Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Knowe Of Burrian

Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Site Name Knowe Of Burrian

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Alternative Name(s) Garth Farm

Canmore ID 2010

Site Number HY31NW 2

NGR HY 3082 1680

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2022.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

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

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project

Burrian, Knowe of Burrian, Harray, Orkney, Pictish symbol stone

Measurements: H 1.10m +, W 0.54m, D 0.09m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: HY 3082 1680

Present location: The Orkney Museum, Kirkwall (OM 1655)

Evidence for discovery: found during amateur excavation in 1936, re-used at the entrance to a well in a possible broch-mound.

Present condition: broken into two fragments, now cemented together.


This slab is incised on one broad face with three symbols: at the top an eagle, above an ornamented crescent and V-rod, and below on the left is a mirror with a double-ball handle.

Date: seventh century.

References: Ritchie 1997, 44; Fraser 2008, no 168; Scott & Ritchie 2014, no 3.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

133HY31NW2 2 3082 1680.

(HY 3082 1680) Brough (NR)

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

A mound, known locally as 'Burrian' or 'Knowe of Burrian', standing on a large natural hillock about 400 yds SSW of Garth Farm, is probably a broch. The hillock, about 10 ft high, stands on marshy ground, thought (J Fraser 1923) to have been possibly a loch.

The mound is composed of the remains of buildings and is about 5 ft high (RCAHMS 1946) although prior to partial excavation in 1936 (Information from Inspector of Ancient Monuments file SC 23640/1A) it was 17 ft high and 60 ft in diameter. The west side appeared to have two flat terraces following the curve of the mound with a total diameter of about 130 ft.

The excavation revealed 'broch-like' walling on the east side, curving to N. and S. Near the centre of the mound was found 'a rock-cut and partly built opening which led down a flight of eleven steps to a partly rock-cut and partly beehive-built chamber of rough masonry'.

A Pictish symbol stone, datable to the 6th - 7th centuries, was found in a ruined passage during the excavation. The stone, 3 ft 9 ins by 22 ins by 3 1/2 ins, and in two pieces, is now, according to Stevenson, in the possession of Kirkwall Town Council, (Information contained in a letter from R B K Stevenson to Mrs I Henderson 2 February 1966) in their projected museum at Tankerness House. Measures 1.5m x 0.55m x 0.1m. Stone implements and the upper part of a quern were also found.

C L Curle 1940.

Knowe of Burrian, the locally accepted name, is a fairly steep natural hillock, 5.0m high, with the remains of a broch, 1.2m high, on the flat top. A berm separates S and W sides. Three courses of the outer wall face and vague traces of the inner wall face are visible on the E side, the wall being c.5.0m thick. The underground chamber, probably a well, is covered over but, according to Mr Johnston, it is in the more westerly of the two excavations in the centre of the broch.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB) 2 June 1966.

This stone was found during the excavation of what is probably a broch in 1936 and is now in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall. It is a rectangular flagstone (1.5m by 0.55m and 0.1m thick) and bears the incised symbols of an eagle, crescent and V-rod, and a mirror.

RCAHMS 1985.

Class I symbol stone bearing an eagle over a crescent and V-rod above a mirror.

A Mack 1997


Publication Account (2002)

HY31 5 BURRIAN 4 ('Knowe of Burrian', Garth’, ‘Netherbrough’)


A possible broch in Birsay and Harray, near Garth farm, stands on a large, natural hillock on marshy ground which may have been a loch [1]; it can still flood in winter [2].

A trench was cut into the ruined building on the mound in 1936 [2, 4] and revealed “broch-like” curved walling on the east side, an interior floor level (a deposit of peat ash and burnt clay) as well as an underground chamber cut into the rock. This is 4.0 m (13 ft.) deep and roofed with flat stone lintels [2, fig. 80: 4, 71, fig. 3.14], and has stone steps leading down into it. It may have been the well of a broch although this diagnosis is perhaps made less probable by the fact that very few excavated brochs have this feature which, if connected with the water supply, should surely by widespread; neither need these “wells” be so elaborate if only for water (see Dun Mor Vaul – NM00 0).

Dimensions: because of the conditions under which the amateur explorations took place the size of the broch is only known approximately; the overall diameter is approximately 18.3 m and the internal 8.5 m [4, 72].

Sources: 1. OS card no. HY 31 NW 2: 2. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 21, 17-18 and fig. 80: 3. Curle 1940, 66: 4. Hedges et al. 1987, 71-2.

E W MacKie 2002


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions