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Russland, Burrian Broch

Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Russland, Burrian Broch

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Loch Of Harray

Canmore ID 1620

Site Number HY21NE 29

NGR HY 2964 1835

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Birsay And Harray
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY21NE 29 2964 1835.

(HY 2961 1834) Burrian Broch {NR}

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1903).

Burrian broch, situated on the outer end of a low promontory on the east side of the Loch of Harray. Only a fragment of the inner wall face remains on the NE side, incorporating a mural cell and part of the north side of the east entrance. A more modern wall runs E-W across the centre of the broch.

At a distance of 8ft from the south side of the probable line of the outer wall face there is a curved piece of walling 20ft long and 2ft high which probably encircled the broch.

A row of boulders across the neck of the peninsula may be an outer defence or may be a later construction. Excavations by Farrer in 1866 revealed 'underground cupboards' partly beneath the floor of the central area of the broch (J Farrer 1870), and the finds, now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), include many worked stones, stone lamps, circular discs, coarse pottery sherds a piece of iron and the bronze butt of a spear (A O Curle 1920).

RCAHMS 1946.

Burrian Broch, generally as described by the Commission.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (RL) 14 May 1966.

An excavation is mentioned in 'The Orcadian' newspaper in 1866.


Antiquarian Observation (1862 - 1870)

Drawings by George Petrie of sites in Orkney and Shetland in sketchbook MS 28/487/7 in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Publication Account (2002)

HY21 2 BURRIAN 1 (RUSSLAND) ('Burrian Broch, Russland': ‘Broch of Harray’, 'Harray')


A probable solid-based broch in Harray, on the broad outer end of a long, flat promontory projecting into the Loch of Harray. Only a little of this structure is left. The site is called Harray by Petrie and is not to be confused with his "broch at the Manse" of Harray (Netlater: HY31 14 below). The inner face of a wall concentric to that of the broch but only 2.4 m (8 ft.) from it is apparent on the south and may be part of outer defences, as may also a row of boulders across the neck of the promontory.

The broch was excavated by Farrer in 1866 [2] and, as usual, George Petrie made some notes on what was discovered. The entrance passage was found on the east with slab-built door-checks about 2.1 m (7 ft.) down the passage as measured from the plan [4. fig. 79]. There seems to have been a guard cell on the right of the passage with traces of another on the left (the latter is not shown on Petrie's plan). In 1929 the only part of the inner wall face still visible was on the NE arc -- from about 3 o'clock to the entrance -- and there were signs of a door in this wall about 1.8 m (6 ft.) above the floor [4]. Inside this were possible traces of a stair ascending radially, not along the wall. Farrer noted "cists" or tanks set into the broch floor and the plan shows various structures in the interior which are presumably secondary.

The curved wall face outside the broch is shown on Petrie's plan as running round the whole of the south-eastern arc, from about 10 o'clock anti-clockwise and past the entrance. He shows is to be 2-3 ft. from the broch wall but the Commission's measurement of about 8 ft. is undoubtedly more reliable. It may be surmised that a structure so close to the broch wall is more likely to be part of some outbuildings than a defence work.

Dimensions (taken from Petrie's plan). External diameter c. 18.6 m (61 ft.): internal diameter c. 9.8 m (32 ft.): walls proportion approximately 47.5%.

Finds [7]: these included "many worked stones, stone lamps, fragments of coarse pottery, perforated stones, and some of those curious stone discs, hitherto found only at Skaill" (Skara Brae). Of particular interest is an ornamented bronze spear-butt which can now be dated to about the 3rd-5th centuries AD, the latter part of the middle Iron Age [8]. Needless to say no contexts for the finds are given.

Sources: 1. OS card HY 21 NE 29: 2. Farrer 1867, 103-4: 3. Petrie 1890, 72: 4. Fraser 1923: 5. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 14, 15 and figs. 78, 79 and 62 (pl.): 6. Hedges et al. 1987, 68-70 and pls. 3.2 and 3.3 (ms plan and sketch of interior by Petrie): 7. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 7 (1866-68), 103-4 (finds): 8. Heald 2001.

E W MacKie 2002

Orkney Smr Note

'I have cleared out a brough in Harray, which presented

nothing very peculiar. Within the ruins, however, were found many

worked stones, stone lamps, fragments of coarse pottery,

perforated stones, and some of those curious circular discs,

hitherto only found at Skaill, and described as plates by Mr

William Watt; a modern-looking bronze implement, the handle of

some weapon I imagine, which I saw dug up myself. A small

fragment of iron was also found, but at some distance from the

bronze.... There were kists, or rather underground cupboards,

partly beneath the floor of the main circular chamber'. [R1]

Presented by J Farrer in 1867. Collection from the Broch of

Harray. GF 1-27, (1-6) Pounders of sandstone, abraded on edges by

use, from three and a half to five inches long; (7) fragment of

hematite; (8-11) flat, circular discs viz 8-9, of slate, ten and

three quarters, and five and three quarters inches in diameter; 10,

of stone, four and a quarter inches in diameter; 11, of stone,

perforated, three inches in diameter; (12) slab of stone, eight x

five and three quarters x one and five-eights inches, with

longitudinal indentations cut into it; (13-16) whorls of bone and

stone, from one and a half to two inches in diameter; (17) stud of

bone, perforated; (18-22) pointed implements of bone from one and

three quarters to three and a quarter inches long; (23) boar's

tusk; (24-25) fragments of deer-horn; (26) portion of bone of

whale with two perforations; (27) bronze tip of spear-shaft, three

and a half inches long. [R2]

The bronze spear butt is likened to the one (less ornate)

found at Traprain Law. [R3]

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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