Broch, Settlement

Site Name Yarrows

Classification Broch, Settlement

Alternative Name(s) South Yarrows; Cairn Of Yarrows; Broch Of Yarrows

Canmore ID 8982

Site Number ND34SW 1

NGR ND 30832 43497

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Wick
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

ND34SW 1 30832 43497

(ND 3083 4349) Cairns of Yarrows (NAT)

Broch & Settlement (NR)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

The broch of Yarrows, with secondary structures, including wags, is situated on a spur projecting into the Loch of Yarrows, isolated from the mainland by a ditch 25 to 30ft wide.

Before excavation by Anderson in 1866-7 the remains appeared as a grass-covered mound 18 to 20ft high. The broch consisted of a circular wall, 12 to 13ft thick and then 15ft high, enclosing an area 30ft in diameter. The relics were presented to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS).

In 1910 the wall stood about 11ft high. Much of the structure was still visible, and the walls of the secondary structures were in good condition.

Anderson also found five human skeletons, one with a 13th/ 14th century brass brooch, in the mound.

J Anderson 1869; J Anderson 1873; J Anderson 1883; J Anderson 1901; RCAHMS 1911.

A broch and settlement, generally as described by the RCAHMS, partly waterlogged due to the damming of the Loch of Yarrows. The encircling ditch is now visible as a vague silted-up marshy area. The name 'Cairns of Yarrows' is no longer used locally.

Revised at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (N K B) 2 May 1967.

This broch is probably an early form. A stretch of lintelled ground-level gallery, unnoted by the excavator, is in the NE arc. The entrance in the E is probably primary, that at the foot of the mural stair probably being pushed through when the settlement outside was being built. A secondary wall has been introduced to the interior of the broch, which is usually an indication that it has been converted into a dwelling and its high wall destroyed.

E W Mackie 1975.

This broch is situated 230m NE of South Yarrows farmsteading (ND34SW 474), on an islet in the SW corner of Loch of Yarrows. The broch, which has been defended on the W and SW by a ditch measuring up to 11.6m in breadth, stands at the centre of a complex of later buildings. The excavation of the broch, as well as some of the other structures, has left a legacy of well-preserved sections of dry-stone wall interspersed with eroding excavation trenches and spoil-tips.

The broch (YARROWS04 241) exhibits two main phases of construction, in the first of which it measured a maximum of 10m in internal diameter. The wall, which is up to 4.2m in thickness and at least 2.7m in height, is constructed of quarried blocks laid in horizontal courses. The entrance is on the E and its partly roofed passage measures 3.4m in length. The second phase of construction included the addition of a wall, 0.7m in thickness and at least 1.5m in height, lining the inner face of the broch, reducing its internal diameter to 8.6m. In places, the height of this wall appears to rise and fall to take into account the entrances into the intra-mural cells and stair.

On the S side of the broch there is a doorway that leads into a short intra-mural passage, which is still partly roofed, with three relieving lintels visible; to the E this passage leads into an intra-mural cell and to the W, a stair. The intra-mural cell is roofed and measures 4.1m in length by 1.2m in width and up to 2m in height. The intra-mural stair survives to 2m in height, apparently rising in stages, with a set of four steps at the bottom separated from a further set of two treads towards the top. The S side of the passage, which includes a section of the outer wall-face of the broch, has been broken through, possibly to provide access to the interior of the broch by the builders of the adjacent, post-broch structures. Two further intra-mural cells on the NW side of the broch are entered from the interior of the broch.

Outside the broch on the S the walls of a number of excavated structures can be seen (YARROWS04 245-249). The presence of angular and curvilinear lengths of wall suggests the presence of both square- and round-cornered structures, probably indicating different periods of construction. As they survive today, these structures appear as two broad, concentric arcing hollows, defined on either side by dry-stone masonry and divided by walls constructed of a basal course of edge-set slabs carried up in laid courses. Both Dryden (1871) and Anderson (1873) illustrate these structures as long buildings containing central aisles flanked by freestanding upright slabs, but only a single upright flag was located during the course of the RCAHMS survey.

Two bi-cellular buildings (YARROWS04 242 and 243) are respectively situated immediately NW and W of the broch, where they appear to have been sunk at least 0.6m deep into the shoulder of the grass-grown mound of rubble that now surrounds the ruined tower. The larger measures 7.6m in length by 3.3m in breadth within dry-stone walls. What may be the remains of a third bi-cellular building is marked by a slight rubble-filled depression between the other two. An eroded excavation trench is visible outside the broch on the NE, where another dry-stone structure (YARROWS04 244) has been set against the outer face of the broch. What are probably two piles of excavation spoil stand at the NW and SW extremities of the islet; the latter has probably been augmented by more recent field clearance.

(YARROWS04 241-249)

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH) 29 June 2004

Dryden 1871 Plan of Broch of Yarrows.

ND 3083 4349 Diving around the submerged stonework in the loch adjacent to Yarrows broch (ND34SW 1) recorded two large linear stone structures. The first of these ran parallel to the current shoreline and consisted of horizontally coursed stonework which appeared to act as a revetment to the rubble behind. The exact purpose of this feature is unclear but it is possible that it acted as a dock or harbour. The second structure was in c 2m of water at the time of survey and was built from edge-set stones extending into the loch as a pier or jetty. Both features were recorded.

Archive to be deposited with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

G Cavers 2006.



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