MHG4840 - Broch - Dun Colbost, Skye


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

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

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Dun Colbost, NG24NW0005

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 are common in the north and west of Scotland. (41)
Dun Colbost stands on the end of a rocky knoll overlooking Loch Dunvegan in Skye. Directly opposite, a short distance across the narrow sea loch, is another broch, Dun Fiadhairt. Its position, controlling both land and sea, suggests that Dun Colbost was indeed intended to dominate the surrounding landscape. (49)
The walls of the broch itself are in a ruinous condition, but excavation within the curving enclosure wall surrounding the tower, has revealed paved surfaces, drains and hearths, although no definite evidence for buildings. (34)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
RCAHMS. 1928. The Outer Hebrides, Skye and the Small Isles. Edinburgh: HMSO, 156, No. 506.
[should the DES entries be put in?]
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

Somebody has bricked up the entrance to this broch with a large sign saying dangerous building keep out. Unfortunately this bricking up has been done with raw material from the broch. The lintel stone at the entrance seems in danger of falling and is currently shored up with a piece of wood. No idea who put these signs up but it does appear from the lack of lichen on the stone around about the entrance that built up material has been cleared away relatively recently. This may have done during the exploratory excavations carried out by McSween and Reid 1989 to 1994. There is an outer wall surrounding the broch this is obvious in the area that the excavations have been undertaken and this is particularly obvious outside the broch entrance. Should the lintel stone fall it is going to cause immense damage to the rest of the broch. The broch does not appear to be scheduled but most certainly is a candidate for this. It is obviously visited due to the presence of empty coke bottles which have been left behind. The broch is situated in an knoll looking out over Leinish. Bay and has extremely good vantage all around it. Visibility extends at least a mile to the south and many, many miles to the north, north west and north east. It appears that this broch has been situated within a substantial enclosure wall from the evidence on the ground, although the wall is difficult to trace in the southern area of the broch.

A number of the keep out dangerous building signs have actually broken since they were erected presumably after the excavations. There are traces of more recent sheep fanks to the south of the Broch although it does not appear that they have been used recently. The area to the South of the Broch is cliff like and this could be perhaps why the enclosure wall does not appear to extend into this area. In the Southern area the Broch is lacking turf cover and there seems to be a fair amount of slippage of earth and stones which could be quite recent. The Broch is an excellent example of one which has tumbled in upon itself. The interior is full of tumbled stone and it is difficult to trace any structure within this. There is no visible evidence of stairways or chambers, however some of stones do have sizeable gaps between them, through which the glimpses of the interior can be sighted.

In the South Eastern arc of the wall there is an area where it appears there is a lintel stone over what would have been the stairway entrance. There is a sizeable gap underneath this but there is no actual evidence of stairs due to fall and tumble. There is an area of ground to the west of the Broch about ten meters away pegged out. This would appear to be one of the areas excavated.

It appears that some kind of bothie type shelter has been build in the centre of the Broch two or three courses of stone roughly built.

Just to the North West of the dune lies NG24NW0018. Photographs taken of these. DML January 2000

NG24NW 5 2055 4947.

(NG 20554947) Dun Colbost (NR)
OS 6" map, 1904

Dun Colbost, a broch measuring 52' E-W by 57' N-S externally, with well" built walling varying from 11-12ft. In width. No entrance is visible, but it was probably on the W. where the wall has been destroyed. One chamber and a short length of gallery can be traced.
An outwork surrounds the rocky plateau upon which the broch stands, consisting of a wall about 6' thick surviving to a height of 3' in places.
RCAHMS 1928; A Graham 1949.

Dun Colbost, a broch, as decribed by RCAHMS; poor condition.
Visited by OS (ASP) 10 May 1961.

Dun Colbost broch is sited on the east end of a rocky knoll in moorland above Loch Dunvegan. The broch is surrounded by an outer wall, which cuts across the knoll, leaving the western half of the plateau unenclosed. The enclosing wall is broadest in front of the broch entrance which faces west.
Exploratory excavations were carried out to assess the potential of the site for investigation of settlement around the broch.
Three areas were opened:-
Area 1 crossed from the broch entrance to the exterior of the surrounding wall. The broch entrance was exposed, with the outer lintel still in place. On excavation, the surrounding wall proved to be more massive than was first thought and possibly had a revetted outer face. The loose rubble was cleared from the area between the broch entrance and the outer wall, exposing the outlines of potential structures in the remaining tumble.
Area 2 was at the opposite end of the knoll to the broch. Removal of the peat revealed that the bedrock had been levelled with stone cobbling. An arc and a line of boulders of unknown function were uncovered, along with traces of burning.
Area 3, below the knoll to the south of the broch, was examined to establish whether 'structures' identified during fieldwalking were the result of random tumble from the broch. Two wall lines were exposed in the excavation area.
Sponsors: Russell Trust, Redland Aggregates Ltd, Nicolson Construction and Boreals Products.
A MacSween and D Reed 1989.

The second season of excavation concentrated on the area between the broch entrance and its surrounding wall. A platform of earth and stones abutted the broch wall on the south side of the entrance. The interior face of the surrounding wall curved parallel to the platform, forming a narrow 'channel' to the broch entrance.
Sponsors: Russell Trust, Redland Aggregates Ltd, Chevron Oil.
A MacSween and D Reed 1990.

Excavations continued at Dun Colbost broch in autumn 1993. The main trench was extended to further examine the wall surrounding the broch. Excavation of the area between the broch entrance and the surrounding wall revealed stone paving, covered drains and a hearth. Coarse pottery and worked stone were recovered.
Sponsor: Russell Trust.
A MacSween and D Reed 1994.

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>

This site was included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland online database. See link below for site entry. <2>

GIS spatial data created 2018 based on OS Master Map. <3>

Sources/Archives (20)



Grid reference Centred NG 2055 4947 (57m by 47m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG24NW
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish DUIRINISH

Finds (1)

  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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