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Publication Account

Date 2007

Event ID 586872

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


NC71 1 CASTLE COLE ('Caisteal na Coille', 'Achir na Kyle')

NC/7957 1337

This broch in Clyne, Sutherland, stands in a picturesque situation, on top of a steep-sided rocky knoll which overlooks a deep gully containing the Blackwater, a tributary of the river Brora (visited 12/7/63 and 10/7/85). The face of the knoll down to the burn is a sheer cliff 21.4 -24.4m (70-80ft) and it is high and steep on the landward side; the site is two miles from Strath Brora and the modern valley farmland. There seems little doubt therefore that, in this case, the broch served people who lived on the high moorland, though they doubtless dominated the farming population lower down. Castle Cole has been described as a “fortalice broch” [7].

Castle Cole (the name ‘Castle Cole’ is doubtless an anglicised form of ‘Achir na Kyle’, the second word being from the Gaelic caol, a long narrow sound of the sea. It is a curious name as there is no kyle near at hand , although the long, narrow Loch Brora is not far away). was visited and described by Charles Cordiner in 1775 and he found it –

“… free of rubbish even then so that one without stooping can enter by the inner doors to the apartments within the walls; and several of the staircases to the second storey are perfectly entire." [8].

The fact that this broch was well known at an early date, and relatively well preserved and tower-like, suggests that – even though it is some distance to the north of Dun Alisaig (NH68 1) – it might be the second of the pair thought to be in the “Kyle of Sutherland” by early authors (but see site NH49 1).

The rock used to build this tower is a sandstone which happens to split neatly into horizontal 'bricks'; thus the structure appears much more sophisticated architect-urally than its neighbours and resembles the brochs of Orkney and Caithness. The entrance has neatly constructed door-checks and bar-holes and other features not usually found in Sutherland.

The entrance passage is on the east-south-east and is 3.91m (12ft 10in) long and facing the steep slope down to the stream; many of its lintels are still in place. The front one is shaped like a non-equilateral triangle. The sides of the passage continue above the lintels so there must have been a chamber there, a standard feature of hollow-walled brochs.

The passage contains two door-frames, each of rebated door-checks at 1.5m (5ft) and 2.95m (9ft 8in) from the exterior; it widens slightly inside each door-frame. A bar-socket is in the left wall immediately behind the front checks. There is a guard cell opening to the right between them, now mostly clear of debris; it is 1.73m (5ft 8in) long and 1.52m (5ft 0in) wide inside a doorway 1. 22m (4ft 0in) deep. About 30cm (1ft) in front of the first door-frame is a gap between the passage lintels from 8-l5cm (3-6in) wide which might have served as a meurtrière for defence (see Midhowe: site HY33 1).

The interior has been partly cleared and there a small fragment of a scarcement of the ledge type on the exposed wallface at 1.30 o'clock; this must be at least 3m above the interior floor. The Commission noted signs of mural cells or galleries on the wallhead from about 3-4 o'clock and again from about 8-9 o'clock but no doors or raised voids into them were visible. There are a number of aumbries or cupboards in the inner wallface, the largest being 60cm (2ft) square. The building has been completely destroyed along the side next to the cliff.

There are two outer walls around the broch; one follows the edge of the flat platform which is the top of the knoll on which the site stands and the other is at the foot of the slope of the knoll. Both walls are visible only on the sides away from the stream.

Dimensions: (author's 1963 measurements): external diameter (6-12 o'clock) l4.79m (48ft 6in), internal diameter 6.71m (22ft 0in): the wall therefore should be 4.04m (13ft 3in) thick on average and the wall proportion is 54.6%. The central court was planned exactly in 1985 and the radius of its best-fitting circle 3.38 +/- 0.12m.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 71 SE 13: 2. Mitchell 1880, 310 and figs. 6, 7, 9 and 10: 3. Anderson 1883, 185 and fig. 178: 4. RCAHMS 1911a, 7-9, no. 25, fig. 1 and pl. 1: 5. Feachem 1963, 173: 6. Mercer 1981: 7. Cordiner 1776.

E W MacKie 2007

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