MHG7680 - Broch - Applecross (Borrodale)


A multi-phase, Iron Age broch at Applecross which has been the subject of investigations by Time Team and a community archaeology project.

Type and Period (2)

  • BROCH (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD) + Sci.Date
  • SOUTERRAIN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

NG74SW 2 7118 4432.
Immediately W of Mains of Applecross (formerly 'Borrodale', from Norse 'borger', a burg or stronghold, and 'dalr', a dale - 'Fort dale') (W J Watson 1904) on highest point of low ridge, there is almost certainly remains of broch, which may possibly be 'dun' mentioned by McQueen (NSA, Rev J MacQueen, 1792). It consists of grass-covered mound of stones, crossed by a field dyke, measuring c18.5m diameter with traces of walling visible here and there, some large base stones on SE. Many of these stones show evidence of having been roughly squared. There are traces of a possible outwork across ridge on NW.
Surveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (R D) 28 April 1968.

Almost certainly last remnants of broch consisting of grass-covered mound of debris 18.5m in diameter and 0.8m high. Only one large block in S can be considered an outer facing stone in situ. The only squared stones now visible are those in pile of debris from modern constructions. The "outwork" noted by OS field Surveyor (RD) is slight depression about 10m to NW. It is accentuated by ruinous overgrown remains of modern wall built on its outer lip and unlikely that it is anything other than fortuitous hollow.
Visited by OS (J M) 29 May 1974.

Unlocated souterrain associated with this site. <1>

Substantial mound W of Mains buildings, stone in mound but no outer walling visible, although it should be noted that fine worked blocks are reused in the area. There is a substantial structure running from the broch NW, according to local stories as far as the beach. This has the appearance of a pair of large parallel walls, apparently once ditched on the E side. <2>

In June 2005, a geophysical survey by GSB Prospection and trial trenching by Channel 4's 'Time Team' were undertaken at the site. The investigations revealed that the structure showed key characteristics of an Atlantic Iron Age broch, that had been re-used at least once, if not multiple times. A suggested stone circle was determined as a series of glacial erratics. A possible wheelhouse was identified on the geophysical data although excavations were inconclusive. <3> <4>

In October 2006 a community archaeology project began further investigations of the broch. Two quadrants (trenches 1 and 2) were opened up revealing significant portions of both inner and outer walls and prehistoric pottery fragments and stone implements were recovered. <5> <6> <8>

In April and September 2007 a second season of the community excavation continued further work on the two quadrants to more clearly define the broch structure and central courtyard where three purpose built, stone slab, work spaces used during the post-broch occupation were excavated. A possible souterrain entrance was also uncovered to the northwest of the broch structure. Two large sandstone slab fragments with incised markings were also recovered during the excavation and discovery of the broch entrance on the eastern side of the site. <5> <6> <8>

In July 2008, the community excavation opened up a third quadrant (trench 4) and further explored the souterrain structure. Three further trenches were opened up (trenches 5, 6 and 7) closely outlying the main structure helping to clarify the site and revealing a minimum of three phases of occupation. <7> <8>

In September 2009, the community excavation opened up the fourth and final quadrant (trench 8) to reveal two outside courses of walling. Trench 1 was extended to link up with these features. The remains of an intramural staircase and internal wall passage revealed a complex series of industrial and ritual activities, as well as closure events. Another outlying trench, trench 9, revealed another sub-broch passage or drain to the south of the main structure. <7> <8>

In June and July 2010, the final season of community excavations was undertaken. Open area excavation was carried out in the broch structure over the four quadrants opened over the last four seasons, as well as to the north west of the main structure. Trench 9 was extended to further investigate the sub-broch feature uncovered in 2009. Following the several seasons of the community excavation, the site director was unsure about the sites definition. Whilst the site has four intramural galleries including a stair gallery with four steps, suggestive that a broch stood on the site at one point, the structural remains of the mound only survive to approximately 1.5m at maximum height and no evidence of upper floor levels was discovered. This information combined with evidence of poor structural quality in the walling forming the final building, it is uncertain whether a broch tower ever stood on the site. Instead, it is suggested that terms such as 'broch-like building' or 'complex roundhouse' would be more appropriate. <8>

In May and June 2012 further trial trenching was carried out a part of the Applecross Landscape Partnership Scheme (ALPS), directed by Ross and Cromarty Archaeology Services. The two trenches carried out in May explored the possible feature identified in the area of high resistivity discovered during geophysics carried out in 2005. Although the feature was suggested as a potential wheelhouse from the geophysics data, it was determined to be a geological, natural occurrence. <9>

The first of the two trial trenches carried out in June 2012, again as a part of ALPS, explored a previously identified upright pillar stone. The second trench investigated the continuation of a ditch feature. Both trenches revealed numerous fragments of iron-slag and other metal working debris, as well as two possible hammerstones and one iron dagger fragment. <10>

The finds from Time Team's 2005 excavations were submitted to Treasure Trove after post-excavation analysis had been carried out by Wessex Archaeology (TT 13/11) and have been allocated to the NMS. They included IA pottery, an annular blue glass bead, 669 animal bones, 5 worked bone or antler objects (2 points, a possible gouge, and the tip of possible pinbeather), iron working slag, an iron knife blade, a nail and 2 iron sheet fragments. See attached TT Fieldwork report. <11> <12>

Sources/Archives (15)



Grid reference Centred NG 71185 44329 (21m by 21m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG74SW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY
Unitary Authority HIGHLAND

Finds (15)

  • Carved Stone (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • ROTARY QUERN (Early Iron Age to Medieval - 550 BC? to 1559 AD?)
  • TOGGLE (Unknown date)
  • BEAD (Early Iron Age to Roman - 550 BC to 409 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Early Iron Age to Medieval - 550 BC? to 1559 AD?)
  • PLANT MACRO REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SLAG (Early Iron Age to Medieval - 550 BC? to 1559 AD?)
  • COMB (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • BLADE (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • PIN (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • WHETSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • DAGGER (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • QUERN (Neolithic to Late Iron Age - 4000 BC? to 560 AD?)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (10)

External Links (3)

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