MHG708 - Broch - Allt A' Bhurg (Ousdale)


Iron Age broch containing human remains, a cist and traces of mutilated hut circles.

Type and Period (1)

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

Protected Status

Full Description

RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 54-6, No. 204.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000
Ousdale broch lies in an obviously defensive position, above a deep gorge, looking out over the valley of the Ousdale burn. On the north and west, where the ground slopes more gently down to the broch, a substantial bank has been dug, against which buildings associated with the later phases of the broch’s occupation have been built. (57)
Ousdale is well preserved, displaying many of the characteristic features of brochs, such as a low, narrow entrance passage, intra-mural chambers and staircases and a ledge on which an upper, wooden floor would have rested. In the opening above the stair, a human skeleton lying face downwards was found. (49)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.

A well-preserved broch whose walls reach a maximum height of 1.5m externally and 3m internally.
C Batey 1982.

A broch with outer rampart and secondary occupation generally as described and planned by the previous authorities. The lintelled gallery above the entrance has collapsed. The entrance, mural chambers and the broch interior have been largely cleared of stones, and part of the inner wall-face has been reconstructed, possibly by the excavator. The removal of debris has weakened the structure and it is now in danger of collapse.
Visited by OS (N K B) 8 November 1982.

Broch (NR) OS 6" map, (1964)
Allt A’Bhurg, Ousdale Burn, ND01NE0001

A well-preserved second phase (ie. 2nd - 3rd century BC) broch measuring 50ft overall diameter and 24ft internally with walls 14ft thick at entrance and 12ft on the opposite side, and 14ft high. The entrance passage, in SW, is checked for two doors. Above it is a gallery, and a guard chamber is on its SE side. In this was found a 2ft square cist containing a cremation. A is in the wall entered from the courtyard 3ft from the entrance passage, and further round another entrance leads to a stair to a gallery above. At a height of 8ft from the floor is a scarcement ledge with corbel stones protruding at intervals of 8ft all round.
Outside on three sides is a well-built wall or rampart 8ft thick and fronted with a ditch; between this wall and the broch are signs of secondary occupation in the form of hut circles. During the excavation in 1891, MacKay (1892) found traces of secondary occupation within courtyard at a height of 4ft above broch floor.
J MacKay 1892; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; A Young 1964.

This broch is as described above. It is still in a fair state of preservation except for the outer defensive wall and the traces of hut circles within, which are all in an extremely mutilated state. The broch has an internal diameter of 6.9m and wall thickness of 3.6 to 4.4m, and a maximum external height of 1.5m. Inside it is 3-4m high in N segment. The entrance is in the SW.
Visited by OS (W D J) 30 May 1960.

Finds in the NMS from MacKay’s excavations in the late 19th century include: a quern stone (GA 330), stone discs (GA 331-332), hammerstones (GA 333-343) and pebbles (GA 344-348), stone implements (GA 349 and 357), spindle whorls of steatite and chalk (GA 350-356), part of a ‘jet’ armlet (GA 358), part of a wooden dish (GA 459), sherds of pottery (FA 360 and 361), and pieces of charcoal and vitrified stone (GA 362). They were acquired by the NMS in 1892 from Mackay. <1>

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. <2>

Sources/Archives (28)



Grid reference Centred ND 0712 1881 (59m by 45m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND01NE
Civil Parish LATHERON
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (8)

  • QUERN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • HAMMERSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • ARMLET (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISH (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (2)

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