broch, reducing its internal diameter to 8.6m. In places, the height of this wall appears to rise and fall to take into account the entrances into the intra-mural cells and stair.
On the S side of the broch there is a doorway that leads into a short intra-mural passage, which is still partly roofed, with three relieving lintels visible; to the E this passage leads into an intra-mural cell and to the W, a stair. The intra-mural cell is roofed and measures 4.1m in length by 1.2m in width and up to 2m in height. The intra-mural stair survives to 2m in height, apparently rising in stages, with a set of four steps at the bottom separated from a further set of two treads towards the top. The S side of the passage, which includes a section of the outer wall-face of the broch, has been broken through, possibly to provide access to the interior of the broch by the builders of the adjacent, post-broch structures. Two further intra-mural cells on the NW side of the broch are entered from the interior of the broch.
Outside the broch on the S the walls of a number of excavated structures can be seen (YARROWS04 245-249). The presence of angular and curvilinear lengths of wall suggests the presence of both square- and round-cornered structures, probably indicating different periods of construction. As they survive today, these structures appear as two broad, concentric arcing hollows, defined on either side by dry-stone masonry and divided by walls constructed of a basal course of edge-set slabs carried up in laid courses. Both Dryden (1871) and Anderson (1873) illustrate these structures as long buildings containing central aisles flanked by freestanding upright slabs, but only a single upright flag was located during the course of the RCAHMS survey.
Two bi-cellular buildings (YARROWS04 242 and 243) are respectively situated immediately NW and W of the broch, where they appear to have been sunk at least 0.6m deep into the shoulder of the grass-grown mound of rubble that now surrounds the ruined tower. The larger measures 7.6m in length by 3.3m in breadth within dry-stone walls. What may be the remains of a third bi-cellular building is marked by a slight rubble-filled depression between the other two. An eroded excavation trench is visible outside the broch on the NE, where another dry-stone structure (YARROWS04 244) has been set against the outer face of the broch. What are probably two piles of excavation spoil stand at the NW and SW extremities of the islet; the latter has probably been augmented by more recent field clearance.
(YARROWS04 241-249)
Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH) 29 June 2004

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> <2>

Finds in the NMS from 19th century excavations include: hammerstones, plain stone ball, whetstones, stone discs (pot lids), flint core, stone whorls (one decorated), a fragment of a steatite vessel, bone points and implements, pottery sherds, bronze ring, teeth and/or bones from ox and sheep, reindeer and red deer horn, and part of a human skull (GK 1- GK 106). <3>

Human remains from the site are within NMS collections.<4>

Several of the finds from the NMS have been loaned to Dunbeath Heritage Museum and are on display there. These included pounders, whetstones, pot lids, spindle whorls and pottery sherds (Acc. Nos. GK 1, 3, 10, 12-13, 18-19, 22, 31, 33-35, 87, 91, 93). <5>

Sources/Archives (20)



Grid reference Centred ND 3082 4349 (57m by 52m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND34SW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (14)

  • HAMMERSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • BALL (RITUAL) (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • WHETSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • CORE (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • POINT (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • RING (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • VESSEL (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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