MHG9863 - Broch, Eldrable


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Type and Period (1)

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

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Full Description

(NC 9833 1816) Broch (NR) OS 6"map, (1964)

Eldrable, NC91NE0020

Brochs are round, tower-like houses, their monumental size intended to display wealth and status of agricultural communities who lived in them. They were occupied in the later Iron Age and occur frequently in the north and west of Scotland. (41)
Eldrable is best viewed from the other side of the Strath Ullie, on the walk up to Kilphedir broch. From this perspective, the broch’s commanding position at the head of the large area of fertile arable ground on the flat haughland of the river Helmsdale is apparent. (47)
Although, the traces of enclosures and rig-and-furrow visible today on the haughland are of far more recent date, they probably overlie evidence of much earlier agricultural activity, contemporary with the broch. The tracks which run past the broch, lead up to the high summer pastures, also used both by the broch occupants and later people alike. (56)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
Gourlay, R., 1996. Sutherland. An Archaeological Guide.
RCAHMS. 1911. Sutherland. Edinburgh: HMSO, 106, No. 309.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

On W bank of the Eldrable burn, some 200' up from the Helmsdale river, are the remains of a broch. The interior is a mass of debris, and in no place is the wall visible for a height greater than 3', except at the back of the entrance to the stair where about 5' of walling remains exposed. The entrance has been opposite the burn and has been 4' wide near the exterior. Along the inner face of the wall to the southwards is the entrance to the stair through a passage about 3' in length. There has been no chamber adjoining the stair, four steps of which are visible.
RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909.

The broch is in a very dilapidated condition. Abutting on the S side are traces of an enclosure but too obscure for survey.
Visited by OS (W D J) 17 May 1960.

This broch is set on a knoll and is generally as described. The internal diameter is 7.5m and wall width is a varying 3.5-4.5m; only S side of entrance, from E, can be identified. The broch wall at the outside stands to a maximum of 1.6m high in N. A later, ruinous wall, that runs in a general E-W direction, incorporates the broch wall. A stony scarp, partially overlaid by tumble from the broch, encloses the summit area of the knoll, and is probably the remains of an outer defensive wall.
There appears to be further defensive works at the base of the knoll, but these form no cohesive pattern, and occur only in the N and W where the natural defences are strongest. They comprise a ditch in the gulley in the W, which fades to a terraced effect as it continues in a NE direction. The pattern of these works is obscured by a later track, extending from a collapsed stone bridge, which crosses the steam to the NE of the broch.
Visited by OS (J M) 5 October 1976.

NC91 4 ELDRABLE NC/9833 1816
This probable broch in Kildonan, Sutherland, stands on the west bank of the Eldrable burn about 200m from the junction with the river Helmsdale, and about 60m (200ft) above it; it is most easily reached by way of a suspension footbridge at NC/987184 (visited in 1987). It stands on the upper end of a ridge with the burn gorge on one side and a hollow on the other.
The building is fairly well preserved but, being made of polygonal blocks of metamorphic rock, few structural features are apparent. The outer face can be traced nearly all the way round and stands several courses high in places, above the surrounding rubble. The entrance was on the east-north-east facing the stream and was about 1.22m (4ft) wide at the outer end [2]; however the passage has evidently since been destroyed or buried [4].
The doorway to the mural stair is visible 4.12m (13.5ft) to the left (clockwise) of the entrance (at about 9 o'clock) and 4 steps of the stair are visible rising to the right. The sides of the stair-foot guard cell can be traced for a short distance to the left of the door. The inner face is visible, several courses high in places and there is a suggestion of a gallery 0.9m wide in the north-west [4]. There are slight signs of some outer defence works but they are not easily made sense of [1, 4].
Dimensions: the inner face indicates an internal diameter of about 7.63m (25ft). The wall thickness is about 3.66m (12ft) – or 3.2 - 4.0m [4] – so the external diameter would thus be about 14.95m (49ft) and the wall proportion 49% of the total.
Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 91 NE 20: 2. RCAHMS 1911a, 106, no. 309: 3. Stuart 1867: 4. Swanson (ms) 1985, 783-84 and plan. <1>

The site was visted and photographed by R Spencer-Jones on 14/10/2014. The broch stands above Strath Kildonan on a prominent knoll to the west of the Eldrable Burn. It is as described by previous visitors. Although the centre is a mass of lichenified rock and stones, it is possible still to determine a number of features. The exterior walls stand approx 1-1.5 metres tall. These are best seen on the north aspect, see photo. The walls are approx 4metres thick. It is not however possible to ascertain any internal structure. There is an apparent chamber on the southern aspect of the inside of the broch, just within the wall. <2>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NC 9833 1815 (70m by 70m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC91NE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish KILDONAN

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