MHG655 - Broch - Skirza Head


Iron Age broch at Skirza Head.

Type and Period (1)

  • BROCH (BUILT -550; BUILT EARLY IRON AGE; , Early Iron Age - 550 BC to 1 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Iron Age broch at Skirza Head.

'Castle (NR) (Rems of)' marked on 1st ed OS 6" map, Caithness of 1873
'Broch (NR)' marked on OS 1:10,000 map of 1975

The remains of a 2nd to 3rd century broch, situated on neck of a promontory and isolated on landward side by a ditch 30ft wide. Secondary structures lie N and S as well as inside broch, which was excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry between 1890 and 1901 and by MacKie in 1972.
It has measured 22ft diameter within wall 14ft thick with checked entrance in SSE, facing seaward. A scarcement runs round N arc of interior, and exterior of same arc has fallen over cliff, together with part of settlement. In 1910 exterior wall-face stood 2ft high, inner 5ft high, and in S arc of interior, 16ft W of main entrance, was a stair entrance although only two steps of stair and part of chamber at its foot remained. Three tank-like structures, one of them filled with ashes, and other two covered with slabs, were set into floor of central court.
S of broch entrance on outside is an irregular, well-like cavity which held water in 1910. c10ft deep and 10ft by 7ft across top with a drain leading into it from S. One of outbuildings to N partly overlay broch wall and produced an elk horn, which is among finds from Tress Barry's excavation donated to NMAS 1908. Also in NMAS are sherds of 2-3rd century (MacKie 1974) Hebridean everted rimware with applied fillet, from site (Acc No: GA 911). (See also ND36NE 18.)
J Anderson 1901; PSAS 1908; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910;
A Young 1964; R W Feachem 1963; E W MacKie 1972; 1974.

The broch was Scheduled in 1938.

The broch is generally as described. Tanks in central court are now uncovered and contain water. The 'well-like' chamber S of entrance is partially faced with stone slabs and is possibly remains of souterrain which seems to have been entered from W by a passage which has fallen in. There is no water in it now. No surveyable remains of outbuildings could be found. A modern wall has been built near cliff edge SE of broch.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (R D) 9 September 1965.

The broch and secondary structures are as described by previous authorities. The interior details of the broch are obscured by thick grass. Whether cavity to S of entrance is a sump or the end of a souterrain cannot be satisfactorily determined from ground inspection. It is similar to underground chambers associated with the broch at Oust (ND06NE 7). A mound to E of the broch is probably excavation debris as is 'modern wall' noted by previous field investigation.
Visited by OS (J B) 10 May 1982.

The broch was photographed by Highland Council in ?2000. <1> <2> <3> <4> <5> <6> <7> <8>

The Scheduled area was amended and the site rescheduled by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016. <9> <10>

GIS spatial data amended in 2017 to better represent location of site on OS MasterMap. <11>

The broch is included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Irelands online database. See link below for site entry. <12>

Finds acquired by the NMS in 1908 from Tress Barry’s excavation include: bone needle, bone points, bone awl, part of a bone spoon, portions of elk and deer antler, comb handle, sandstone whorl, sandstone lamp, whetstones, stone discs, pottery, and slag (GA 778-GA 798, GA 857A, GA 910-GA 11). <13>

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. <14> <15>

Sources/Archives (22)



Grid reference Centred ND 3940 6844 (26m by 26m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND36NE
Civil Parish CANISBAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (15)

  • NEEDLE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • POINT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • AWL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SPOON (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • COMB (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • LAMP (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SLAG (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • PLAQUE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • GAMING PIECE? (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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